Published onMarch 11th, 2021
Water Pipe Whisperer: What to Do When Water Pipes Make Humming Noises
Whether your building has newer or older water pipes, humming noises are a common problem in New York City buildings. If you’re a landlord or property manager, you may have tenants coming to you complaining about this issue, which may keep them awake at night or disrupt home life. Sometimes, people in adjoining buildings can hear humming pipes, which is really disruptive! Read on to learn the most likely culprits when it comes to pipe humming, so you can play water pipe whisperer and stop the noise.
Common Causes of Water Pipes Humming Noises
Water Pressure Too High
It’s been our experience at Sanitary Plumbing that water pressure that is too high is the most common cause of humming pipes. If the humming sounds like it’s coming from inside the building’s walls or from all taps and appliances (rather than one isolated fixture), it’s probably caused by a water pressure issue. This is quite typical in larger or high-rise buildings that try to deal with low water pressure on upper floors and wind up overcompensating.
We often engage our pump division, Antler Motor & Pump, in this case. Sometimes, shutting off the pump that distributes water to the affected area will eliminate the humming noise. If that’s the case, the pump may have to be changed out for a different model or reset. In some instances, adding isolators and better stabilizing the pump works too (see rattling noises, below).
It may take some trial and error to first determine the cause of the humming and then make the pump adjustments to stop it, so don’t give up too soon. The more complex your water distribution system (roof tanks, booster pumps, etc.), the longer it may take to arrive at a solution.
In smaller residences, such as single-family homes and duplexes, it’s usually easier to fix high-pressure issues. Your plumber can adjust your pressure so it won’t exceed a certain threshold—about 55 pounds per square inch—and stop the humming.
Valve Needs Adjustment or Replacement
We also see pipe humming issues when valves are either partially closed (throttled) or when they start to wear out and need replacement. It’s worth checking to see if you have a valve that was accidentally closed and should be opened. This occurs when work is being done on the plumbing and the valve isn’t fully re-opened. Also, kids sometimes play with these valves without their parents knowing, and they can easily shut off many valves in one residence, causing noisy pipes.
If you have humming pipes coming from only one part of your residence or from only one unit of an apartment building, the cause might be worn parts related to the plumbing. Washers, toilet components, and the like can wear out or break, resulting in noisy pipes at the site where they’re used. Sometimes, rather than a humming noise, you’ll hear whining or whistling too.
This mostly happens around sinks, toilets, and appliances that use water. If you can’t track down the cause yourself, we’re happy to come out and have a look.
Other Pipe Noises That Signal Trouble
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention other pipe noises that should get your attention. These should also receive a follow-up, as they can indicate the need for repairs. You don’t want to wait until you have a slew of tenant complaints or water damage before tending to these problems.
If you hear rattling from your pipes, the cause is most often something loose. It may be the pump distributing water through the building, which results in vibrating pipes where they run through the walls. In that case, the pump either needs a repair or a more secure mounting system.
Other times, the stabilizers securing pipes have come loose and need to be replaced. Sometimes pipes need extra cushioning or vibration control, especially where they cross different floor levels.
Another cause is copper piping that expands when exposed to warm water. If the hot water heater or boiler temperature is set too high, copper pipes can become very noisy, particularly in cold weather. You can try turning down the hot water temperature or insulating the pipes if this happens in your building.
We find gurgling noises usually occur in drain pipes versus those that supply water. Typically, something has gotten into the drain that shouldn’t have been put there. It isn’t enough to completely clog the pipe, but it does slow the flow of water and creates a strange noise.
Sometimes this happens with pipes that have a large buildup of sediment or hard water scale. The remedy here is most often to clean the drain, although pipes that have too much buildup may need replacement.
Do you have noisy pipes that are driving you or your tenants crazy? You don’t have to live with humming or rattling pipes. Call Sanitary Plumbing today at 212-734-5000, or use our online form to schedule an appointment for service.