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My hot water heater started whistling last night so we turned it off at the circuit breaker. Is there something wrong with it?

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It sounds like your "pressure relief valve". It's a copper valve, usually located toward the top of the water heater, usually has a copper tube (pipe) running from the valve down to the floor. The pressure relief valve is a SAFETY DEVICE. If the heater water gets too hot, so is the pressure in the heaters tank. The valve is designed to open to release pressure. If it's releasing pressure correctly, hot water and steam will be running down the copper pipe and draining on to the floor. Here's the problem. If the valve is releasing pressure the heater may not be working correctly. It may be that the valve is sticking. Try this first. Open and close the valve about 10 times. You do that by pulling up on the metal tab. Be careful of steam and hot water around the valve and copper pipe to prevent possible burns. By operation this lever / valve several times may free it if it's sticking. If after you try that it still "whistling" try to replace valve itself cause it may be worn out. They are very inexpensive and found Lowes, Home Depot, etc. I think they screw out of the heater unit. CAUTION! BEFORE YOU REMOVE PRESSURE VALVE, make sure the heater has been shut off and water inside is cooled to prevent scalding burns. You can search online for "Replacing a pressure relief valve" for correct and safe procedure. Take old valve to store so THEY give you the correct one. Replacing the valve maybe take about 1 hour of labor. The pressure valve is about $10. If by doing those 2 easy things, your heater is still building DANGEROUS pressures. Time for a new water heater.

P.S. Make sure that your water heater temp. setting is not set to "high". That too will cause it it to OVERHEAT. Most water heaters provide enough hot water when temperature of heater is set at medium. Try turning the setting low enough so as not to trip on the relief valve.

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