Mystery Sounds – Part 1

Every home seems to be filled with mysteries.  What exactly is that light switch supposed to turn on?  Is it normal for my house to creak like that?  Are scratching noises a bad sign?  The list goes on and on.  As an Upland plumber, Green Hippo Plumbing gets our fair share of mystery questions.  What’s that sound and where does it come from?  It’s good to know that as mysterious as it may sound, your plumbing truly is not possessed.  There are a number of causes for noise and a quick listen can usually help detect the problem.

Perhaps you’ve noticed, upon turning off a faucet, a loud banging sound in your pipes.  This sound is known as water hammer.  Without a picture, water hammer can be rather difficult to illustrate.  In many ways, it’s like a dog tied up in the front yard when someone walks by.  He goes tearing off across the lawn until he reaches the end of his rope and is jerked to a neck breaking halt.  While there are lessons in that for everyone, it serves as an example of what is happening inside your pipes.  When a faucet is opened, water (which is under pressure) is rushing through the pipes to the fixture.  Just like a running dog, as soon as the water is shut off, it’s like the end of a rope.  All of the kinetic energy from the moving water is forced to a halt resulting in a hammering effect.  As we have discussed in a previous article, increased water pressure results in increased water hammer, which in turn results in increased destructive power exerted on your plumbing fixtures.  So if you’re hearing banging in your pipes, check your pressure and keep it between 65-70 psi max.  The loud banging most often is caused by the plumber who installed the pipes.  Oops!  Believe it or not, there are actually plumbing codes pertaining to the proper securing of pipes.  If water hammer is causing a pipe to kick and bang, it’s usually because the pipe is loose and needs to be secured.  This presents a problem because your plumbing, as you may have noticed, is often in the walls.  The question now becomes, “How do I fix this mystery sound?”  After checking the water pressure, begin by inspecting  and securing loose pipes.  A little field trip into the attic or under the house may be in order.  Once that is complete turn all your fixtures on and off.  Run the dishwasher and clothes washer and listen for any noise.  If you still hear a noise, the next option is to install a water hammer arrestor.  These come in various forms, and function by absorbing the kinetic energy once a fixture has been shut off, lessening the force of the shockwave through the pipes.  Water hammer arrestors can be installed in almost any location, and prevent that rather disturbing banging that interrupts the peace in your home.

While every house has it’s mysteries, it’s nice to know some of them can be solved and fixed for good.  Now that you have a little extra knowledge from your Upland plumber, you’re all set to get started with your investigation.

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