Does Electric Water Heater Make Noise? Know the Facts

Have you ever been jolted awake by an unexpected noise from your electric water heater? You’re not alone. In fact, up to 20% of homeowners report hearing strange sounds from their heaters, often signaling underlying issues. The noise can range from a soft hum to a loud bang, leaving you wondering about its cause and potential impact.

This blog post aims to demystify these noises and provide practical solutions to ensure your water heater runs smoothly. You’ll learn why these sounds occur and how to address them effectively. Let’s dive into the world of electric water heaters and silence those annoying disruptions once and for all.

Keynote: Does Electric Water Heater Make Noise?

Electric water heaters can make various noises due to sediment buildup, loose elements, or water pressure issues. Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank and checking valves, can mitigate these sounds. Persistent noises may require professional plumbing services to diagnose and fix underlying problems efficiently.

Common Noises Made by Electric Water Heaters

1. Popping

The popping sound in an electric water heater is often due to sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. As the water heats up, steam bubbles form underneath the sediment layer and burst through it, creating a popping noise.

To address this issue, regularly flush and drain the water heater to remove sediment. Here are the steps to flush and drain your water heater:

  1. For electric water heaters, turn off the power at the circuit breaker. For gas water heaters, set the thermostat to the “pilot” setting.
  2. Locate the cold water supply valve at the top of the heater and turn it off.
  3. Attach one end of a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the heater. Place the other end in a floor drain or outside.
  4. Open the drain valve to let the water flow out. Be cautious, as the water may be very hot.
  5. Open the pressure relief valve at the top of the tank to allow air to enter, helping the water to drain more quickly.
  6. Once the tank is empty, briefly open the cold water supply valve to flush out any remaining sediment. After a few minutes, close the valve.
  7. Once the flushing is complete, close both the drain valve and the pressure relief valve.
  8. Turn the cold water supply valve back on to refill the tank. Leave a hot water faucet open in your home to let air escape from the tank while it fills.
  9. For electric heaters, turn the power back on at the circuit breaker. For gas heaters, return the thermostat to the desired setting.

2. Sizzling, Hissing, or Crackling

Sizzling, hissing, or crackling sounds in an electric water heater usually occur when water contacts hot surfaces. This is often due to condensation or a leak within the system.

To address these noises, you need to inspect for leaks, tighten connections, or replace faulty valves. Below is a table outlining common sources of leaks and their respective fixes:

Source of LeakDescriptionFix
Pressure Relief ValveSafety valve that releases excess pressure.Inspect and replace if faulty.
Drain ValveValve used to drain the tank for maintenance.Ensure it’s fully closed and tighten if necessary. Replace if leaking.
Heating Element GasketSeal around the heating element.Inspect for wear and tear, tighten screws, or replace the gasket.
Inlet/Outlet ConnectionsConnections where water enters and exits the tank.Tighten any loose connections and check for corrosion.
Tank Cracks or CorrosionCracks or internal corrosion within the tank itself.If severe, the entire tank may need to be replaced.
Anode Rod PortOpening where the anode rod is installed.Tighten or replace the anode rod and ensure proper installation.

Steps to Inspect and Fix Leaks

  1. For electric heaters, switch off the power at the circuit breaker. Turn off the cold water supply to the heater.
  2. Inspect the valve for any signs of water leakage. If leaking, replace the valve.
  3. Ensure the drain valve is completely closed. If it continues to leak, it may need to be tightened or replaced.
  4. Look for water around the heating element. Tighten the screws around the gasket, or replace the gasket if damaged.
  5. Tighten any loose connections and inspect for signs of corrosion. Replace any corroded parts.
  6. Look for any visible cracks or significant rust. If found, consider replacing the entire water heater.
  7. Check for leaks around the anode rod. Tighten or replace the rod if necessary.

3. Humming

Loose heating elements typically cause the humming sound in an electric water heater. When the elements are not securely fastened, they can vibrate as water flows around them, producing a humming noise.

To fix this issue, you need to tighten the heating elements. Here are the steps to properly tighten the heating elements:

  1. For electric heaters, switch off the power at the circuit breaker. Turn off the cold water supply to the heater.
  2. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve and place the other end in a drain or outside. Open the valve to drain the tank.
  3. Locate the heating elements, which are typically behind access panels on the side of the tank. Remove the panels and insulation to expose the elements.
  4. Use a wrench to tighten the heating elements. Ensure they are securely fastened but avoid over-tightening, which can cause damage.
  5. Replace the insulation and access panels.
  6. Close the drain valve and turn the cold water supply back on. Once the tank is filled, restore power to the heater at the circuit breaker.

4. Banging or Knocking

Banging or knocking sounds, often referred to as “water hammer,” occur when water flow is abruptly stopped, causing a shockwave in the pipes. This can also be caused by loose pipes that move and knock against walls or other pipes.

To address this issue, you can install a water hammer arrestor or secure the pipes with insulation. Below are the steps to install a water hammer arrestor:

  1. Locate the main water supply valve and turn it off to prevent water flow during the installation.
  2. Open a faucet on the lowest level of your home to drain any remaining water and relieve pressure in the pipes.
  3. Identify the section of the plumbing where the knocking occurs, usually near the appliances or fixtures causing the water hammer.
  4. Use a pipe cutter to make a clean cut in the pipe where you will install the arrestor. Be sure to have a bucket or towel ready to catch any remaining water in the pipe.
  5. Clean the cut ends of the pipe to remove any burrs or debris. This ensures a good fit for the arrestor.
  6. Fit the arrestor onto the pipe. Depending on the type of arrestor, you may need to use a push-fit connector, compression fitting, or solder it in place. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific model.
  7. Ensure the arrestor is securely fitted and properly aligned with the pipe to avoid leaks. Tighten any necessary fittings according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  8. Turn the main water supply back on slowly to check for leaks. Open the faucets to remove any air pockets and ensure water flows smoothly.
  9. Once the water supply is restored, test the system by running the appliance or fixture that caused the water hammer to confirm that the noise has been eliminated.

5. Screeching or Whistling

Screeching or whistling noises from an electric water heater are typically caused by restricted water flow through valves. When the valves are not fully open, water is forced through a smaller opening at high pressure, creating these high-pitched sounds.

To resolve this issue, you need to check and fully open the inlet and outlet valves. Replace any faulty valves if necessary. Here are the steps:

  1. For electric water heaters, switch off the power at the circuit breaker. For gas water heaters, set the thermostat to the “pilot” setting.
  2. The inlet valve is where cold water enters the water heater. The outlet valve is where hot water exits the water heater.
  3. Ensure both valves are fully open. Sometimes they might appear open but are partially closed. If a valve is difficult to turn or shows signs of corrosion, it may need to be replaced.
  4. Turn the inlet and outlet valves counterclockwise to ensure they are fully open. This should reduce or eliminate the screeching or whistling sound.
  5. If opening the valves does not solve the problem, inspect the valves and pipes for any blockages or debris that might be restricting the water flow.
  6. If a valve is found to be faulty or damaged, it should be replaced. This might require shutting off the main water supply and draining the system.
  7. After opening or replacing the valves, turn the water heater back on and check if the noise persists. Ensure water flows smoothly through the system.

Identifying the Source of the Noise

Follow this step-by-step guide to effectively identify the source of noise in your electric water heater. A flowchart is included to help you troubleshoot and distinguish between different types of noises and their potential sources.

Step-by-Step Guide

Safety First:

  • Turn off the water heater. For electric heaters, switch off the power at the circuit breaker. For gas heaters, set the thermostat to “pilot.”
  • Allow the water heater to cool down to avoid burns or other injuries.

Listen Carefully:

  • Stand near the water heater and listen for the type of noise. Note whether it’s popping, sizzling, humming, banging, or screeching.

Check for Visible Issues:

  • Inspect the water heater and surrounding pipes for any obvious signs of leaks, corrosion, or loose fittings.

Differentiate Noise Types:

  • Popping: Typically caused by sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank.
  • Sizzling/Hissing: Often due to water contacting hot surfaces because of condensation or a leak.
  • Humming: Usually from loose heating elements vibrating.
  • Banging/Knocking: Commonly from the water hammer effect or loose pipes.
  • Screeching/Whistling: Usually due to restricted water flow through valves.

Follow the Sound:

  • To pinpoint the noise’s exact location, use a mechanic’s stethoscope or a long screwdriver pressed against your ear and the water heater.

Investigate Specific Components:

  • Heating Elements: Check for loose or damaged elements.
  • Valves: Inspect inlet and outlet valves for restrictions or damage.
  • Pressure Relief Valve: Look for leaks or blockages.
  • Pipes: Check for loose or improperly secured pipes.

Preventive Maintenance for Electric Water Heaters

a. Regular Flushing

Regularly flushing your water heater tank is crucial to prevent sediment buildup. Sediment can reduce heating efficiency, cause noises, and shorten the lifespan of your water heater.

Checklist for Flushing the Tank:

  1. Turn Off the Heater
  2. Turn Off the Water Supply
  3. Attach a Hose to the Drain Valve
  4. Open the Drain Valve
  5. Open the Pressure Relief Valve
  6. Flush the Tank
  7. Close the Valves and Refill the Tank
  8. Restore Power

b. Inspecting and Replacing Anode Rods

Role of Anode Rods: Anode rods are crucial for preventing corrosion inside the water heater tank. They attract corrosive elements, protecting the tank lining.

Signs that an Anode Rod Needs Replacing:

  • Rusty Water: If you notice rust-colored water, it could indicate the anode rod is worn out.
  • Shorter Lifespan: Anode rods typically need replacing every 3-5 years, depending on water quality.
  • Visual Inspection: If the rod is less than ½ inch thick or is heavily corroded, it needs replacing.

How to Replace an Anode Rod:

  1. Turn Off the Heater and Water Supply: Switch off power and close the water supply valve.
  2. Drain a Few Gallons of Water: Attach a hose to the drain valve and drain a few gallons to lower the water level below the rod.
  3. Locate and Remove the Anode Rod: The rod is usually located on top of the tank. Use a socket wrench to remove it.
  4. Install the New Rod: Insert the new rod into the tank and tighten it securely.
  5. Restore the System: Close the drain valve, turn the water supply back on, and restore power.

c. Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve Maintenance

The T&P valve is a safety feature that releases excess pressure and temperature from the tank, preventing potential explosions.

How to Test the T&P Valve:

  • Lift the Valve Lever: Lift the lever on the T&P valve to let some water out. If water flows freely, the valve is working correctly.
  • Release the Lever: Let the lever snap back into place. If it doesn’t close properly or water continues to flow, the valve needs replacing.

How to Replace the T&P Valve:

  1. Switch off the power and close the water supply valve.
  2. Attach a hose to the drain valve and drain enough water to lower the level below the T&P valve.
  3. Use a wrench to unscrew the old valve.
  4. Apply Teflon tape to the threads of the new valve and screw it in place.
  5. Close the drain valve, turn the water supply back on, and restore power.

When to Call a Professional: Recognizing the Need for Expert Help

Despite your best efforts at maintaining your electric water heater, there are situations where professional help is indispensable. Persistent leaks, unresolved noises, water temperature inconsistencies, and visible rust or corrosion are red flags indicating the need for expert intervention.

Suppose your water heater continues to leak or make strange noises despite regular maintenance. In that case, it may signify more severe issues like internal tank corrosion or significant sediment buildup that only a professional can adequately address.

Similarly, suppose your water heater produces inconsistent temperatures or fails to heat water altogether. In that case, the problem might lie with the heating elements, thermostats, or other critical components that require specialized knowledge to repair​.

Finding a Reliable Plumber: What to Look For

When it comes to choosing a plumber, certain qualities distinguish reliable professionals. Ensure that the plumber you choose is licensed and certified, which guarantees they have the necessary training and expertise. Experience is another critical factor; seasoned plumbers are typically more adept at diagnosing and resolving issues swiftly. Checking online reviews and asking for references from previous customers can provide insights into the quality of service.

It’s also crucial to verify that the plumber has insurance coverage to protect against any accidents or damages during the repair process. Opt for plumbers who offer clear, upfront pricing to avoid unexpected charges and those who provide a warranty on their work, ensuring that any post-repair issues will be addressed without additional costs.

Lastly, consider whether the plumber offers emergency services, as some problems, like leaks or heating failures, require immediate attention.

Making the Right Choice: Tips for Hiring Professionals

To find a reliable plumber, start by asking for recommendations from friends, family, and neighbors. Personal referrals often lead to trustworthy professionals. Additionally, online directories and review platforms can help you vet local plumbers based on detailed reviews and ratings. Local hardware stores are another excellent resource; their staff usually have good knowledge of reliable professionals in the area.

Cost Implications: Understanding the Financial Impact

Ignoring water heater noises can lead to significant financial implications. Small issues, if left unaddressed, can escalate into major problems requiring costly repairs or even complete water heater replacement. For instance, persistent leaks might lead to water damage, which can cause structural issues in your home, while unresolved noises can signal serious mechanical failures that affect the efficiency and lifespan of your water heater.

DIY Fixes vs. Professional Repairs: A Cost-Benefit Analysis

When deciding between DIY fixes and professional repairs, it’s essential to consider both the immediate costs and the potential long-term benefits. DIY fixes can save money upfront but might not address the root cause of the problem, leading to repeated issues and higher costs over time. Professional repairs, while more expensive initially, often provide a more comprehensive solution, potentially saving money in the long run by preventing recurring problems and extending the lifespan of your water heater.

Cost-Benefit Analysis Table

AspectDIY FixesProfessional Repairs
Initial CostLow (Typically $20-$100 for parts)Higher ($100-$500 depending on the issue)
EffectivenessVariable (Depends on skill level)High (Expert diagnosis and repair)
Time InvestmentHigh (Learning and performing repairs)Low (Quick resolution by professionals)
Risk of RecurrenceHigh (May not fully resolve the issue)Low (Comprehensive and thorough fixes)
Potential for Additional IssuesHigh (DIY errors can cause more problems)Low (Professional expertise minimizes risks)
Long-term CostHigh (Repeated fixes and potential damage)Lower (Long-lasting repairs and fewer issues)

Potential Costs of Ignoring Water Heater Noises

  1. Minor Repairs: Ignoring minor issues like sediment buildup or loose heating elements can result in a need for frequent minor repairs, each costing between $100 and $300.
  2. Major Repairs: Unresolved noises can lead to more severe issues, such as significant leaks or heating element failure, which can cost between $300 and $600 to repair.
  3. Complete Replacement: In the worst-case scenario, neglecting ongoing problems can necessitate a complete water heater replacement, which can cost between $800 and $2,000, depending on the model and installation fees.
  4. Home Damage: Persistent leaks can cause water damage to floors, walls, and other structures, potentially leading to repair costs in the thousands, depending on the extent of the damage.

Energy Efficiency Considerations

Noise issues in your electric water heater can significantly impact its energy efficiency. Noises often indicate underlying problems that can cause the heater to work harder than necessary, consuming more energy and increasing your utility bills. For instance, sediment buildup can insulate the heating elements, forcing them to use more energy to heat the water. Similarly, leaks and loose components can lead to energy loss and reduced heating efficiency.

Tips on Maintaining an Energy-Efficient Water Heater

To ensure your water heater operates efficiently and minimize energy consumption, consider the following energy-saving tips:

Regular Maintenance:

  • Annually flushing your water heater removes sediment buildup that can reduce heating efficiency.
  • Regularly check and tighten or replace loose or damaged heating elements.

Temperature Settings:

  • Set your water heater to 120°F (49°C). Higher temperatures increase energy usage and the risk of scalding.
  • Install a timer to turn off the heater when not in use, such as during the night or when you are away.


  • Use an insulation blanket around the tank to reduce heat loss.
  • To prevent heat loss, insulate the first few feet of hot and cold water pipes connected to the heater.

Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Models:

  • Consider upgrading to a more energy-efficient water heater, such as an Energy Star-rated model.
  • Tankless or on-demand water heaters can be more energy-efficient as they heat water only when needed.

Fix Leaks Promptly:

  • Repair any leaks immediately to prevent water and energy wastage.
  • Regularly inspect and replace faulty pressure relief valves and other components to maintain efficiency.

Routine Inspections:

  • Schedule regular inspections by a professional to ensure all components are functioning correctly and efficiently.
  • Monitor the water heater’s performance and energy usage. Any significant changes could indicate a need for maintenance or repairs.

Reduce Hot Water Usage:

  • Install low-flow showerheads and faucets to reduce hot water consumption.
  • Encourage shorter showers and use cold water for laundry when possible.

Install a Heat Trap:

  • Heat traps can be installed on the water heater to prevent heat from escaping through the pipes.

Final Thought

Electric water heaters, often taken for granted, play a crucial role in our daily comfort. Yet, the noises they produce can be early warning signs of underlying issues that, if ignored, can lead to significant inconveniences and expenses. By paying attention to these sounds, performing regular maintenance, and knowing when to seek professional help, you not only ensure the longevity of your heater but also contribute to energy conservation and cost savings.

Think of your water heater as a household sentinel, quietly working behind the scenes. When it speaks up with unusual noises, it’s offering you a chance to prevent minor issues from becoming major headaches. Embracing proactive maintenance and timely interventions can transform potential disruptions into opportunities for efficiency and longevity, ensuring your home remains a haven of warmth and comfort.

Does an Electric Hot Water Heater Make Noise (FAQs)

Do electric water heaters make noise when on?

Yes, electric water heaters can make noise when on. Common sounds include popping, humming, or sizzling due to sediment buildup, loose elements, or water flow issues.

Why does my electric heater make a water sound?

Your electric heater may make a water sound due to sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. This sediment can cause bubbling and popping noises as water heats.

How loud is an electric water heater? in dB

Electric water heaters typically operate around 50 to 70 decibels. This is similar to the noise level of a normal conversation or background music.

Is it normal for my water heater to make noise?

Yes, some noise from a water heater is normal. However, persistent or unusual noises may indicate underlying issues that need attention.

Is a noisy water heater dangerous?

A noisy water heater is not usually dangerous but can signal problems like sediment buildup or faulty components. Addressing these issues promptly is important to prevent further damage.

Is it normal for a water heater to hiss?

Yes, a hissing noise is normal and often indicates water contacting hot surfaces or a slight leak in the pressure relief valve.

Is a new water heater supposed to be so damn loud?

No, a new water heater should not be excessively loud. If it is, it may indicate improper installation or a manufacturing defect. Contact a professional to inspect it.

Do different noises from a water heater indicate specific problems?

Yes, different noises can indicate specific problems in a water heater. For example, popping sounds often signal mineral deposits, while water hammering suggests high water pressure issues.

How does hard water affect a water heater?

Hard water can cause mineral deposits, such as calcium carbonate, to build up in the tank. This leads to uneven heating and can damage the lower element, requiring frequent descaling products to maintain efficiency.

Why might water pressure cause water heater problems?

High water pressure can cause water hammering and stress on plumbing, leading to potential water leaks. A pressure regulator can help manage this issue.

What are common water heater noises and their possible causes?

Common noises include hissing (water vapor contact), banging (water hammering), and popping (mineral deposits). Identifying the cause of the noise can prevent further damage.

When should you call a professional plumber for water heater repair?

Call a professional plumber if you experience persistent issues like leaking water heater, unusual noises, or inconsistent temperature conditions. Professional plumbing services can diagnose and fix these problems effectively.

What role does a water softener play in water heater maintenance?

A water softener reduces mineral content in hard water, preventing calcium carbonate buildup. This minimizes the need for frequent descaling and prolongs the water heater’s lifespan.

What are the benefits of tankless water heaters compared to traditional ones?

Tankless water heaters provide on-demand hot water, reducing energy consumption and the risk of water tank issues like leaks. They are considered among the best for energy efficiency and longevity.

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