Certainly, some of the sounds you hear in your house are totally normal (your fridge intermittently running, the occasional creak of the house settling) but there are others that are cause for concern — indicators of what might need to be fixed, replaced, or even exterminated.
We asked professionals which thuds, clanks, or hisses could mean that something is amiss. Once you've identified the source of a troubling sound (or even if you can't), we absolutely recommend you call in a pro to fix the issue.
You hear water running — but nobody is using it.
"First, check the house quickly to see if any toilets are running, or flappers are sticking," says Alfonso Jimenez, master plumber and president of Mr. Rooter Northern Colorado. "Next, check if your sprinkler system, dishwasher, or washing machine is running. If you're still stumped, I would turn off the house's water and check for visible water damage throughout the home, and look for water pooling in the yard, around the outside of the house, or in the crawl space."
Your AC is banging or squealing.
"If the air filter isn't replaced regularly, it will ultimately get totally plugged with dirt and dust," says Dan Deardan, owner of Just Right Heating and Cooling. "This could cause the air handler to make a high pitched whining sound, and the same is true of your furnace filter."
"Air conditioners can vibrate a lot, so parts can come loose over time, and cause banging or clanging." says Scott McGillivray, contractor and host of HGTV's Income Property. "Squealing could mean your fan belt is loose, and gurgling could mean you need to refill the refrigerant. Bottom line? Have your unit serviced by a professional."
Your furnace is making a racket.
"A booming sound coming out of a gas furnace or boiler happens when the burners are not lighting properly, says Deardan. "Gas builds up in combustion chamber, and the delayed ignition causes a small exploding popping sound. This will only get worse, and cause larger, dangerous explosions over time, so call in a pro to handle the problem."
You suspect you've got critters.
"The most common noise inquiries we get from homeowners are concerns about sounds coming from the attic. Fast moving scurrying noises are often rodents like squirrels or rats, " says Bob Cherrington, owner of Family Pest Control.
"Rodents are dangerous to ignore since they will chew just about anything, like electrical wires." Cherrington continues. "Many house fires are caused by rodents who short out the electrical wires."
You hear scratching in your gutters.
"Sometimes people mistake scratching in their walls for birds outside in their gutters," says McGillivray. "If you hear scratching regularly, it's likely a rodent in your walls. A tinny scratching sound could be a bird's feet in your gutters, but this points to a different problem. Birds hang out in gutters when water pools. And if water is pooling in your gutters, it means the slope is incorrect. Have your gutters and downspout inspected to make sure water is being properly routed away from your house. "
Your lights are buzzing.
"If you hear a buzzing coming from outlets or light fixtures, that's usually a sign of a loose connection," says McGillivray. "Loose connections can cause sparking, which can lead to electrical fires."
Your fridge is popping — or won't stop running.
"When it comes to fridges, popping and rattling could point to compressor issues," says McGillivray. "A constant humming (meaning the fridge is constantly cooling and never 'cutting out') could indicate a temperature regulation issue. Make sure nothing is blocking the passageway between the freezer and the refrigerator compartments (this can happen when you pack too much food in the freezer)."
You should also clean your refrigerator's coils at least once per season (monthly is even better) to keep it running efficiently. Your vacuum's crevice attachment can help make quick work of the job.
Your dryer is screeching.
"Dryers tend to reveal problems with noise," says McGillivray. "Squealing could mean belt issues — I've seen dryer drums come right off because of loose belts. People often forget to remove the shipping bolts on new washers and dryers. If it's the first time you're using the machine and you hear a loud banging, it's often because the shipping bolts haven't been removed."
You suspect a hissing sound that you worry could be a gas leak.
"This would indicate a dangerous situation," says Dearden. "If you can hear the hissing sound of a gas leak (you might also smell it), leave the house as fast as possible without touching any light switches or using anything electric, like a telephone. Get as far away from the home as possible, but don't start your car. Call 911, and warn your neighbors get far away, too."