The Case of the Singing RV Water Heater

What the Heck is that Noise?

A couple days ago I noticed a faint whistling noise every once in a while in the rig. It would come and go apparently at random. Then yesterday it got very loud and it was easy to track it down. Our Suburban SW6DE water heater was singing to us. The noise was only present when the water heater was using electric power, not LP gas. It also only happened during the heating process when the electrical heating element was active. Armed with this knowledge it was easy to deduce that the element was the cause.

Emptying the RV water heater

The Investigation

I’ve read that a buildup of mineral deposits can coat the heater element and cause the singing or sizzling type of noise to occur. We had recently stayed at a few RV Parks in central California that had very hard water full of white chalky minerals. Unfortunately, I had neglected to use any type of water filter, Doh!

Having replaced the heating element and anode rod just 4 months ago, I was very familiar with the disassembly process. In no time, I had the water heater opened up, emptied and both the anode rod and heater element out for inspection.  For full details on the disassembly check out my blog post on Suburban SW6DE water heater maintenance.

RV water heater element

Heater Element with scale deposits

I gave the anode and element a cleaning with a wire brush, wiped them down and reassembled. The element was still singing, but a little softer song now. I guess I didn’t get enough of the coating off. Again I took it apart and this time decided to replace the HW element with a new one. I always carry a spare just in case one burns out. The new one was the tonic and we were back in business with hot water and no songs from the HW tank.

Video Detailing the Singing RV Water Heater


Extra Water Heater Tips

Since posting this video on YouTube, I have had a few suggestions for cleaning the old water heater element. One was to soak it in vinegar and another was to use “Snowbowl” or “The Works” toilet bowl cleaner. So I’ll hang on to the old element and try cleaning it for use as a spare. Another suggestion was for removing the scale build up inside the tank. Pump vinegar into the hot water tank via the winterizing kit and let it sit in there for a day, then flush it out.

The Case of the Singing RV Water Heater | Love Your RV! blog #RV #repairs

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