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Hot water odor...  Rating:  Rating
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 Posted: Sun May 1st, 2011 06:10 am
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cudakid67
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Problem: A bad odor is present only when hot water is being used.

Background: Our house was built in the fall of 2010, we are on a shared well with one other house. We chose to go with geothermal heating and the installation of the geothermal pump included two Ruud Professional 50 gallon water heaters. Only one water heater is powered (the left one) and the other is a holding tank for hot water as it uses the heated water that cycles through the geothermal heating unit. The left water heater has the main cold water line coming into it, the hot water outlet is then plumbed directly into the cold water line on the right water heater (non powered unit). The hot water line coming out of this unit is then what is plumbed to all of the hot water lines in the house.

There is a big blue filter plumbed into the main water line where it comes into the house, before it reaches the pressure tank.

We do have a Culligan brand water heater with electronic controls that was programmed at the time of installation by our friend who works for the company.

I have read throughout the site and it seems like our best solution would be either a powered anode or an Aluminum/Zinc rod.

But I have some questions:

I'm assuming that I would have to replace the anodes in each heater as the hot water is passing through both units?

I've talked to a number of people in our area (eastern Iowa) who say that they always remove the anode rod when they have their water heaters installed to get rid of the odor. In fact, our neighbor who we share a well with says he has no odor at all in his water. I can be sitting in the living room and smell the hot water when the shower is turned on down the hall.

Kind of off topic but I have opened the drain valve on both of the water heaters recently to see if there was any sediment buildup of any kind that would pass through and when the water came out of the drain it was always cold water, is this normal?

Any help/solutions that you can provide would be greatly appreciated. I do have pictures of our setup available if it would be of assistance.

Thanks in advance.

Jaden

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 Posted: Sun May 1st, 2011 06:14 pm
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elenano
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Ask your neighbor, with whom you share the well, if he removed the anode from his heater. If his heater still has an anode, and no odor, then something else is going on and changing anodes may not fix it. In that case, come back and we'll try to troubleshoot it.

On the other hand, if his heater doesn't have an anode, then electric anodes are probably the answer, but I'd suggest that before you go that route that you try treating both heaters with hydrogen peroxide. That doesn't cost much and there is a slight chance it will solve the problem without anything further being done. But if the odor comes back, then I'd get the powered anodes.

In a water heater, you have two-thirds of the capacity as hot water, so the rest, the colder water, will be on the bottom where the drain valve is.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Sun May 1st, 2011 06:52 pm
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cudakid67
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Sorry, I meant to include that in the original post. The neighbor removed the anode from his water heater when he built his house 2 years ago.

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 Posted: Mon May 2nd, 2011 03:26 am
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elenano
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Now, you can do the same and maybe it won't make any difference. I have a private message from someone who claims he removed the anode from an 80-gallon heater in softened water and it lasted 20 years.

It's not the first time I've heard of that, and it always floors me because it goes counter to what we know about water heaters, softeners and corrosion.

Far more common is another e-mail I got from someone saying that he goes through a water heater every five years.

Anyway, I suggest a powered anode for each heater. I admit my conflict of interest, since I sell them, but I know three things. One is that removing the anode voids the warranty. The second is that the powered anode always solves the odor problem in normal situations. The third is that it does a superb job of protecting the water heater from rusting. Nobody has ever come back out of hundreds sold and said, "My water heater rusted out."

What are abnormal situations? Where the tank has sat idle for six months; where it's really a sewer odor and not the water heater at all; where it's really a metallic odor and not the water heater at all. It's not impossible there might someday be a situation where the device flunks, but its track record is mighty good so far.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Mon May 2nd, 2011 04:43 am
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cudakid67
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Randy,

Thanks for your responses.

You mentioned peroxide in your first response that I could try hydrogen peroxide. What is a safe amount to put in a 50 gallon water heater and do I then need to run water out of all faucets to allow it to pass through? Could I just put the peroxide in the Anode hole on top of the tank? How often should this be done?

I did want to mention that removing the anode is often the answer I get when asking others about smelling hot water from a well. No one has ever mentioned having a water heater failure. Of course I then do my internet research and read about how it can cause rusting, etc. My research is exactly what led me to this site where I was able to get a quick education not only on how water heaters work but also to help diagnose my problem.

How long should a water heater last? My parents have about a 40 gallon unit in their house and they replace them like clockwork every 6 years. However I know a few other people who are going on 15 plus years for theirs and have never drained or done any type of maintenance on their heaters.

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 Posted: Mon May 2nd, 2011 06:14 am
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elenano
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I'd put in maybe three pints of drugstore peroxide, and it doesn't hurt to run the water and flush the smelly water out. You can put it in the anode port or the hot or cold ports.

I'd do it once and see if the odor stays away or comes back.

I do have a page that shows a plumbing assembly that would let you put it in as needed. I created it mainly as an option for people with vacation cabins. An electric anode might even work in those situations, but we know that it's more likely that stagnant heaters will have odor no matter what anode is used.

I have a strong ethic here to really solve problems and not just sell stuff, although that part is obviously important, too. Selling someone with a vacation cabin an electric anode and then not having it solve the problem is not satisfactory to me. Hence the peroxide page.

As to people who took out their anodes, what it would take would be a scientific approach: when did they buy the heater? How much were they softening? When did the heater break? Was it in or out of warranty? Without that, you don't have much. And I'd like to know myself!

As to how long water heaters shoud last: complicated. Very complicated. There are well-made tanks and not-so-well-made tanks, thick anodes, thin anodes, sleepy anodes, water quality, use patterns, temperature settings, water softeners, water pressure (which most people never think of), corrosive atmosphere. Look at my page What Kills Water Heaters and you'll get an idea.

But let's have some fun. Have your parents come here and let's see what we can find out about their situation. We will thoroughly troubleshoot their setup and see if we can find a way for them to get more than six years out of their current heater.

Randy Schuyler

Last edited on Mon May 2nd, 2011 06:17 am by elenano

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 Posted: Mon May 2nd, 2011 09:27 am
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energyexpert
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Jaden,

I've read the post several times.  I'm confused.  All geothermal units I know (which have desuperheaters) preheat the cold water and ideally store it in the (often non powered) holding tank.  This water outlet becomes the inlet for the WH which is powered. 

Plumbed the way stated in the post, the desuperheater provides you zero benefit.

David

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 Posted: Wed May 4th, 2011 04:53 am
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cudakid67
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David,
Sorry for any confusion that I may have caused. I mistyped in my original description of the setup. The main water line does go through the non powered heater first before heading over to the powered unit.

Randy,
I'll give the peroxide method a try and then check back in with what I hope to be positive results. I really appreciate all of your help.

Thanks,
Jaden

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 Posted: Wed May 4th, 2011 06:29 am
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elenano
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I was slightly dismayed when I read David's post because I should have seen that, too, but I was concentrating on the odor issue. The peroxide will absolutely fix the problem short-term. The bigger question will be long term. But you might get lucky and then, hey! It cost you just about nothing. That would be fun.:D

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Sun May 15th, 2011 02:35 pm
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Krueger
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"There is a big blue filter plumbed into the main water line where it comes into the house, before it reaches the pressure tank."

If this is a whole-house filter with a housing, I would suggest taking the filter housing off, fill it up with hydrogen peroxide and run it through the lines and also sterilize the filter by pouring some peroxide on it before putting it back in. Expect some color to your water as it comes through. There might be bacteria colonized in the pressure tank, and if so the peroxide will strip it clean.

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