When you turn on the hot water and it sounds like the water heater has just rattled out of the floor, you’re relieved to find that it hasn’t. For the most part, water heater issues don’t put your safety at risk, but they can make it so that you have to spend way more on heating water than you should.
The noise coming from your water heater is also likely leading to wear and tear that could force you to replace your unit much too soon. Water heaters can collect “scale” that puts your system at risk. Learn more about that rattling, popping, or banging noise in the guide below.
Where Scale Comes From
That rattling at the bottom of the tank is typically a result of scaling, and it’s quite common in most households throughout the US (though mineral levels can vary). Minerals like calcium and magnesium may be in your water supply right now—but don’t worry, it’s not something that’s usually harmful to your health.
Scaling and Water Heater Noise
However, it does leave deposits behind in the pipes and in some appliances, and these deposits create a buildup that can cause trouble for pipes and fixtures. In the water heater, the result is that loud banging or popping noise you might hear.
That’s because the burners heat the bottom of the tank, where sediment (mineral deposits) have collected. As it does, steam bubbles can become trapped underneath the sediment, and that noise is the result of them bursting through the minerals to the top of the tank.
The Cost of Sediment
All of that scale within the water heater comes with a price. It’s far less efficient to heat a water heater with deposits that interfere with the process. The system has to work a lot harder than usual, and this may be reflected in your monthly bills. Since a water heater already accounts for about 17% of your average fuel/energy use, you don’t want to add to that!
The Potential for Water Heater Leaking
The biggest cost that results from this scaling, though, is the price of replacing a system prematurely. That scale wears down the bottom of the tank. The continual scraping wears down its glass lining, leaving the metal tank susceptible to corrosion. Once a water heater starts to corrode, there’s no way to repair it.
How to Control Water Heater Scale
It’s so important to have your water heater maintained regularly. This means that a technician should come to your home once per year, check the connections, monitor tank pressure, look for signs of corrosion, and flush the tank.
You also have the option of further preventive measures. Scaling can affect your pipes, your major appliances, and even smaller systems like the coffee maker. A whole-house water softener, installed by a plumber, will replace the minerals in the water supply with a small amount of salt, protecting the plumbing throughout your home.