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Old 03-05-2017, 10:20 AM   #1
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Water heater high pitch squealing when heating

We recently noticed a high-pitched squealing when our water heater is heating. It stops once it has come up to temperature. Any ideas what the problem might be? It works fine. We are just concerned that something may be wrong.

This happens while we are plugged into electric by the way.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:39 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Maury&Julie View Post
We recently noticed a high-pitched squealing when our water heater is heating. It stops once it has come up to temperature. Any ideas what the problem might be? It works fine. We are just concerned that something may be wrong.

This happens while we are plugged into electric by the way.
It might be the pressure/heat relief value letting off pressure as the tank heats from cold to hot and the water expands a bit. We found that the valve would often drip during the first heating cycle, but turning on the hot water at a tap relieved the pressure enough that the dripping stopped immediately. Ours would sometimes make some noise like you describe.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:42 AM   #3
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Squeals

Have you taken the cover off the the water heater panel when you hear the noise? That might help you pinpoint the source. My only thought might be some air escaping from the pressure relief valve as pressure comes up in the tank. With the system cold, I would flip the pressure relief valve a couple times to encourage a tight seal. Also checking for a very minor leak in the valve would be in order. They do corrode and fail on occasion. That's all I got.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:48 AM   #4
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... With the system cold,...
Just to emphasize Dave's "cold" water check. Be extra careful with that pressure relief valve if the water is already hot. You could get a painful face-full.
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Old 03-05-2017, 10:52 AM   #5
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Thanks for the ideas Dave & Eric. Some sort of leak is a very logical guess.

I took the cover off and flipped the pressure relief valve a couple of times. It changed the pitch of the squealing (lowered it) when it was open but it went back to squealing when it was closed. Thanks for the warning, Dave. Sounds like I got lucky. The water wasn't yet very hot.

Next, I will check to see if it happens on propane. Don't know why that would make a difference. Also, we're hooked up to water (with a regulator). I want to see if it happens when we're not. So more investigation...

And who knows, it may just stop. I love problems that go away by themselves.

Thanks again!
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Old 03-05-2017, 03:35 PM   #6
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Have had similar experience to your squealing on a household 220V electric hot water heater on heating very cold water. The heater would make noise when the element "kicked in" when being refilled with very cold water. Also found the squealing to be related to the amount of calcium build up on the element, when it was replaced shortly after with a new element.

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Old 03-06-2017, 10:40 AM   #7
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It's not doing it now, so I suspect it may have to do with the cold water, or the element. If/when I figure it out I'll let you know. Thanks for the ideas, guys!

We're fairly new at this so it's really helpful to know if problems are "normal" with a simple solution or "odd" with a sometimes challenging diagnosis. Sounds like this one's in the "odd" category.

Thanks again!!
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Old 03-06-2017, 10:48 AM   #8
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If it only happens when on electric, I agree with Shannon - there is some calcium or other mineral build up in the heating element that is causing the noise.
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Old 03-06-2017, 12:29 PM   #9
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Chromolox sells a water heater element that has a low watt density and is made with incoloy . It will take running dry or heavy lime / mineral build up far better than a standard element.
Our water at home is quite hard and after replacing several water heater elements , I switched to the incoloy element.
Ten years on the same element without any problems
They are more expensive .
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Old 03-06-2017, 01:15 PM   #10
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Interesting! This raises more questions.

1. Is replacing the element easy? Sounds like something I should check.

2. Is there any danger to the system from using an element with mineral buildup?

3. Steve, where did you buy the Chromolox element? I would like to check into it.
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