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Old 12-15-2009, 08:08 AM   #1
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Smelly hot water


I recently purchased a new house that had been unoccuplied since July. The 2006 50 gallon Whirlpool gas water heater has been in vacation mode for about 5 months. After turning it on I notice that the hot water has a funny smell to it. The cold water is fine so it make me believe the smell s coming from the water tank and not the pipes.

Anyone familiar with this?

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Old 12-15-2009, 08:41 AM   #2
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A sulfur type smell can occur in a hot water heater when the aluminum anode rod interacts with high iron content in your water supply. A better description of the problem and the basic solution can be found in a blog I wrote a few months back on my blogsite @ http://nationalbuildersupply.blogspo...episode-2.html
This same blog may also be found here on the DIY blogs where I have about 60 published on various subjects including several on plumbing smells. I hope this helps.

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Old 12-15-2009, 08:44 AM   #3
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1. The water in your locality may have dissolved gases that are liberated when the water is heated.

2. There may be trace impurities in the water that react with the magnesium in the anode rod in the water heater, producing malodorous compounds. This can be alleviated by replacing the anode rod with an aluminum one although the tank protection is diminished somewhat.

3. The malodorous compounds may have been formed only over a long period of time when the house was vacant before you bought it, and after a few tankfuls of hot water the problem goes away.

While you are at it, drain a coupl'a gallons of water from the heater to get out any sediment (which may contain a quantity of odor generating compounds).
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Old 12-15-2009, 11:25 AM   #4
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Divibrio Sulfurcans seems to be the most common cause here in Chicago, and "shock chlorination" is the suggested cure.

Below are two links to AO Smith White papers I reference in home inspection reports when I encounter this problem:

http://www.hotwater.com/bulletin/bulletin22.pdf
http://www.hotwater.com/bulletin/bulletin23.pdf

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Old 12-15-2009, 03:37 PM   #5
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Is 2 hours enough for the bleach to commingle with the water in the tank on its own and reach bacteria anywhere in the tank?

It may take two cycles of filling the tank completely and letting it drain out to rinse out the remains of the bleach.

The gas (or electricity) to the tank should stay off until everything is put back together and water is running from hot water faucets up in the house.
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Old 12-15-2009, 04:16 PM   #6
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Hot water odor means bacteria (SFR - sulfate reducing bacteria) have used the anode rod to create H2S gas. You have to kill the bacteria or remove or replace the rod with a different type to get rid of the odor.

The simplest way to kill the bacteria is to raise the water temp to 140f for an hour or so.
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Old 12-15-2009, 06:04 PM   #7
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Thanks for the tips. I wouldn't call it rotten egg odor. IT doesn't smell strongly of sulphur. My dad said he also could smell it but neither of us called it sulphur.
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Old 01-07-2010, 01:02 PM   #8
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I'm going through pretty much the same thing right now. Just replaced the 50-gallon electric heater about a month ago and the past few days it's been really stinky, but only the hot water. I spoke with a guy who told me to shock the well and that removing the anode rod would void the warranty. After doing some reading, I'm thinking about running the heater up to about 150 degrees and letting it sit overnight. I just need to make sure that I turn the heat back down before the family gets up. We're not really experiencing the most conducive weather at the moment to make me want to shock my well, and since the cold water seems fine, i'm leaning towards it being the water in the heater. I should pull the anode rod from the old water heater and see what it looks like.
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Old 01-07-2010, 01:48 PM   #9
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it wouldnt hurt to look at the old anode rod but the new one should be fine. Running the heater up over night would kill anything in the tank but in theory the new tank shouldnt be contaminated so that sure makes me think its the well.
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Old 01-07-2010, 01:58 PM   #10
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I'm thinking that it's probably the well too, I just can't do much about it at the moment since we're due to get a foot of snow today followed up by bitter cold. Do you think it's just a plain coincidence that the water would smell horrible about a month after the new heater was put in?
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Old 01-07-2010, 02:39 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perpetual98 View Post
I'm thinking that it's probably the well too, I just can't do much about it at the moment since we're due to get a foot of snow today followed up by bitter cold. Do you think it's just a plain coincidence that the water would smell horrible about a month after the new heater was put in?
Does your cold water smell? Inside? Outside? Both?
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Old 01-07-2010, 02:41 PM   #12
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Doing an unscientific test with my nose last night, it appeared that the cold water didn't smell. My outside hoses are shut off for the winter, so I can't really sniff those at the moment.
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Old 01-07-2010, 02:49 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perpetual98 View Post
Doing an unscientific test with my nose last night, it appeared that the cold water didn't smell. My outside hoses are shut off for the winter, so I can't really sniff those at the moment.
Then I would not worry about your well.
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Old 01-07-2010, 03:12 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by perpetual98 View Post
Doing an unscientific test with my nose last night, it appeared that the cold water didn't smell. My outside hoses are shut off for the winter, so I can't really sniff those at the moment.
Using your nose isn't scientific?

Trust me, it is SRB in the water that filled the new heater with a big brand new anode rod present to allow the SRB to get hydrogen off of it to create Hydrogen Sulfide gas (H2S). The bacteria is a group of harmless bacteria.

Odor is gas or chemical and if gas, it is created by bacteria.

Let's see, someone suggests shocking the well, why? That should be the question. And the answer is... TO KILL BACTERIA but...

I suppose he thinks no bacteria will come back into the well with recovery water as you use water out of the well huh!! Wrong. Bacteria live in on and underground in on and under water.

So you waste good bleach, run the risk of causing a water quality, pump or power cable problem for what? The odor to come back in a few weeks when enough bacteria set up house in your new water heater again.

And why set the temp to 150 when 140f is more than enough and will pasteurize the water and not be so hot to scald anyone?

BTW, the water in the outside faucets, it is the same water as at the faucets in the house.
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Old 01-07-2010, 03:21 PM   #15
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I know that it's the same water, I was just responding to Driller when he asked if my outside water smelled too. Isn't 140f hot enough to scald? The heater itself says that anything above 125f will scald. I had mine lower than that because I like my hot water when I have the hot only handle on my sink open to be hot, but not hot enough that it hurts.

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