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Why is My Water Heater Making a Strange Popping Noise?

This popping noise means there’s sediment (mineral deposits) at the bottom of the water heater tank.

Water under the sediment is steaming and bubbling up, pushing the sediment around and causing the popping noise.

Can sediment build-up hurt my water heater?

A small amount of sediment buildup probably won’t. But a large amount definitely can.

A deep layer of sediment in the water heater tank can cause these issues:

  • Slows heat transfer to the water, causing the water heater to overheat. Overheating can damage the lining and weaken the steel tank, leading to a leak.
  • If you have an electric water heater, sediment can cover the electric heating element, causing it to burn out.
  • Displaces water in the tank, meaning you don’t have as much available hot water.
  • Lowers the water heater’s efficiency, increasing your water heating bills.

If you’re hearing a popping noise and you’ve never had your water heater flushed, there may have a large layer of sediment at the bottom of the tank.

Wait, how did sediment get in my water heater tank?

Simple. Water in the Twin Cities is “hard,” meaning it’s full of minerals (mostly magnesium and calcium carbonate). These minerals are heavier than water, so they settle in the tank over time.

You can keep minerals out of your water by softening it.

Learn about the benefits of whole-home water softeners.

The solution: flush your water heater tank of sediment

You can flush the water heater tank yourself (it’s pretty easy). Or you can call a professional plumber to do it.

Here’s how to flush a water heater:

  1. Turn the water heater control to “pilot” if you have a gas water heater. If you have an electric water heater, turn off the water heater at the circuit breaker.
  2. Turn off the water supply. Do this by either turning a cold water ball valve clockwise or pulling a cold water lever (this should be above the water heater).
  3. Let the water heater cool down for about 30 minutes.
  4. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the water heater tank.
  5. Place the other end of the hose at a basement drain or any other place where the water can safely drain to.
  6. Flip up the pressure relief valve on top of the tank
  7. Open the water heater’s drain valve by turning a small slot on the valve. You may need some adjustable pliers to turn the valve.
  8. Let the water drain out completely.
  9. Flush out any remaining sediment by turning on the cold water valve or lever.
  10. Once the water starts running clear, close the drain valve and allow the cold water to fill the tank.
  11. Once the tank is completely filled with water, turn the water heater back on.

Need a professional plumber in Minneapolis-Saint Paul?

If the above tutorial sounds too daunting, and you live in the Minneapolis-St Paul area, our plumbers can help.

Contact us and we’ll send out a plumber ASAP to flush your water heater.

Minneapolis Saint Paul Plumbing, Heating and Air has served the Twin Cities since 1918.