The water piped into our houses is vital for cleanliness and also is essential for our well-being. But sometimes our water can develop a “rotten-egg’ smell that can be embarrassing and really annoying. A smell coming from our water faucets can happen for a couple of reasons. In most cases it happens when using the hot water only, so that means the problem lies within our water heater.
Every water heater, whether gas or electric, has what’s called an anode rod inside it. These rods are installed to corrode away so that the water tank itself doesn’t. Since they’re usually made of magnesium or aluminum, they corrode faster than the steel of the water tank, so the water dissolves the rod, instead of your tank.
Now, depending on the content of your water, the rods can corrode too quickly. That can cause a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen ions. Add a little sulfate-reducing bacteria from your local water supply, and the two join forces to become hydrogen sulfide gas, or the rotten eggs that you smell.
To clear up the problem, you can have a licensed plumber flush your tank with chlorine to kill the bacteria, but that’s usually just a temporary solution. Your best bet is to replace the anode rod itself, which actually is very easy.
First, shut the water supply off to the tank. Next, loosen the nut on the top of the tank that holds the anode rod in place. On newer water heaters, it’s located beneath the hot water line side. Remove the old rod and toss it away. Put in the new rod, tighten it up and then just turn your water supply back on.
Once you’ve changed the rod, you shouldn’t notice anymore funky smells. By leaving the rod out altogether, you can permanently fix the bad smell situation. However, you’ll also void the warranty on your water heater — and it will wear out much faster as well.
Joel Wensley is a licensed mechanical contractor in the state of Michigan, a WJBK-TV Fox2 Detroit news contributor and president of Mechanical Heating & Cooling in Dearborn Heights.