Noisy Plumbing? What You Need to Know
Your plumbing system should operate relatively quietly, which is why it can be quite alarming when you start to hear noises from the pipes and other water systems in the home. Often, these noises are an early diagnostic tool that can help you catch a plumbing problem early, which can help you repair the issue before more extensive damage occurs.
Here are some common noise types and what plumbing problems they may indicate.
Bangs and Clanks
Loud bangs and clanks from your pipes or water heater can be highly alarming, but the cause can be easy to trace.
The water hammer bang is caused when water under high pressure hits a closed valve within in your pipe system. The noise itself can be alarming, but the real concern is the vibration through the pipe. When the water bangs against the valve, it vibrates the pipe with enough power that the pipe joints may eventually loosen and leak.
In modern homes, an air chamber near each valve in the piping should prevent water hammer. If your pipes are hammering, you may need to have the plumbing system drained so the air chambers reset. In older homes, you may need to have air chambers or water hammer arrestors installed.
Hot Water Tank Issues
Often, you can follow your ear and discover that the actual source of the noise is the hot water heater. As the water heats in the tank, any minerals dissolve. They later reform on the inside walls of the tank. After enough mineralization occurs, the chunks of buildup fall off and cause the bangs and pops inside the heater.
Periodically drain and flush your water tank to get rid of the excess mineralization. You may also need to replace the anode in the tank, which is there to cut down on mineral buildup.
Gurgles and Bubbles
These noises are usually heard from a toilet or sink drain, not from a water supply line.
Your home has plumbing vents on the roof that allow for the water to flow evenly throughout your drains. The vents also release any excess gases that buildup in the drainage pipes. These functions allow your drains to operate fairly silently, unless the vent becomes blocked.
Vents can be blocked internally when a backup occurs into a vent, but more often the cause is debris like leaves or a bird’s nest around the vent outlet. The fix is as easy as finding the blockage and removing it so the vent is fully open again.
Backups from the septic system are another common cause. When a septic tank is too full, the waste begins flowing slowly and begins to break down in the pipe. Sewer gases are formed in the pipes, where they then escape back up your drain lines and into your home. Gas backups can also happen on municipal sewer lines, but these backup types are less common.
You must have your tank pump and lines cleared promptly, since bubbling from a septic line can be a precursor to a major sewage backup in the home.
Whistles and Hisses
Whistles and hisses can be alarming, especially if you hear them coming from a boiler, radiator, or water heater.
In heated systems, the whistling could very well be the buildup of steam. Steam buildup can be very dangerous, as it can lead to a pressure explosion. Turn off the water appliance that is hissing if it is safe to do so, then leave the home until you can have the appliance inspected or are sure the heat and pressure have subsided.
Often, all you need to do is adjust the heat in the appliance or replace a pressure release valve.
Pipe whistles typically only affect single supply point, so you hear them only when you open a specific tap. The noise indicates that either that the supply line is blocked or that a valve isn’t opening fully.
To repair this issue, determine which supply line is affected and replace the valve or remove the obstruction.
Contact Mitchell Plumbing, Heating & Cooling for more help with your plumbing noises.