Bubbling Water Heater

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Puzzled Homeowner, Sep 12, 2007.

  1. Puzzled Homeowner

    Puzzled Homeowner New Member

    Sep 12, 2007
    Southern NH
    My water heater started making bubbling noises during the past year or so that have become so loud it sounds like an unstable washing machine or a bunch of cats and dogs banging around in there. The water gets hot and the noise stops when the water gets hot. It doesn't seem to take longer to heat the water than ever before.

    Another issue is that there is always air in the hot water lines that cause lots of spitting every morning when we start showering, etc. It is also disconcerting to return from a vacation and have air mixed with brown water come out of every faucet for a few seconds until things settle out.

    Background: We bought our house 3 years ago in Southern New Hampshire. At that time, the oil-fired water heater was relatively new, but there were large holes in the top with wet fiberglass showing. The oil company replaced the heater since it was still under the original warranty. Since then, we have had the water heater serviced annually when we have the furnace tuned. Each time, we have had the "rods" (anodes?) replaced as they were down to about 1/8 inch in diameter. Haven't seen new ones, so don't know how bad that is. We have had a pH remediation filter and a water softener installed to overcome the water quality issues in the area. The water heater is some sort of Canadian manufacture, if I remember correctly (I'm dong this at work from memory).

    My question: I'm wondering if there is a problem brewing here that I need to fix other than for the noise. Is this a symptom of something else?
  2. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Jul 16, 2005
    Repairing and remodeling homes
    Marin Co. Ca.
    This happens when the bottom of the tank has a lining of sediment [mud].

    Attach a garden hose to lower tank drain. run hose outdoors on a serfuce You can see the flushed deposits drain, concrete. flush for at least 10 min.
    When I install a w h I write on it with a magic marker flush each- labor day 5 min., or nearest holiday to install date. Are You on a well? I love N. H.
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  4. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

    Jun 18, 2007
    Plumber, self employed
    Licensed Grump
    Tollaholic is right, but even after a flush you may still have the trouble.
    If there's rust/corrosion in the tank that will happen.
    Recent thread here covered the exact same thing, it could also be a sign of it's age.
    Also, if I were you, I'd look into getting propane instead of an oil water heater if you don't have NG service where you live.
    Oil heaters are an arm & a leg.
  5. Puzzled Homeowner

    Puzzled Homeowner New Member

    Sep 12, 2007
    Southern NH
    Thanks for suggestions.

    I've drained the heater recently. Didn't get much sludge out. Noise got worse.

    Searched for other thread using bubbling noise, couldn't find the other thread. New at this Forum stuff. Will continue to search threads.
  6. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Aug 31, 2004
    Wherever I park the motorhome.
    A popping pop corn snap crackle pop noise is caused by tiny steam explosions in hardness scale in the bottom of the water heater; gas and oil fired types, not electric.

    Eventually the explosions break the tank's glass lining exposing the mild steel of the tank and those spots start to rust. Eventually the rust spots become holes and you see leaks or on large one some day. Those rust spots are usually where the dirty water will come from.

    Spitting of air means you are either boiling the water or more likely is there is DO (dissolved oxygen) or CO2 coming out of the water as it is heated. Either will be caused by the heater staying on too long or it has to because of the volume of hard water scale in the heater having to be heated before any water can be.

    Very possibly your softener is not getting all the hardness out of the water. A hardness test of the softened cold water and then the hot water will tell you.
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