When quickly flowing water crashes against a closed valve in the plumbing system, it causes a water hammer (also known as hydraulic shock). When the water abruptly comes to a halt, it produces extremely loud vibrations. Reconnect the water supply at the main shutdown valve. If these sounds recur, you have found the source of the problem.
Water hammers can also occur when there is a leak in one of the pipes feeding into a valve or meter. This will cause water to flow through the leak rather than shutting off. The sound of running water is then heard by people outside of the house, causing alarm systems to trigger events such as calling the police.
The most common cause of vibration and noise with hot water heaters is failure to shut off the supply valve to the heater after repairing or replacing a part of the heating system. This leaves the valve open, allowing water to continue to flow into the tank even though the heater is not operating.
Vibration and noise are also signs that something is wrong with your gas hot-water heater. Gas heaters have parts that wear out over time, but they should not make low-frequency noises while running. A high-frequency noise may indicate a leak in one of the connections between components. These leaks can be small, so listen for other signs of moisture intrusion before making any repairs yourself.
Fast-closing valves, such as toilet fill valves and faucets, generate water hammer. As the water rushes through the pipes and the valve immediately turns off, the water abruptly stops in the pipes, resulting in the "hammer" effect. The vibration may be enough to cause damage to plumbing materials if it is continuous or frequent enough.
If you hear your piping vibrating, there are two likely causes: a valve is fast closing or open flooding is occurring. If the pipe is vibrating from a valve, there should be no flow through it. If the pipe is vibrating from flooding, the water should not be near its boiling point. Vibrations from either situation can cause damage to plumbing materials if they are continuous or frequent enough.
If you suspect old wiring, look for broken or frayed insulation where it contacts the copper conductors inside the tank. This can happen before there are any signs of trouble with other components. If you find such damage, have a qualified technician inspect your heating system annually. He or she will be able to tell you how much life remains in your heating system and whether you need to replace it.
When flowing water is abruptly cut off, the rushing liquid has nowhere to go and bangs against the shut-off valve. A water hammer is the loud, thudding sound that follows. Water hammer, in addition to being scary, has the potential to damage joints and connections in the water pipe itself. It can also cause items like television sets to break.
The pipes behind your sink or toilet may be made of metal or plastic. Either type of pipe can ring when struck by a hard object. If you hear a ringing noise after turning off the water supply, then you have a problem that needs to be fixed by a professional. Do not try and fix this yourself as even minor mistakes could lead to serious injury or death.
Have your plumbing inspected by a professional at least once every year. Have your water meter checked for accuracy annually with either a digital or analog meter. These tests will help ensure that there are no problems with your water supply that may need attention before they become an emergency.
If you do find yourself facing an emergency situation with your plumbing, call 911 immediately. Plumbing emergencies should never be handled alone.
In conclusion, water sounds like music to humans, but it's really just a noisy stream if you listen carefully. Music to our ears means trouble for our sinks and toilets. Turn off the faucet so you don't waste water and avoid damaging your pipes by hearing them groan.