Tried Everything - Cannot Control Hydrogen Sulfide
Years ago, when I was an HVAC contractor, there were times when
I had to tell a customer that I couldn't fix their problem. It didn't
happen often, thank goodness! Now, the tables are turned. I've got
a problem I can't resolve.
My house has a small utility room. Its just large enough for the washer-
dryer, and a gas powered water heater and furnace.
For years no one in my family complained about "smelly water." Several
months ago we all began to notice the smell. The water heater was
old and rusty so I replaced it. I removed the cheap aluminum rod and
replaced it with a costly combo-alloy anode rode (aluminum, zinc, and
I've flushed the system several times with bleach or hydrogen peroxide.
The sulfide gas is controlled for a week or two and then it returns.
Adding a water softener is something I've always wanted to do, but
I would have to knock down walls to enlarge the utility room. I did
install a dual cartridge water filter system. A big mistake. The hard
water clogged the cartridges in weeks, not months.
When I was an HVAC contractor I would tell people to contact the
city water department if I couldn't resolve their sulfide problem.
All of us in the business knew that would accomplish nothing. What
are those guys suppose to do? Maybe they could rebuild the city
I have some crazy ideas about how I might resolve this problem.
If any of you can think of something I haven't tried, please let me
Along time ago I heard of a similar problem. It was caused by the anode. Try removing the anode and drain the water heater. Run the system without the anode and see if it the odor comes back. If it doesn't you know the problem. The original anode may work better. Also check to see if the cold supply water has the smell to make sure it is from the water heater. Just a thought. Goolgle for more info. Good Luck
Did you ever play the game "musical chairs" when you were a kid?
Well, I have a new game called "musical anode rods." I've tried
a solid aluminum and magnesium rod, in addition to the combo-
If you read the warranty on any water heater there a long list of
things that instantly voids the warranty. Removing the anode rod
completely, using a water softener, even damage from hard water
voids the warranty. In effect, 90% of all water heaters have no
The odor is from the hot water only, as far as any of us can tell.
I haven't tried plugging the anode hole and using the heater with
no rod. I'll definitely give it a try.
Thank you mbarson.
ssem if you put a pan of water on the stove & heated it should give off an odor if it is a water problem. cant think of anything in the tank that
would cause an odor.
Sounds to me like something in your water changed, and now you have sulphur. It's most likely the rod causing the odors, which gives itself up to the sulphur. Have your plumber remove the rod completely and see what happens. The inside of most water heater tanks are glass lined, but any exposed metal parts will rust faster.
Flushing and/or one time chlorinating the system isn't going to have any long term effect. The water will most likely have to be treated permanently. The easiest way is with a direct injection chlorine system, but I wouldn't recommend it if you drink the water.
If you have (what seems like) air coming out your hot water taps, it's most likely hydrogen sulfide gas, which can explode if exposed to an open flame. If this is happening, turn the water heater off and don't use it until the problem is fixed.
You may or may not need a water softener, but that's another story. Hard water does not clog a filter. Minerals in hard water only detach from the water when it's heated. If your filter was clogging, it was from other particles floating in the water.
Last edited by bobb25; 03-03-2008 at 08:16 PM.
when i was a kid and the old plumber i work for had a problem such as this he would pull the adnode and drain the tank and refill. as has already been said Seemed to work.
dont remember what he said the reason was why the adnode was causing this but smell was gone. Was mostly well system and very few citty water systems
My last home in Pa had a sulphur in the water problem. When we moved there in 1986, we immediately noticed the odor especilly in the hot water. Had a water purification system installed to control the sulphur. From that point until we sold the house last year the sulphur problem never came back.
You have to get in touch with a water specialist. Should not be that big of a deal.
These may be of use.
"In addition, some of these waters have excessive sulfate content along with various strains of sulfate reducing bacteria (see Document 1206). These bacteria, harmless to health, will grow in the presence of the highly active magnesium anode rod and using the hydrogen ion from the anode-cathode reaction, will produce hydrogen sulfide gas. The gas smells like rotten eggs. The greater the activity of the anode, the more hydrogen ions are produced and the more hydrogen sulfide (smelly) gas. These bacteria can be killed with adequate additions of chlorine, such as with an automatic chlorine feeder."
City adds small amounts of chlorine to the water which is why it doesn't happen as often in city water.
Last edited by BigJon3475; 03-04-2008 at 02:21 AM.
My water from my well is horrible here in NW Indiana. I've always pulled the anode from my WH's, and never had problems. WH's lasted many years beyond what's expected. With my newest WH, I did not pull the anode, 'cause it's a power vent and I really didn't want to void the warranty.
I use a whole house filter, (carbon cartidge), softner, and a second whole house filter (carbon cartridge) after the softner. The first filter usually last 2-3 weeks before losing pressure. I also dose the WH with bleach when changing filter. The sulfer odor is minimal, but still noticable at times.
I've also heard of a local water treatment specialist who uses a custom media in the softner for specific problems. It all costs some dough!
I've also been told that a bacteria (supposedly not harmful), thrives in iron laden water, and can cause an odor.
One more bit of info - we don't drink our water, and my wife won't even cook with it.