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My Water Heater Is Making Soft Hissing Sounds After I Shower. Is This Normal?

My water heater is old (20+ yrs) and will need replacement soon. I just do not have funds right now. I’m taking shorter showers, but I seem to notice a soft hissing after I bathe or run the dishwasher. Is this normal? It may have been making these sounds before and I just didn’t notice. But now that I’m on guard more I hear it.
Also, can the unit “explode” or will it just die out and stop working?

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  1. Comment by Zeiss nut
    November 30, 2009 @ 11:31 pm

    20 yrs + !!!
    You really should replace.
    If it leak . you will have to replace more than just the water heater. Water damage is bad.
    Hissing sound is normal. sometime it is gurgling or hiss-pop . that is just the heating elements.
    any sign of leaks or improper operation should make you replace it right away. Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

  2. Comment by Bandett
    December 1, 2009 @ 12:23 am

    There should be a pressure relief valve on the top of the tank. It could be leaking.That would make hiss. The valve is there to release pressure if your tank should overheat and create too much pressure. It is a safety device. Do not open the safety valve to check it out, that will make leak. just listen to see if that is the noise. Also, turn down the water temperature that may help.

  3. Comment by jerry_66
    December 1, 2009 @ 7:00 am

    it could ” explode” , not really. but it could start leaking and cost more than just a hot water heater. you are pushing ur luck. you can have it replaced for about $500.00 or less. how much would new flooring, walls, furniture, not to mention huge water bill for all the water u lose.

  4. Comment by Dr. Strangelove
    December 1, 2009 @ 8:12 am

    It won’t explode, unless you have a gas leak. If you don’t smell gas, and water isn’t pouring out of the bottom, don’t worry. It will just quit one day all by itself.

  5. Comment by gizmoe
    December 1, 2009 @ 8:36 am

    I am guessing you have an electric type.
    When the heating elements are energized you will hear a hissing sound, this is normal.

  6. Comment by tom the plumber
    December 1, 2009 @ 11:32 am

    replace it

  7. Comment by Ed K
    December 1, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

    Wow, strange answers today. 1) Electric water heaters should not make any noise at all under any circumstances. 2) Gas water heaters should make burner noises only, first when the burner comes on and then then while burning, just like the burners on a gas stove with pilot lights not electric igniters. I’ve never heard this noise called a “hiss” but i can tell you that a water leak hitting the burners sounds different that a stove top burner. 3) Sometimes (rarely) a pin hole leak develops on the inside surface of the firebox but if this was the case you would most likely see some water under the heater. 4) If the flu (chimney) is not drawing the hot burned gases from the water heater correctly it is possible that the water produced by the combustion process is condensing on the inside of the flu and dripping onto the burners. You have probably noticed cars dripping water from their exhaust pipes on a cold day, same thing as that. 5) You are actually supposed to drain and flush the sediments from the bottom of your water heater tank once or twice a year but nobody ever does this. After a while these sediments build up and your heater has to heat all this junk before it can heat the water and then this junk get really hot and continues to make poping noises after the burner shuts off. 6) There is a sacrificial zinc anode rod inside you heater that absorbes the electrolysis of water passing over metal and these erode away after many years and you are supposed to replace this and nobody ever does and then the metal of your heater starts to erode away. So – see if you can get a competant plumber to check the flu and flush the heater, then save up and get a new one as soon as you can. The new ones are really a lot better. One last thought – The old training films showed water heaters exploding and taking off like rockets right through the roof but that was before the use of modern safety devices. It is very unlikely that you are at risk for that.

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