FAQs: Water Heaters

Why does my hot water heater smell?

Why does my water heater smell?

The most common odor problem from water heaters is a rotten egg smell that comes out of your faucets and fixtures when running water. This smell is typically caused by sulfate bacteria that can develop within the tank. This issue usually happens when warm water is left too long in the tank and bacteria builds up in the water. This problem can also happen if you have well water and are not treating the water with chlorine in the well. The water sits stagnant in the well until it is used.

A less common problem that causes a sulfur odor is when you have a water softener and a magnesium anode rod inside the water heater. The soft water breaks down the magnesium and creates sulfate gas within the water heater. Typically if you have this problem you will have water and air coming out of your faucets and fixtures and a sulfate smell to the water.

How to remove the rotten egg smell from your water?

If you smell a rotten egg odor coming from your water you need to first check to see if your water heater is causing the problem. Just turn on your cold water only, if you don’t smell anything then it is likely your water heater that is causing the odor. If your water still smells when you turn on the cold water you probably have sulfate bacteria coming from your water source and need to treat the water coming into your home to address these issues. TLC offers water treatment systems that can resolve this issue.

If your rotten egg smell is caused by stagnant water within the tank in most cases you probably need to have the water heater replaced. On some DIY websites they may recommend draining and flushing the tank. However, even if you can flush the bacteria out the smell will likely stay within the tank and you’ll continue to experience the same problem. Also, in most cases it is more cost effective to replace the tank then spend the money to have a professional flush and clean the tank., especially if the tank is already 12-15 years old.

If your smell is caused by your well system there are ways to treat the well water and eliminate the sulfur and bacteria. However, depending on how long you’ve been experiencing the problem you may also still have to have the tank replaced to eliminate the smell completely.

If you have a water softener and your magnesium anode rod was causing the smell, a licensed professional can replace the anode rod with one made from zinc and aluminum. If this doesn’t eliminate the problem call a professional for assistance.

How to prevent the rotten egg smell from developing in your water heater?

The best way to prevent this issue from happening is to ensure that you never leave water sitting in the water heater if you’re going to be away from home for more than two weeks. If you’re planning on going on a long vacation or be away for some time you should at a bare minimum turn off the gas to your water heater. Cold water can sit in the tank without building bacteria. If you know its going to be awhile you should drain the water and turn off the gas. If you have any questions about this process you can ask our professionals.