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Old 08-21-2008, 12:27 AM   #1
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Default clicking water heater

Customer called tonight about a clicking noise from their water heater when they turn off and on a faucet or the clothes washer goes on. I have some ideas but don't want to waste time at the home owner expense. Found this fine website where I can ask my fellow pros...

I think the factory installed nipples with the intergrated check balls are hammering away. Guessing they have a pressure issue, but what kind?


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Old 08-21-2008, 12:48 AM   #2
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Umm... I can think of about 5 things that might do this, but the trick is to go out there and waste no one's time while you duplicate the problem and trouble shoot it.

Your description says that you have someone willing to pay you to fix this sound so it doesn't happen anymore, that there is a water heater involved and it might or might not have nipples in it from the factory with integral heat traps, not checks.

Oh, and you can use a search engine.

Now that I've busted your chops, tell us about yourself. We can get to the heater problem once you've been out there and found the location of the noise. Once you know that, we can actually have a meaningful discussion about what might be causing it. Us telling you what to look for will actually waste more time while you check those out rather than just following your ears to the source.

Oh, and don't be surprised if you can't duplicate the problem, especially if someone has been home all day. Thermal expansion stops once its as big as its going to get. Then it makes the noise in reverse while it cools.

I will give you one hint however, just so you don't think I'm too abrasive... look for something other than cast iron drains on that sink they are using and hearing the noise from.
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Old 08-21-2008, 01:23 AM   #3
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Okay! Good to meet you too! I'm a one man shop here in Seattle. I do plumbing sales, installation & repair work. I really enjoy trouble shooting & problem solving. I was with a large company here overseeing a good size staff when I came to the point of being over used! So to speak. Now being out of the field for quite a while, here I am getting reconnected with the real thinking and the doings of the plumbing business. I am enjoying myself - but have so much to learn and learn over again.

Yes, heat traps thank you! I work on a lot of old plumbing, but have never spent much time on water heaters other than replacing old leakers. I was not brought through the union, but repect my friends that were. Thanks to all the CEU hours we have to have now I'm learning more than I ever have. But yes your right! Someone called me and wants to pay me to fix it right... Was just trying to do some up front thinking out loud first.

Hey, Abrasive is fine - learned most of the good stuff I know from the rough and tuff!

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Old 08-21-2008, 11:09 AM   #4
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Another possibility is a defective element (assuming it's electric). A pinhole in the element can cause it to click or even scream like a 747 on takeoff. It can mean that the element is very close to failing, though I've seen them on brand new heaters.

If gas, then it might just be lime bubbles popping on the bottom of the tank when the flame kicks on. I don't know of a fix for that one.
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Old 08-21-2008, 12:47 PM   #5
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We'll see what he finds. I'm suspecting a flue, sheet metal or perhaps ABS, PVC or copper drains in the wall. Could even be the hot supply strapped too tightly to a wooden member or not insulated where it passed through a stud.
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Old 08-21-2008, 08:06 PM   #6
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Well I don't go out to that job till tuesday. I did ask the customer over the phone about the temperature of her hot water. She said that it was hotter than she would like. The heater is electric.
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Old 08-21-2008, 08:10 PM   #7
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Wow! Herk, Double-A, I can tell I'm going to learn a lot from this site. Thanks for the insight. We'll see what's going on...
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Old 08-27-2008, 12:27 AM   #8
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Default what we found, clicking water heater

Water heater temp setting was 150F plus! It was no problem recreating the problem. The customer said her friend a building inspector said she may just need an expansion tank installed. The T&P drain was piped to the outside and functioning properly. It was the Heat Trap Nipples making a single click sound when a toilet on the same level as the heater was flushed.

I went ahead and turned the Water Heater temperature down to 120F. I have to go back friday and repair other things. Will see how it's acting than. Will also check house pressure.

Do any of you have any thoughts about disabling the heat trap nipples?
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Old 08-28-2008, 11:49 AM   #9
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T S C O Welcome to the site.
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Old 08-28-2008, 07:01 PM   #10
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Disabling them? They are just two galvanized nipples with plastic inserts that have a ball in them. They restrict flow considerably and violate most model codes. Remove them.

If you client wants a heat trap, then install a return bend downward from the highest point at least 18" before turning upward again on both the hot and cold. This will work more effectively than those nipples.
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