Why Is My Water Heater Making a Popping Noise?

February 05, 2019

Is your water heater making popping noises (think popcorn in the microwave or coffee percolating)?

The cause: There is sediment buildup in the tank. This popping noise may sound harmless, but it can lead to serious issues if left untreated (we’ll discuss in more detail below).

Your best option is have your tank drained and flushed by a professional. This will get rid of sediment build up and mitigate potential damage to your water heater.

While this should give you a head start on the issue, we know there are a few additional questions you want answered. Below we’ll explore:

  • What causes sediment buildup

  • Why sediment causes your water heater to make a popping noise

  • How to fix this issue (and prevent it going forward)

  • What damage sediment can do if left untreated

Want to skip the reading and head straight for the solution? We’d love to help! We’ll send over a technician who can flush your water heater, getting rid of sediment buildup, as well as make sure everything is working correctly.

What is sediment buildup (and what causes it)?

Sediment buildup is a compilation of loose minerals that settle to the bottom of the water over time, in this case, at the bottom of your water tank.

Where are these minerals coming from? Florida’s water is full of minerals, making the water “hard.” These extra minerals in the water settle at the bottom of your tank, causing your heater to work inefficiently.

Why does sediment cause a popping noise?

Remember that sediment buildup we just discussed? The popping noise you’re hearing is a result of those minerals (mostly calcium and magnesium carbonate) settling and coating the bottom of your water heater. Under that layer of sediment is a small amount of water that is trapped. This water gets overheated by the burner which causes steam bubbles to push through the sediment layer, creating a popping sound.

This is a sound you should pay attention to, as sediment buildup can cause some serious long-term issues and potentially expensive repairs or replacements.

Sediment buildup can cause corrosion if left untreated.

How can I fix this issue (and prevent it going forward)?

If your water heater is making popping noises, it’s time to get your tank flushed. While it is possible to do this yourself, we suggest hiring a professional to ensure that there are no other issues as well as make sure all mineral deposits are completely removed.

So how do I prevent this going forward?

  1. This is your best option: Flushing your water heater is important to do at least 1-2 times a year, especially in Florida where we have hard water. This will get rid of sediment buildup so you don’t have to deal with this issue again.

  2. This is a secondary option: Install a whole-home water softener. While this might help prevent sediment buildup (or at least prolong the buildup), the real solution for this issue is to regularly flush your water heater.   

What damage can sediment do if left untreated?

If sediment is left untreated it can cause a variety of issues, including:

  • Increased utility bills: Your water heater is working hard to heat your water, which means it's probably using excessive energy to keep up. Excessive energy typically equates to an increased utility bill!  

  • Overheating / Tank damage: Sediment buildup can slow the heat transfer from your gas burner to the water in the tank. This can cause overheating which can damage the inner lining of your tank and lead to a leak.

  • Heating element damage: If you have an electric water heater, sediment buildup can cover the heating element, causing burn out.

Need a Tampa water heater repair?

Our team of highly-trained plumbers can drain and flush your water heater as well as ensure everything else is working properly. When you hire us, you’ll also get:

  • 24/7 service

  • Upfront pricing on repairs and installs

  • Punctual plumbers (if we don’t show up within the promised timeframe, we’ll pay you $100)

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