If you’ve ever been jolted awake by a loud noise in the middle of the night, only to find that it’s coming from your own house, you’re not alone. Many people report strange noises emanating from their homes, particularly at night. Fortunately, most of these noises can be attributed to everyday household sounds such as expanding materials, noisy water pipes, and other projects that can be solved with simple DIY home improvement projects. If scary noises in the night keep you awake, keep reading to find four explanations for the strange noises your house makes at night.
Spooky Sounds on Cold Nights? The Science Behind Scary Settling Noises
Does your house make scary sounds in the middle of the night? Does it seem like it happens more often on dark, cold nights?
Don’t worry. Your house isn’t haunted. At least, it’s probably not haunted. There’s a simple scientific explanation for the creaks, moans, and groans your house makes during the night.
Most people are familiar with the concept of a house “settling.” The unsettling noises of a settling house are more likely to occur on cold nights because of how different materials expand and contract during temperature changes.
Think of all the materials that went into the construction of your house. Wood beams, metal screws, and copper pipes react differently to sudden temperature drops.
Regardless of the season, the air gets colder at night. As it does, the materials shift and rub against each other. The result is audible creaks, settling noises, and popping sounds.
These don’t typically indicate a more significant issue — paranormal or otherwise. Next time you hear scary sounds at night, who are you going to call? Start with your preferred contractor before dialing a ghost hunter.
Banging Outside Your Window? It Might Be the Furnace
Temperature can cause all sorts of physical reactions that result in sounds that are hard to explain.
People who grew up in cold climates might be able to imagine a time as a kid when they awoke to the unmistakable clamor of metal clashing. While a child’s imagination can conjure a near-endless list of scary possibilities, the reality is much less alarming.
On cold nights, a metallic banging sound is usually caused by hot air rapidly heating the sheet-metal ducts. The phenomenon is most common in older homes built before central heating and air conditioning.
The metal ducts contract when cooled by winter air and expand almost instantly when the furnace hot air through them. The noise might also be caused by wind funneling through the building’s openings or by rain hitting the metal exterior of the house.
Again, this sound is usually not a cause for concern. If persistent noise from metal ducts is disrupting your sleep, reach out to an HVAC expert to go over your noise insulation options and help winterize your home.
Inexplicable Thumping in the Walls? Time to Call a Plumber
Noises in walls are always a little scary. From the faint rustle of rodents to inexplicable “knocking” sounds, there’s something perturbing about a noise you can’t identify.
Next time you hear a knocking sound in your walls, pay attention to when you hear it. Does it occur right after someone flushes a toilet or turns off the shower? A water hammer is likely the source.
A water hammer is a sound caused by the sudden stop of water flow. It can be heard when a valve is suddenly closed, such as when a person turns off a faucet. The rapid change in pressure creates a shockwave that travels through the pipes, causing them to vibrate and produce the distinctive “hammering.”
Water resonance could also be the culprit for strange wall noises. When water flows through a pipe, it creates a standing wave. The frequency of the wave is determined by the length and width of the pipe. If your house has metal plumbing, the sound of the waves can be amplified.
Unlike the other sounds on this list, this one doesn’t occur exclusively at night. However, you may notice it more at night when ambient sounds aren’t there to drown it out. If it’s bothering you too much, you can hire a professional plumber to remediate the issue.
Knocking Noises in the Kitchen? Check Behind the Fridge
Scary noises can happen in nearly every room of the house. The kitchen is no exception. If you’ve ever heard a subtle knocking sound in the kitchen, don’t jump to assume it’s someone tapping on your window.
Your fridge’s condenser fan likely causes the noise. The purpose of this fan is to cool the compressor and evaporator coils. If dirt and debris block the fan blades, they may hit against the housing and cause the tapping noise.
There’s no need to be scared, but there is a cause for action. You’ll want to regularly clean the compressor and condenser fans when you start hearing these noises. Replacing a broken fridge condenser costs almost as much as the original price of the appliance — now that’s scary.
Sleep Soundly When Things Go “Bump” In The Night
While it can be unsettling to hear strange noises coming from your house, especially at night, there is usually a logical explanation behind them. By understanding the science behind these sounds, you can rest assured that nothing lurks in your dark closet or under your bed. Next time you hear something spooky going on in your home, take a deep breath and remember that it’s just physics!