Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Noisy pipes… Water Hammer or just a bunch of air?

Like millions of other homes, our shower is in our bathtub. To engage the shower, we turn on the bath spigot, run some water, then pull a little lever to divert the water to the shower head. Many times, when we pull the lever, the pipes make a “clunk…rat-tat-tat” noise. It only lasts a second (until the water flows from the spigot to the shower head), but it’s an unpleasant experience at 6 a.m.

Water Hammer, Defined
According to PlumbingMart.com, “Water hammer can be a big thump that shakes the house, or a series of banging noises starting with a loud bang followed by several “echoes”. Rapidly closing or opening a valve causes pressure [transitions] in pipelines. If the noise occurs when you open a valve or a faucet, it is probably air in the pipes. If it occurs when a valve closes or the washer changes cycles, it is probably water hammer. If it occurs when a pump starts, it could be water hammer, air in the pipes, or both. Although opening valves can sometimes create water hammer, this typically only occurs with valves larger than 3″ in size, and even then it is reasonably rare.

Water hammer is a complicated problem-solving matter. If you suspect your pipe noises are caused by water hammer, Allied recommends contacting a professional plumber.

Air in the Pipes – Much Easier to Fix
In our case, we’re fairly certain the issue is air in the pipes (a.k.a. air hammer)– more of an older home annoyance than a true plumbing issue. eHow.com offers a potentially easily accomplished fix:

1. Turn on every faucet in the home, including the often-overlooked non-traditional faucets such as washing machines, dishwashers, outside faucets, and the spare shower in the basement or garage.

2. Flush all toilets a few times, allowing the water to rush through those pipes as well.

3. Listen for water bubbles to pass through the faucets. This may sound like hissing, sputtering, or popping.

4.Run the water a few minutes more, allowing plenty of water to flush through the pipes once all sounds of air passing through has ceased.

5. Starting with the faucets on the lowest level of your home, turn off each one. Move upward throughout the house until all faucets have been turned off.

Other Potential Noise Makers
Kitchen faucets are notorious for clunking noises, especially if a kitchen sprayer is attached. Similar to the tub/shower issue, when water is diverted from the faucet to the sprayer, you may hear (and feel) a solid “clunk.” A popular suggestion on the internet for fixing is to turn the water on full blast, work the spray nozzle lever off and on quickly for two or three minutes (as fast as possible) to dislodge the air bubble.

Noisy pipes may also be caused by loose washers, pipes touching each other or hard surface, or the energy saving nipples that screw in the top of the water heater, which contain a ball acts as a check valve.