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Why Does My Hot Water Heater Sound Like A Popcorn Machine?


Nothing like a hard day at work and finally sitting down with the hubby to watch that action movie with your favorite beverage and a bowl of freshly popped popcorn. Then you here IT! The popping and the cracking. You listen a little closer and realize the sound is coming from your water heater! You didn't know your water heater could also make popcorn did you? Your right, it doesn't.


If your hot water heater is sounding like a popcorn machine or rocks being thrown around inside it, than you might have a problem.


That noise means there is probably sediment at the bottom of your water heater tank. Oh no, not sediment! Relax, with Forrest Anderson's help you can take care of this! The solution? It's simple, the tank just needs to be flushed.


If you don't feel like you can do this on your own, one of our professional plumbers will be able to do it for you. Click here to contact the Forrest Anderson team.


If you are wondering how serious or threatening it is for your water heater to be making this noise, it just means your water heater is running inefficiently and quite possibly raising your heating bill as a result. With that being said, over time, sediment buildup could cause damage to the water heater.


To better understand the problem:


What Is Sediment and Where Does It Come From


Sediment is just loose minerals, like calcium and magnesium, that settle to the bottom of your water heater over time. So where does the sediment come from? The minerals come from the water itself. "Hard Water", which contains a lot of these naturally occurring minerals can find it's way into your water heater.


Having minerals in your water is not a bad thing. They can be great for your body, but your water heater is not as appreciative of those minerals.


Once sediment gets into the water heater, it settles to the bottom of the tank, causing your water heater to work inefficiently and can cause it to sound like a popcorn machine every time you turn on the hot water.


Why Sediment Buildup Causes the Popping Noise


Have you ever cooked on a stove-top using a covered top and had boiling water pressure start to push the cover off? This is pretty similar to why you hear popping during a sediment buildup. The noise comes from steam bubbles escaping the sediment.


Your water heater’s heating element is at the bottom of the tank, right where the sediment has settled and mixed with water.


Some of the water under the sediment starts boiling and tries to escape the sediment layer, making the popping noise as a result.


The main issue with this is your water heater is struggling mightily to heat the water properly. With the extra effort to heat the water the tank runs longer, which could potentially lead to the tank overheating and damaging the protective inner lining.


How to Flush the Water Heater Tank


To understand how to flush your water heater, you need to understand what certain parts are called and where they’re located. If you feel this is above your DIY level, we kindly invite you to call Forrest Anderson and we will send help!

Now follow these steps to flush the tank:


  • Put on some heavy-duty gloves so you don’t burn yourself.

  • Turn off the water heater. If you have a gas water heater, turn the temperature setting to “Pilot.” If you have an electric water heater, turn off the water heater at the circuit breaker.

  • Turn the cold water shut off valve to prevent more cold water from entering the water heater.

  • Let the water heater to cool down for about 30 minutes. Please don’t get impatient since you could burn yourself if you try to flush the tank while the water is still hot.

  • Connect a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the water heater tank, pictured here:


  • Place the other end of the hose at a place where the sediment and water can safely drain to, like out in the grass in your front or back yard.

  • Open a hot water faucet in a sink or tub to prevent a vacuum from forming in the lines.

  • Open the water heater’s drain valve by turning a small slot on the valve.

  • Let the water drain out completely. Note: You may not see any sediment come out at this point. That’s normal/ Continue to the next step.

  • Turn the cold water valve on to flush out any remaining sediment.

  • Once the water starts running clear, close the drain valve and allow the cold water to fill the tank.

  • Make sure the tank is completely full, this will ensure that you have bleed out all the air in the system before you turn the heating element back on. If you have an electric water heater failure to follow this step could result in burning up your element when you turn it back on.

  • Turn the water heater’s heating element back on.

  • We recommend that you flush your water heater like this once a year.

Need the Help of a Plumbing Pro?


Not your cup of tea? That's okay! Forrest Anderson Plumbing and Air Conditioning, INC. has the experience to get rid of that annoying popping sound and make your water heater preform like a champ. Give us a call today to take care of your plumbing and air condition needs. We serve the entire Phoenix Valley and would love to serve you.


Contact Forrest Anderson Plumbing and Air Conditioning, INC. at 623.780.4060 or visit us online at www.forrestanderson.net


Use this $10 off Coupon on your next service call!


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