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How To Fix A Smelly Water Heater

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If your water heater releases a strong rotten egg odor, then you may consider hiring a professional for plumbing repairs so a new appliance can be secured in your home.  Unfortunately, this may not be the best solution.  A strong odor does not mean that your water heater is not working correctly.  It just means that you need to take some steps to restore the appliance.  Keep reading to learn how you can do this.

What is the Problem?

Some water heaters produce a strong rotten egg odor, and this problem occurs due to the presence of bacteria within the tank.  Most towns and cities take a variety of precautions to make sure that water supplies are not wholly contaminated by microorganisms.  Chlorine, chloramine, and UV technologies are all utilized to ensure the cleanliness of water.  Extremely small amounts of bacteria may still remain though.  If you use well water, then bacteria is much more likely to reside in your water.

When the microorganisms in your water enter your water heater, they react with the metal anodes in the tank.  These anodes are usually made out of magnesium or aluminum metals.  Once the bacteria react with the metal materials, hydrogen sulfide gas is released.  This gas is responsible for the foul odor.

Can You Easily Fix the Problem?

You can easily fix the bacteria and hydrogen sulfide gas issue within your water heater by killing the microorganisms that live in the water.  To do this, turn off the cold water valve that allows fluids to fill the heater tank.  Turn the hot water on in your kitchen or bathroom for several minutes to drain some of the water and to release pressure from inside the tank.  Use a plumber's wrench at this time to loosen the cold water pipe that feeds into the tank.

Place a small funnel in the opening and pour about one-half to one gallon of hydrogen peroxide inside the heater.  Reattach the cold water line and allow the water to sit for about 60 minutes.  Turn the cold water back on and run your hot water for about 10 minutes.  This will help to reduce the amount of peroxide that is left in the water tank.

If you do not want to pour hydrogen peroxide in your water heater, then you can drain the entire tank after you turn off the cold water that feeds into it.  Allow the tank to sit for a day without any water.  Anaerobic bacteria thrive in environments without oxygen.  The removal of water and the introduction of an oxygen rich space will help to both remove and kill some of the bacteria.

Can You Permanently Fix the Issue?

If you use hydrogen peroxide or if you drain your water heater, then you will likely have a problem in the future as bacteria make their way into your water heater once again.  You can stop rotten egg smells permanently though, by changing the anode or heating rod that sits within your water heater.  Locate the rod attachment by investigating the top, bottom, and sides of your water heater.  Most anodes are attached through the top cover of the appliance with a hex nut.

Turn the electricity off to your water heater and use a socket wrench to release the hex nut.  Pull out the anode and take it to your local home store.  Find a new anode that is the same size and shape, and make sure to locate one made out of aluminum and zinc.  This metal combination will keep hydrogen sulfide from forming.  Once you purchase the anode, secure it in place, turn the electricity on, and test the heater to make sure it works correctly.

If you have a water heater that releases a foul odor, then you should get to work to reduce the smell.  Follow the tips above to do this properly.


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