One of the most annoying things that a homeowner can experience is the constant whistling, squealing, or ticking of the residential plumbing system. Fortunately, you don’t have to suffer forever. There are a few things you can do to stop the noises, some of which can be done without having to hire a professional plumber.
How do you quiet noisy water pipes? To stop various noises that may come from your pipes, you can:
- Reset the air chambers
- Install a water pressure reducing valve
- Lower the temperature of the water heater
The noises that come from your pipes can be caused by a wide variety of factors. This can include thermal expansion, poor installation, or it can be as simple as the home’s age. To solve these issues and find peace and quiet, refer to the guide below on how to stop the various sounds that may be coming from your water pipes.
Knocking Sounds When Running Hot Water
This is a common issue for homeowners who purchased new constructions or those who live in older homes more than 50 years old. (New construction homes are more vulnerable to structural errors and imperfections, as they are not always held to the same inspection standards as prefabricated tract homes. For this reason, you should always have the home inspected by a professional before you finalize the purchase.)
If you’re noticing either of these two things:
- A clicking or knocking noise when you turn on the hot water (anywhere in the home).
- The clicking or knocking noise persists for several minutes even after you turn off the hot water.
Then your home has likely been dealing with this issue from the start of its construction. This is because these sounds are most often attributed to suboptimal construction of its chlorinated polyvinyl-chloride (CPVC) waterlines. These lines are responsible for supplying both cold and hot water to the following appliances in the home:
- Washing Machine
These noises are more likely to occur if the pipes were routed through areas that are not suitable to house this component. For instance, if the CPVC pipe waterline was routed through an area that was too tight, then you’ll most likely experience the clicking or knocking sounds. (You may also hear what sounds like the pipe rubbing up against other plumbing components or other hardware used in the construction of your home. This will happen whenever you run hot water.)
Why does this happen? CPVC piping is known to naturally expand whenever you run hot water through it. This is why it is particularly harmful to a plumber to route this component through tight spaces, as this is a natural reaction. When properly installed, CPVC piping should avoid friction, thereby eliminating the potential for bothersome noises.
How to Stop Knocking Sounds After Running Hot Water
Of course, these noises will stop once you’ve turned off the hot water, but that’s not the solution you need, as it is only temporary. You’ll need to find a permanent solution that addresses the construction of the plumbing system and condition of the pipe itself.
You can confirm the need for professional plumbing services upon inspection of a cream-colored or light tan pipe running to the hot water appliances. These will most likely be distinguished by “CPVC” on the exterior. If you see these pipes vibrating or notice that they are loose, they need to be tightened and secured once again.
To solve this issue, you have only one option: give the pipe some “breathing room.” You’ll need to locate the exact CPVC pipe that is causing the noises and make adjustments as needed. The focus of your efforts should be to expand the space in which the pipe was installed.
Unfortunately, this means you’ll have to cut into walls to reach the piping. You may even have to relocate the pipe altogether. For this – unless you are an expert plumber or otherwise have experience in this type of handiwork – you will need to hire a professional plumber.[Related Article: 5 Ideas on How to Quiet a Noisy Air Conditioner | A Complete Guide]
Knocking Sounds After Using Both Cold and Hot Water
This is another common issue faced by homeowners everywhere and is known colloquially as the “water hammer.” (This term is often incorrectly attributed to general loud, banging noises, however, this sound – and phrase – is attributed to a very specific occurrence.)
This occurs specifically when a water valve is abruptly turned off. When all the water that was previously running through the pipe crashes into the newly closed valve, this shakes your pipes and results in the loud knocking noise. This is especially common in showers and other areas in the house where relatively large amounts of water are being moved through a single fixture.
Homes, in theory, should have components in place to prevent this from happening. However, older homes’ piping systems may be degraded and no longer in optimal condition, lending them to being vulnerable to this development. For example, homes that were built before the 1960s typically have air chambers installed.
These are T-sections in a pipe that hold air, which, in turn, acts as a shock absorber. As the home ages, the stored air will become gradually replaced by water. With the shock absorption function no longer in place, the fixtures are now vulnerable to water hammer.
How to Stop Water Hammer
One of the first things you should take into consideration is installing a water hammer arrestor (again, very important for homes built during or before the 1960s). These are a relatively modern, long-term solution to water hammer as they replace faulty (and outdated) air chambers. Instead of relying only on the pocket of air, there is a piston that compresses and relaxes the chamber in which the air is housed.
This way, the pressure from the abruptly stopping water isn’t directed on the valve itself but is displaced through the piston, and up toward the pressurized air cushion.
If you have functioning air chambers, however, there is a different solution available to you. Instead, you’ll need to drain all the water from your home’s plumbing system and refill it. Do so by following the guidelines below:
- Shut off your home’s water supply by closing off the main supply valve.
- Choose a faucet located on the highest level of the house and open it.
- Choose a faucet located in the lowest point in your home (depending on the construction of your home, you might find this in the basement or outside).
- Wait for all the water to drain. This will allow for the air chambers to “refill.”
- Close the lowest faucet that was opened in Step 3.
- Re-open the water main.
- Let the highest faucet from Step 2 continue running.
- Close this faucet until the sputtering noises cease. The water hammer should no longer be a problem.
Whistling Noises Coming from Your Pipe
If your plumbing system is succumbing to wear and tear, you may begin to notice whistling sounds coming from the pipes when you run water anywhere in the home. These noises may come from three major sources:
- The pipes themselves
- The fixture
It comes not only in the form of a whistle but may sound like a sort of squeal as well. This is occurring due to a similar issue that causes the knocking sounds following the use of hot water. The water is being forced through an opening that is smaller than that which is recommended for the plumbing components. The friction resulting from the water moving through the pipe at high speeds and pressure is the source of the noise.
The opening does not always start out too small for the components, however. This is something that can happen over time. Over the years, the use of your plumbing system will inevitably cause the buildup of debris and minerals from the water. This can either cause a blockage or shrink the diameter through which the water can travel.
If the water pressure is regularly too high, however, this can contribute to wear and tear that may potentially warp the pipe into having a small opening or blocking the passage in some way. The most important thing to keep in mind, however, is that this issue is, at the core, due to high pressure and/or velocity of the water flowing through the pipe.
Confirming the Source of Whistling Pipes
There are a few things you can do to remedy this. Since the noise is attributed to the water pressure, you can adjust this to give your pipes a break. The standard water pressure for a residential system should be between 45-55 pounds per square inch (psi). You can have a bit of fluctuation; however, these levels should never exceed 60 psi. This only invites damage and accelerated wear on the components.
Further, residential systems are designed to perform at their best at approximately 50 psi, particularly at the site at which the main water line enters the home. From there, individual lines should be expected to perform with even lower pressure levels. (You need the mainline to operate at a higher pressure than the rest to ensure all can be supplied simultaneously with the appropriate pressure levels).
First, if you suspect that this is an issue, you’ll need to confirm with a simple test:
- Locate a fixture in your home (ideally one that you’ve been hearing the noise from) that is located near a shut-off valve.
- Partially close the shut-off valve.*
- Listen and note whether the noise goes away or persists. If the noise stops, you can confirm that water pressure is either contributing to, or is the source of, the noise.
*Older shut-off valves should not be forced to close. As the component ages, it can corrode and become more fragile, making it difficult to manipulate. If you are feeling excessive resistance, leave it alone, as you can cause significant damage, and the break could result in a leak. If you can confirm that the water pressure is indeed causing the whistling noise, then you’ll need to get a water pressure reducing valve.
Using a Water Pressure Reducing Valve to Stop Noisy Pipes
Current residential plumbing codes require that homes are fitted with a pressure reducing valves during initial construction. Your home may have one already, depending on when it was built. If so, you can find this component on the water meter, on the homeowner’s side.
The water meter will be located inside of the subterranean box in your front yard (the home water shut-off is inside this box as well). If it is not there, then you might find it in the meter box that belongs to the city – this is the one between the curb and the sidewalk. Each will be oblong and green on top.
A water pressure reducing valve will typically be set to 50 psi, again, since this is the best pressure for maximizing the performance of your plumbing system. According to your needs, you can adjust this component anywhere between 25-75 psi by following the guidelines below:
If you wish to raise the downstream pressure (that going into your home):
- Loosen the nut located at the top of the water pressure reducing valve. (This nut holds the piece that you’ll use to adjust the pressure in place.)
- Turn the adjusting screw clockwise, keeping an eye on the pressure levels indicated by the gauges.
- Stop at the desired pressure level.
If you wish to lower the downstream pressure:
- Loosen the nut located on top of the water pressure reducing valve.
- Turn the adjusting screw counterclockwise, again, watching the pressure levels closely.
- Stop at the desired pressure level.
In both scenarios, once you’ve finished the adjustment, tighten the nut once again to ensure your adjustments stay in effect.
Other Potential Causes of Whistling Pipes
Unfortunately, the occurrence of whistling pipes is not exclusive to the aforementioned causes. It can be attributed to a few more things:
- The rubber washers in the water shut-off valve are significantly worn.
- The shut-off valve’s seat may be degrading from wear and tear. (The seat is the area just beneath the washer).
- There may be a large buildup of debris, resulting in a flow that falls below the threshold for which the fixture or pipe was designed for.
You need only to consider these options if you’re noticing this squealing noise while the incoming water pressure is at an ideal 50 psi. Since everything is set to optimal standards, this points to a problem outside of the key structural components (the main water line and piping).[Related Article: How To Soundproof A Noisy Generator: A DIY Guide]
Additional Noises You May Hear from a Worn Piping System
Apart from those listed above, many homeowners will also experience their pipes creating a squeaking noise, or one indicating some sort of friction between multiple components. This can most likely be attributed to poor insulation of copper pipes. As hot water runs through the piping, it causes the metal to expand. This results in the pipes rubbing up against other structural components of the home.
You can make small adjustments to prevent this from becoming a larger issue. Normally, these pipes are sealed in by drywall – this would take professional assistance to expose these elements to properly address the issue (applying padding to the pipes to prevent the friction causing the noise). If you don’t want to invest in this extent of repair, you can simply turn down the temperature of the water heater watch (watch video):
Gas Water Heaters:
- Check the owner’s manual to review any cautions and/or warnings before attempting to adjust the temperature.
- Locate the knob on the valve.
- Set the temperature anywhere between 115°-120°F.
Electric Water Heaters:
- Shut off the power to the water heater
- Remove the thermostat coverings and the insulation (there are two thermostats, upper and lower).
- Using a flathead screwdriver, set the temperature between 115֯F-120֯F. The thermostat located at the top of the unit should be slightly higher than the lower one.
- Replace the insulation and the coverings.
You may also hear a dripping or ticking noise coming from your plumbing system. These sounds could be indicative of a problem with a drain or a leak. Unfortunately, depending on the extent of these issues, neither of these should be addressed by you alone and should be solved only by a professional plumber. However, you can still do some troubleshooting to determine whether it’s minor enough for you to handle.
Troubleshoot Drain Problems and Leaks
If the issue is as simple as thermal expansion or excessive pressure, you can attempt to resolve these issues for yourself, without the help of an expert. To do this, you’ll have to reset the plumbing system’s air chambers as you would with water hammering. Refer to the instructions listed in the “How to Stop Water Hammer” section.
If you have done this already and the noise persists, follow the guidelines below:
- Fill your bathroom sink (any sink) with hot water.
- Flush the toilet. This forces cold water into the pipes.
- Drain the hot water from the sink.
- Listen to the ticking noise. If you hear it, this points to an issue of thermal expansion. Although it is annoying, it is not a serious problem.
If you are unable to come to a clear conclusion on the issue affecting your residential plumbing system, seek professional help. You should never attempt to do any extensive repairs without expert knowledge or assistance.