sulfur odor in water

Discussion in 'General Plumbing Help' started by Craig_22, Dec 6, 2019.

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  1. Dec 6, 2019 #1

    Craig_22

    Craig_22

    Craig_22

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    First time posting to this forum, and hoping someone can offer some direction or insight.
    Home in northern Delaware. 2 story, with walk-out basement. Well water, with a water softening system, that uses salt crystals or pellets. Try to use rust-inhibiting salt when it's available, since that is a noticeable issue.
    Water heater replaced 1 year ago, and drained by a plumber ~ 4-5 months ago in an attempt to eliminate the odor.
    Septic tank pumped out 1 month ago.

    The issue is: @ the hot side of all faucets, there is a very strong sulfur odor. A very slight odor on the cold side of the faucets.

    Apparently neither plumber from the company that installed the water heater, and, that maintains the water softening system, can figure out a solution to eliminate the odor.

    Your thoughts on what do, look for, who else to contact, etc?
     
  2. Dec 6, 2019 #2

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    The water heater sacrificial anode is likely the problem.

    It is probably magnesium

    Have it removed, and changed to a zinc/aluminum type.
    Your plumbers are idiots if they don’t know about this issue.

    They are also available in a link style, so they are flexible, easier to install with low ceiling clearance.

    Then you might also need an iron filter system.

    And probably a whole house water filter, sometimes two, one on each side of the softener
    (Before and after)

    Also, after changing the anode, you should run some bleach into the water heater and then let it discharge through your faucets.
    To kill bacteria that cause the smell.

    You can also remove the well cover, and dump several gallons of bleach down there.
    Much of the smell is caused by bacteria that create hydrogen sulfide.

    “Shocking” your well like this can really help.
    Of course, afterwards you will run your water until the bleach smell is gone.

    You can also add some Iron Out powder to the salt, to clean out the clogged softener granules.
    They are tiny plastic beads smaller than sand, and they can get coated in iron gunk.
    You might want to cycle the softener again after cleaning with Iron Out, it has its own weird smell and taste that might linger for awhile.
    Don’t breathe the Iron Out dust or vapors, it can give some people an asthma attack.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
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  3. Dec 6, 2019 #3

    Craig_22

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    Thanks for your reply, Jeff. Appreciate it.
    As to "Your plumbers are idiots if they don’t know about this issue.", that's kinda what I thought. This can't be the first house that's experienced this 'phenomenon' in a residential home, nor, can it be the 1st time either of them have encountered it.
    Plus, either one would have only stood to gain (well, the companies that employ them anyway) from doing the work to resolve it.
     
  4. Dec 6, 2019 #4

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    If you decide to change the anode yourself, you will likely need a helper or two.

    They are usually super frigging tight.

    You might need two helpers to stabilize the tank, while you unscrew the anode with a looooong socket wrench, probably will need a pipe to lengthen the handle.

    Drain a gallon or so of water, and of course turn the water off, turn heater off, drain pipes as needed, so you don’t get a flood when anode is removed.
    But leave the heater mostly full, weight is your friend here.

    You might even need to lay the tank down, to get enough leverage.
    Hopefully not.

    The anode is usually installed with a big hex nut, on top of the tank.
    But sometimes they are installed in other ways and locations.
     
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
  5. Dec 6, 2019 #5

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    I experienced this problem when I changed my own water heater on well water, years ago.
    Neighbors told me how to fix it.
     
  6. Dec 6, 2019 #6

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    BTW, I assumed your heater was gas.

    Electric heaters might have a different setup for where the anode is.
     
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  7. Dec 7, 2019 #7

    TomFOhio

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    What brand of water heater do you have. Some anodes are attached to the hot side nipple.
     
  8. Dec 8, 2019 #8

    Craig_22

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    Thanks for all replies. It is a gas water heater. Bradford White - 50 gallon.
    A question I forgot to include in my initial post, about the anodes: at only a year old, is it that common for anodes to fail ?
     
  9. Dec 8, 2019 #9

    TomFOhio

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    A lot depends on your water. I've seen this happen many times this early. Your anode is on the hot nipple
    coming out of the water heater.
     
  10. Dec 8, 2019 #10

    Jeff Handy

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    The anode is not failing.
    It is reacting with iron, minerals, and bacteria in your well water.

    The zinc/aluminum anode will not react as much, and it will still protect the tank from corrosion.

    After changing it, you will still need to drain the tank, pour in about a half gallon of bleach through a hose attached to the drain valve, refill the tank, then run the water out of your faucets to sterilize everything and kill the bacteria that are coating everything.

    Then pouring bleach down the well will make everything even better.

    I have heard that pouring bleach down the well can improve things for several years.

    I did not ever bleach mine, but I had a big water filter system with a cartridge for sediment and a charcoal cartridge for taste and odor, which I think also filtered some bacteria.
    I changed the charcoal cartridge monthly.

    But changing out the anode helped immediately.
     
  11. Dec 8, 2019 #11

    Jeff Handy

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    Removing and replacing the anode on Bradford White gas water heater.
    Good video!

     
  12. Dec 9, 2019 #12

    Craig_22

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    A further question, given that this issue never surfaced with the previous water heater, could there be something specific that would have triggered this? And, without having read any contract (if given & received @ installation), could this be a warranty issue, i.e. the anode having 'failed'(?) within 1 year?
     
  13. Dec 10, 2019 #13

    Ferdinand

    Ferdinand

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    I replaced our electric water heater myself and subsequently noticed that the hot water lines frequently had air in them. The faucets would burp air the first time the hot water faucet was opened each morning.

    That was eventually traced back to the fact that the new water heater came fitted with a magnesium anode. The instruction manual and warranty info (which I hadn't read closely enough, d'oh) said that, if the water heater was to be used with a water softener system, the original magnesium anode MUST be replaced with a zinc/aluminum anode.

    Apparently the salt from the softener system reacts with the magnesium anode, causing out-gassing. The new aluminum anode totally cured that issue.

    See this write up, with photos: https://www.plumbingforums.com/threads/air-in-hot-water-heater.14268/
     
  14. Dec 10, 2019 #14

    Jeff Handy

    Jeff Handy

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    Craig, you have all the info you need now.
    Proceed!
     
  15. Dec 11, 2019 #15

    Diehard

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    So it's more the fault of the water softener.

    I see they have powered Anode rods that are guaranteed for a long time. Check into it.
     

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