Why Does Water from the Heater have a Bad Odor?

A water heater is a workhorse and we don’t usually think about it until something goes wrong. One of the first signs of trouble is often that your water, or the water heater itself, has a bad odor. But what causes it?

If your water smells like rotten eggs, it could be a problem with the well system or it could be the heater itself. If there’s a burning smell, it could be an electrical problem. Whatever the issue, our team at Plumbing By Jake can take a look. Call us at (928) 377-5910. We can recommend a repair or an energy-efficient replacement that will get your water back to having no smell at all – as it should.

Your Water Smells Like Sulfur or Rotten Eggs

When hot water stays in your tank for too long, bacteria can build up in it. Sulfate bacteria in particular is likely what is making your water smell.

Occasionally, in homes with a water softener, the salt can corrode the anode rod and create sulfate gas inside the water heater. Sulfate bacteria itself is rarely harmful, but a build-up of high levels of sulfide gas can be dangerous. If you can run your cold water without smelling that distinct rotten egg smell, the likely cause is your water heater.

Often, when homeowners are away for a while, they leave the water heater turned on. Even with the temperature on the water heater lowered, that warmed, stagnant water can be a haven for bacteria.

If your home relies on well water, the sulfur smell may be coming from the well system. However, in this case, it could also be a combination of issues with the well water and the water heater. A professional will be able to pinpoint the problem and resolve it.

There Is a Burning Smell Coming from Your Water Heater

While your water may not have a burning smell per se, a burning smell from your water heater is definitely noticeable and something to look into right away.

If you smell burning around your water heater, check for a buildup of dust. If present, carefully vacuum the area, especially the exposed areas of the water heater. If the dust was burning every time the water heater turned on, this might just solve the problem.

Burning smells can also be caused by electrical problems or melting wiring. These odors can also be caused by water heater insulation that has come in contact with the burner. Worn, old, or improperly installed insulation can cause a burning rubber or plastic smell. But insulation should not be near a flame in any case, so if this appears to be the issue, call in the pros.

Your Water Heater Smells Like Gas

If you smell the distinctive “gas leak” smell, you likely have a gas leak. If possible, turn off the gas to your home, open several windows, get out of the house, and call the gas company or 9-1-1 right away.

Remember, water heaters can cause a fire. In fact, nearly 12% of residential fires start in the heating/HVAC or water heater area (often located together), according to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA).

If you smell burning or gas in your water heater area, get help immediately to prevent serious damage and injuries.

How Your Water Heater Helps Prevent Corrosion that Leads to Odors

Nearly every home in the U.S. has a water heater. More than 50% of them are gas-powered, while the minority are electric, according to the EnergyStar program.

Your water heater likely has an anode rod to help prevent corrosion inside of the tank. If your hot water smells like rotten eggs, however, the solution is not to remove the anode rod. This will invite corrosion inside the tank. Replacing the anode rod, however, might provide a solution to the problem.

How to Know if You Need a New Water Heater

The average life of a water heater is between eight and 12 years. Some water heaters last longer, but most don’t make it past 10 years. The lifespan of your water heater can be cut short if you have hard water, for instance, which makes your water heater less efficient.

If the water from your water heater smells bad and the appliance is over 10 years old, it’s probably time to consider a replacement. If your water bills start to rise inexplicably, or if you’re noticing the hot water running out more quickly, it could be a sign that the water heater is failing.

Some repairs, such as anode rod replacement, are relatively easy and cost-effective. However, water heater repairs can be difficult, and so it is often a better investment to replace the system entirely. We’ll advise you best on how to proceed after taking a look at the problem.

Schedule Your Water Heater Assessment Today

If there’s a burning smell in or around your water heater area, call Plumbing By Jake at (928) 377-5910 today. We offer 24-hour emergency service and are there when you need us for any water heater emergencies. We can do a comprehensive check-up, make recommendations, and even help you choose an energy-efficient replacement water heater, if necessary.