Smelly Water

I replaced the water heater in the back part of the house a year ago, just as a preventative measure, given it was the original water heater. I had to really shop around as the physical space limitations would not allow a standard tank, so I had to really do some serious measuring to find one that would actually fit. I finally did, but it is literally sandwiched between the washer and the wall. Moving on.

Since then the hot water belts out very smelly water when washing clothes or bathing.

I have read that this is caused by hydrogen sulfide in the water, and seems to be amplified by the anode rods that now come pre installed in water heaters.

The anodes are supposedly designed to increase the life of the water heater, by doing some magic with ions that cause scale in the water heater. This scale can build up and cause flow problems, and eventually eat through the tank.

A yearly flushing of said water heater is recommended to avoid the scale buildup.

However, the anode causes an increase in a bacteria (as I understand it) in the tank which increases the hydrogen sulfide, or at least the rotten egg smell.

I had the water heater thermostats cranked up to 140° to aid in eliminating the rotten egg smell, but it does not work 100%, unless the hot water is used regularly to keep it circulated? dunno, but that’s my theory.

Anyway, the wife has complained about the smell, and now we’re looking at water softeners.

The existing one died in the freeze last February, as the “head unit” was cracked. The plumber disconnected it from the system during their revamping of the bunkhouse last August.

The plumbing is already there, we just need to look at getting another one.

I suppose I could ask the plumber to remove the anode from the new water heater, and would likely reduce the smell, but would also force me to drain that sucker every year..oh joy.

Am calling the plumber tomorrow to ask advice for said problem.

First off, from what I have read, I will need to get a water hardness test. Probably a good idea, but the way this place is plumbed, only the back part of the house gets soft water. That includes the master bath, washing machine, and back bathroom.

The front of the house with the kitchen and front bath, do not get soft water, nor does the water smell…I don’t know why. I cranked those thermostats to 140° as well, and no smelly water in the kitchen, which is used a lot every day. The bunkhouse does not get soft water either, and would likely not be a huge plumbing issue to connect the bunkhouse to the water softener system; which would include the front part of the house. Confused? me too, but that’s the way it is.

I am thinking to leave well enough alone, and just replace the old, and connect it to what’s there, and not invite more potential problems.

We’ll see what the plumber says.

10 thoughts on “Smelly Water

  1. If the smell is recent after installing a new heater, the magnesium anode is probably the culprit. I think that can be replaced with an aluminum anode and cure the problem. The job of the anode is to prevent rust, not scale. You can remove the magnesium anode and leave it out. The tank may rust out after a few years. If the smell comes from both cold water and hot water, you have a problem at your water source.

    • No doubt there is hydrogen sulfide in the water, but does not smell as much with the cold water.
      My plumber attempted to remove the anode on the other water heater and stripped the bolt head.
      I tried myself with a 18″ breakover wrench, but that sombitch was in tight, and I was unable to hold the tank.
      It takes a special 6 point socket, and using an impact wrench requires an impact socket.
      Thanks, Fred. I should have checked with you first…being the water expert.
      Any suggestions on a particular type of water softener?

      • For water softeners, the people who sell them usually way overcharge. But your plumber may be able to do that for you. Softeners are available at lowes or home depot at pretty reasonable pricing. As one commenter suggested, renting may be the way to go. I never dealt with residential softening, but with industrial softening. The brand I used was Fleck, but they are all fairly reliable.

  2. We had that problem with the well water at my rifle club. They installed a unit to chlorinate the water as it comes into the building. Hasn’t been an issue now for two decades.

  3. Things to look forward to. Keep good notes. I am building a house in SE Georgia that will have a well. I haven’t had a home with a well in over 30 years. The land is close to a river and that can make the water in the aquifer taste odd. We will see…

  4. Hey Culligan Man, $39.00/mo equip rental, they come on schedule and add salt as needed. Two peeps here, <2k sq.ft. house and our every other month bill is $69, so $30/ 2months salt. I don't mess with it, if it doesn't work they fix it and if it gets destroyed in a freeze such as last year they replace it. In my case they have done it twice, thing froze up and blew tubes out the top of it and split spun fiberglass tank. I don't understand the principals of operation and have no interest in learning them. Much easier to pay and play. My thoughts.

  5. Once a month, I hook up a short section of garden hose to the drain, and drain it down my indoor floor drain for a minute or two. Does the trick. Don’t even need to turn it off as I’m just draining a small amount of water, but I get a lot of the sediment. You can put a women’s nylon over the hose to catch any particulate if needed.

    Works for me, do at your own risk, yadda yadda yadda….

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