If you notice a rotten egg smell when you run the hot water, chances are the water is a chemical reaction. Some water – specifically untreated well water (private or municipal) – has naturally occurring anaerobic bacteria. When this bacteria reacts with the sacrificial anodes (magnesium and aluminum) in the water heater, the chemical reaction produces hydrogen sulfide. As we all learned in high school chemistry, hydrogen sulfide smells like rotten eggs (or do rotten eggs smell like hydrogen sulfide?)
What Won’t Work
Do not remove the sacrificial anode! Although this will remove one of the components of the chemical reaction producing the odor, it will also cause your water heater to rust out quickly. Additionally, removing the sacrificial anode will void all warranties. Furthermore, exchanging the sacrificial anode from magnesium to aluminum will not eliminate the problem either. The chemical reaction will continue – and your water will still stink!
What Will Work
If the hot water is in a residence that sits idle for extended periods of time (vacation home, etc.), chances are that if you pour at least a quart of hydrogen peroxide into the water heater, the smell will abate.
For a permanent residence with this problem, the best, permanent solution is to replace the sacrificial anodes with a zinc/aluminum alloy anode. The zinc will not provide the same chemical reaction that produces hydrogen sulfide. It is recommended that if your water heater has two anodes, that you remove one and replace one. Do not replace both with the alloy anodes. (The net result will be having only one anode.) It seems that using two zinc/aluminum alloy sacrificial anodes will have enough aluminum as to result in producing the smelly water.
The most expensive solution is to have Vancouver Plumbing convert your water heater tank’s standard sacrificial anode to a powered anode. The powered anode is plugged into an outlet. A powered anode does not corrode, the reaction is the same, but with powered electrical current rather than the chemically produced current produced by the sacrificial anodes. As such, there is no corrosion, and no chemically produced hydrogen sulfide smell. The powered anodes are much more expensive than sacrificial anodes, but will solve the problem.
If you have a water softener in line before the water heater, the salt in the softened water will cause the heated water to conduct more electricity. For this reason, the corrosion of sacrificial anodes is accelerated, producing even more smelly water. For softened water, the best solution is to install a powered anode. For every situation, the experts at Vancouver Plumbing can do a full inspection of your hot water system and provide the best solution to your stinky water problem!
Alternatively, you can have a Vancouver Tankless Water Heater installed to eliminate the need for sacrificial anodes, powered anodes and the like. Additionally, since the water is heated as demanded, it is not sitting in a holding tank. Ask your Vancouver Plumbing specialist about the benefits of a Tankless Water Heater for your home.