Your water heater typically sits quietly in an unused corner of the house, doing its job. However, sometimes those water tanks can get noisy. It’s no surprise that homeowners start to worry when water heaters start banging, popping, and thumping like they are about to jump free! Usually, this is caused by an issue with sediment buildup. Here’s what that means for you.
Sediment refers to small mineral particles that can accumulate in your hot water tank, but that doesn’t mean your water is dirty. A certain amount of mineral particles are typically bonded to household water, usually harmless calcium and lime. A high amount of these particles means that water is “hard,” which affects things like how it tastes and how it interacts with surfactants (soap), etc. A low amount of particles means that water is “soft.” If the water in your region tends to be hard, you may be more at risk for problems like a loud, banging water heater.
The reason sediment builds up in the tank is because of the heat. As the water heats up, the bonds that hold the mineral particles in place loosen, and they drift down to the bottom of the tank. Over time, this can build up into a thick layer. As water is heated and rises in the tank, it needs to push past that layer of sediment. As a result, water bubbles will eventually explode through the sediment layer to freedom; this is what causes the loud noise.
These little water explosions aren’t immediately dangerous, but they can cause serious problems over time. The shaking will have a physical impact on heater components, and thanks to that layer of sediment, water gets trapped and overheated in the tank, which can cause structural wear. Over time, that can drastically shorten the life of your water heater and make problems like leaks more likely.
Fortunately, there’s a solution for this sediment buildup — flushing your tank. This means using the drain valve on your tank, a hose, and the right amount of airflow to fully flush water from the tank, including muddy sediment water that will take the problem away with it. If you don’t know how to do this or don’t have experience with plumbing, it’s time to call in a professional.
Important Sidenote: Hard water and sediment buildup can affect much more than just your water heater. If you have a problem with sediment in your tank, you may also want to inspect your pipes for buildup, which can create a number of other plumbing issues. There are accessories you can purchase to help diminish these mineral deposits if it becomes an ongoing issue.
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