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Author Topic: Hot water smells like rotten eggs....  (Read 7474 times)
Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
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« on: July 05, 2008, 01:53:50 PM »

Hi Guy's,

I have not had my electric hot water heater on for a few weeks and when opening up the faucet, YIKES...

smelled real bad...  It's a 12 gal electric

Any ideas as of how to fix that?

Thanks
nick-
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« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2008, 01:57:14 PM »

Nick,
   At least down here in Florida, that rotten egg smell is from sulphur in the water.  About once a year, I drain the water heater in our bus, fill it with vinegar and turn it on for 24 hours, drain the vinegar and flush with water.  I don't remember who told me this trick, but it does seem to work.  Jack
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« Reply #2 on: July 05, 2008, 02:25:53 PM »

What Jack said.

The zinc anode helps to collect scum in the bottom of the tank.

You should drain it with the bottom valve and try to flush the gunk out.

Then the vinegar treatment. ( In fact using the vinegar in the main water
tank wouldn't hurt either. ) It sure works on coffee makers and other things.

I drained mine a while back and the scum was white pasty colored. I ran it until clear and put 2 gallons of vinegar in the  main water tank when it was low on water and ran it through all the pipes... Then flushed everything until the smell was gone.

There is a reason it happens.. Having copper or brass fittings is part of it.
My Pex fittings are brass and the flex tubes to the water heater are copper/brass
and with chlorine you can get some reactions. Other minerals in city and well water can also have an effect.

Dave.....
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« Reply #3 on: July 05, 2008, 03:53:27 PM »

Amen of what Jack & Dr Dave's posted!

And if have a plastic drain valve...replace it with metal bronze or better yet SS spigot valve. No ball valve...not made for hot water.

FWIW

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« Reply #4 on: July 05, 2008, 04:44:13 PM »

We had the same fun on a trip.  No smell until the water got hot.  The rod was dead and gone.  After a flush and a new rod, all was like new again.

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« Reply #5 on: July 05, 2008, 05:40:17 PM »

Out West, anyway, hot water heaters do not come with Zinc rods,the rods are some other bimetal that I can't think of now, we have to order and install these (about $45.00) if there is a sulpher bacteria problem.  Remember "Zinc, no, Stink", "Zink, no, Stink", now everyone say it together.  Chlorination also will help and never, never let the water in a hot water go stale if you have sulpher bacteria, far as I know there is no health problem associated with it.

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« Reply #6 on: July 05, 2008, 07:22:49 PM »

I just have to say this...

I was actually thinking that the zinc anode was probably toast in my earlier
message. I have bee dealing with sulfur water since filling my tanks at home
from a sulfur water well when I was in Florida.

The sulfur bacteria reacts with copper, steel and brass pipe and fittings. It causes a black film to deposit in the pipes. It also robs the zinc anode and I have seen them completely dissolve when exposed to sulfur water.

If you pull the water lines loose and lok inside, If it is discolored grey or black you probably have gotten a dose of the bacteria somewhere along the way.

Many City water supplies over the past few years are now using sulfur water from high flow wells. They aerate or oxidise the water during treatment but mostly it just covers up the smell. The sulfur is still there in some form.

Even the best carbon filters and chlorination systems don't always remove all of the mineral deposits.

Using R/O water systems to fill your tanks would be fine however R/O and steam distillation systems remove ALL or most contaminants but they also remove essential minerals and make the water hungry for minerals and it will actually etch glass and any metals over time.

Bottled water done by R/O or Distillation all have mineral added back in for use.

calcium chloride, sodium bicarbonate, Magnesium Sulfate < Nestle Pure Life water >

The only water that is worse is deionized water... It will burn your skin trying to suck the minerals out... Nasty stuff..

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« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2008, 08:37:15 PM »

I had the same thing happen to me on my last trip last year. I drained the system over the winter and before our first trip I bleached it. So far I am OK and am waiting to see if my problem returns. Wow, did it ever stink. Tell us how yours turns out.
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« Reply #8 on: July 05, 2008, 09:02:17 PM »

Are you sure you had a Zinc rod???, I called a buddy(supplier), they are not standard equipment.....

Ray D
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Nick Badame Refrig/ACC
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« Reply #9 on: July 06, 2008, 08:23:19 AM »

Thanks Guy's,

I will try the vinigar.

Nick-
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« Reply #10 on: July 06, 2008, 01:12:26 PM »

Nick, change the heating element(s). And flush the tank well. It seems that the one item we forget that gets exposed to the water we wouldn't put into the tank is the heater. and it's cumulative.

The elements are only about $7-8 bucks apiece at Lowe's or Home Depot.  I change mine every two years just because and carry a spare the rest of the time.

Hope this helps.....

Bob
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« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2008, 01:56:13 PM »

Nick,

Be careful with using vinegar. Don't let it sit more than half an hour if full strength. I would be especially careful using it in the water heater-plastic pipes are no problem though.

I live in a high lime area and have used vinegar for years to clean it off. Once I left it on my bathtub drain too long and it took off some of the drain chrome!! Only time I ever had a problem, but now I don't leave it on too long.

I also have used it to remove rust from steel but it takes a long time. In this case you don't have to worry about leaving the steel n too long.
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« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2008, 06:33:05 PM »

Nick might wanna contact Capt'n Ron / "Charley" seems to me last yr right befre he headed over to Bruces he battled the same problem! FWIW Grin  BK  Grin
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« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2008, 07:28:43 AM »

Nick,

A few years ago my white with blue stripe host had broke park maint cut it with lawnmower. I filled my tank with a reg garden hose when I went to take shower my god I about upchucked. replaced hose with a RV drinking water hose and drained tank and flushed and no problem odor gone. It might be as simple as that.

Larry
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« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2008, 03:57:47 PM »

Update,

I poured 8 oz of bleach and 8 oz of vinagar in my fresh water tank that had about 30 gallons left in it.

I then ran all of it through the hot water heater, flushed with fresh water, then poured 4 oz of bleach back

into the full fresh tank. I then replaced the element in the heater. Wala... All smells gone!

I also replaced my $115.00 Everpure MC submicronic filter cartrage.

Thanks for the help
Nick-
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« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2008, 02:17:30 PM »

I also have two 10 gal electric water heaters.  They smell from the zinc anode reacting to the water to create the rotten egg smell.  Just run the water until the smell is gone.  At least you know the zinc is working.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2008, 08:24:34 PM »

Maybe it is just dumb luck, but when I stopped using RV antifreeze and started blowing out my bus and boat instead I have not had the dreaded hot water stink.

Don 4107
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« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2008, 05:18:50 PM »

Update....

The smell came back within a couple weeks. I then took the anode out as Dr Dave said and it was loaded with so much scum

that it wouldn't come out of the hole. After some prying, I removed it and flushed out the tank 6 times then replaced the anode.

The electric H2O heater has been in operation since sept 05' and almost 3 years it had a really big build up...Hummm...

What causes it to have so much build-up in 3 years?

I have the submicronic filtration system before the hot water tank and I'm puzzeled... I don't winterize the bus, I leave the heat on in the winter.

Nick-
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« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2008, 07:56:37 PM »

Nick,

I'm amused to read here the various theories and explanations for the smell you are experiencing.  It's quite simple, really, and I would have weighed in here sooner, except I've been tied up for the past few weeks on a Red Cross operation (Hurricane Dolly), with no time to follow the boards.

The "rotten egg" smell is familiar to many with well water in certain parts of the country.  It is caused by a natural phenomenon involving trace amounts of sulfur compounds in the water supply, combined with a specific genus of anaerobic sulfur-eating bacteria that converts the sulfur compounds into hydrogen sulfide gas (either in your tanks, or while the water is still in the well).  Hydrogen sulfide gas is what gives rotten eggs their distinctive smell.

For what it's worth, neither the trace sulfur compounds nor the bacteria (nor the hydrogen sulfide, for that matter) is harmful -- the water is safe to consume.

While you may have neither of these in your own domestic water supply at home, if you have ever filled your tanks from a supply that contains these items (or one supply with each part), you will eventually have the problem.  The bacteria multiply in warm temperatures, and heat also drives dissolved hydrogen sulfide out of solution, which is why the hot water smells, while the cold water does not.  The zinc anode is not directly related to this problem; we have had the rotten egg smell problem many times over four years, and we have no zinc anode in our water system at all.  However, depending on what trace sulfur compounds are in the water, the presence of a zinc anode may facilitate ion exchange with the sulfur molecules that will make them more readily available to the bacteria, thus accelerating the production of the gas.

The cure is to either remove the sulfur or kill the bacteria, or both.

Completely flushing the fresh water tanks as well as the water heater with a supply of known sulfur-free water will remove the sulfur.  "Shock" treating the tanks and the water heater with a bleach solution will kill the bacteria.  When we experience the problem (a result of taking on water from myriad "unknown" supplies all over the country), we do both.

Note that shock-treating just the fresh tank without also treating the water heater will not be completely effective.  Also, leave the bleach solution in the tanks for a good two to four hours.  If you can drive around some to slosh the solution up to the tops of the tanks, so much the better.  The idea here is to kill off everything in the tank -- a good idea anyway, since mildew, mold, and whatever else might be growing on the damp but not submerged walls and tops of the tanks.

For shock treatment, I recommend about one full cup of sodium hypochlorite solution (plain, unscented household bleach) for every 15 gallons of tank capacity.  Run the solution through the hot water tank until a strong scent of chlorine is noticeable coming from the open taps.  Run solution through every tap and fixture, both hot and cold, until the smell is noticeable.

Be certain to drain the entire system and flush with plenty of clear water when done shocking, then re-fill with fresh water.  Your smell problems should be cured for good -- right up until you take on another load of well water with entrained hydrogen sulfide.

Incidentally, the build-up of chemicals on your zinc anode is normal -- the anode is sacrificial; that's what it is supposed to do.  In highly mineral-laden water (common for domestic supplies, especially well water), as the zinc plates out into solution, ions of various other minerals will take its place, albeit with more entrained gas bubbles and the like. making a sort of "crust" on the anode.  Just replace it (as you did) -- that's why it's there.

HTH,

-Sean
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« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2008, 08:13:46 PM »

Hi Sean,

Thanks for the details of the process!  I'm still a little puzzeled as to why this gets through my Everpure commercial filtration system.

It's submicronic down to  -1/2 micron. I guess the bacteria is smaller then that.

I will do the Bleach treatment tomorrow.

Thanks Again!
Nick-
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« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2008, 10:54:12 PM »

... I'm still a little puzzeled as to why this gets through my Everpure commercial filtration system.

It's submicronic down to  -1/2 micron. I guess the bacteria is smaller then that.


Nick -- I don't think the bacteria in question can make it through 0.5 micron, however, unless your filter has an "absolute" rating, such as a Doulton ceramic, understand that things bigger than 0.5 microns WILL get through the filter.  You will find that a 0.5 micron filter filters perhaps 99.5% of things 0.5 micron and larger, meaning .5% of those things will get through.  Such a filter starts to approach 100% effectiveness at an order of magnitude larger, so 5.0 micron particles are almost certainly blocked.

That said, hydrogen sulfide will pass a 0.5 micron filter without any problem.  So if the bacteria are making the gas upstream of your filter, you'll still have a problem.

Try the shock treatment and tank flushing and see how it goes.  If that does not work, you might check your water source to see if there is any entrained hydrogen sulfide gas.

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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2008, 11:03:20 PM »

Nick, et. al.,

Here's a good web site about this.  And I need to correct myself -- it is a magnesium anode, not zinc.
http://www.water-research.net/sulfate.htm

Also, this Google search will turn up several more sites on the topic:
http://www.google.com/search?q=bacteria+well+hydrogen+sulfide

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« Reply #22 on: August 14, 2008, 04:53:18 AM »

Sorry Nick, just tuned in and read about your problem.  We've had to go in and replace the standard annode rods with Aluminum ones to solve "rotten egg" issues.  I don't care if the water is safe to use, it's very upsetting to anyone having the problem.  Actually, it shows up in the hot water, because when you heat the water, the "bubbles" release the sulphur smell.  You might check with the manufacturer of your water heater to see if they have suggestions or a different rod to use.  Replacing your annode rog regularly will protect your water heater tank for the long term.  Turning the temperature up to the maximum could help too, but since you have little ones, that may not be a good idea in your case.

I would disagree that R/O water would "etch" anything.  It is true that overly soft water can "seek a balance" and cause problems, but an r/o unit is simply a REALLY good filter.  The water does tase "flat" out of an r/o membrance, so usually, the last filter in line is a carbon filter to add taste back into the water.  Your body actually likes water with some minerals in it.  It would be wasteful to attempt to use r/o water for every fill anyway, as more water is usually rejected than saved on the average r/o unit. 

Usually when we shock our private water system, we turn off our r/o units, dump bleach into the water supply, run every single water tape, including the icemakers, washing machine, dishwasher, showers, etc., until we smell the bleach, then shut down the system and leave it sit overnight.  In the morning, we flush the system completely, and we figure we're good for another year. 

On another vein,  how is business on the East coast?  We've noticed a dramatic slowdown over the last few weeks here, and, since Spring, have been preparing for a slow Fall and Winter, hoping, of course, the whole time that we'd be wrong, ha ha.  Looks like Larry may get a big pole barn this Winter in which to store all of his various tractors, backhoes, and other beamouths he has scattered around in the field here.  I wonder how good these plumbers/hvac techs are at building pole barns! Huh  Christy Hicks
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« Reply #23 on: August 14, 2008, 05:12:42 AM »

once they've built yours, send them our way.  the satellite internet business has tanked for tripods Angry

we just checked into heated storage for a year of cold weather with in/out priviledges and work space - $1200.

Nick, we got to a bluegrass show last weekend and the bus had been sitting for a few weeks of hot weather.  we had about 40% full  fresh water and since it was just a weekend show, i thought we were ok.  Fran turned the water on when we got there, then turned to me and asked if it was checked b4 we left.  SMELL!!!!

i told her to run some into the grey tank and we'd drip it out, then run some fresh in with some added bleach.  but after running about a gallon, the smell went away.  only the kitchen sink seemed to have the problem big time, the others just a slight smell which went away.

i had this problem initially on the way home with the bus when we bought it.  Fran would never have showered in that smell and as Sean said the hot water was worse.  i pitched the hw tank, bleached out the fresh tank, and all had been great until last weekend.
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« Reply #24 on: August 14, 2008, 05:44:12 AM »

Hi Christy,

Ha.. Service is up but, equipment is down sharply....

Seems our customers are thinking twice before buying new units and most resorted to repairing. Should make for a good year next year...

On the commercial end, we sold a record # of Ice Machines so the tourists are here but, just spending less.

Tom,
As members stated above, the anode is most likely full of bacteria and you need to check it.

Good Luck
Nick-
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« Reply #25 on: August 14, 2008, 03:47:28 PM »

Nick, et. al.,

Here's a good web site about this.  And I need to correct myself -- it is a magnesium anode, not zinc.
http://http://www.water-research.net/sulfate.htm

Also, this Google search will turn up several more sites on the topic:
http://http://www.google.com/search?q=bacteria+well+hydrogen+sulfide

-Sean
http://http://OurOdyssey.BlogSpot.com



Hi Sean,
Thanks for the links, very informative!
Here is the link to the filtration system in my bus.
http://www.everpure.com/catalog/productview.asp?type=Tab2&sub=cf&ProductID=EV9324-21&category=foodservice&appn=Ice&market=4&brand=Everpure&app=2

Thanks
nick-
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« Reply #26 on: August 14, 2008, 03:53:40 PM »

I have never had this problem!

I always treat the fresh water (110 gallon) with 3 cap fulls of chlorine bleach.

I do this even if I add to it on the road.

It must be enough to kill the bacteria....and still smells fresh even after sitting.

We carry bottled water from our well for drinking.

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« Reply #27 on: August 14, 2008, 05:04:45 PM »



Nick,

I surfed over to that site.  It took me a while to find the actual specs on the i2000 cartridge, which is really made for ice machine filtration.  Here's the link:
http://www.everpure.com/catalog/productview.asp?type=Tab2&sub=cf&ProductID=EV9612-21&category=foodservice&appn=Cart.%20Precoat&market=4&brand=Everpure&app=11

The spec is 99.9% of particulates over 0.5 micron.  Note that this is not an absolute rating -- some particles larger than 0.5 micron will pass.  The filter is not rated for bacteria, but it is rated for cysts.

I confess that I do not know the size of the sulfur-reducing bacteria.  It is possible that they are smaller than half a micron.  Bacteria range in size from about 0.3 micron to 10 microns; in order for a filter to be rated for bacteria, it must have an absolute rating of 0.2 micron or smaller; such filters would clog very quickly with normal domestic water.

BTW, do not confuse the term "bacteriostatic" with bacteria removal.  Bacteriostatic simply means that the filter media itself will not support growth of bacteria -- it says nothing about whether the filter will pass any bacteria.  Bacteriostatic filter media is important when the filter will sit for a long time with water in it, but no flow, such as a filter in an RV that is used only occasionally.  I note that the Everpure system is bacteriostatic.  This is usually achieved with minute quantities of silver added to the media.

HTH,

-Sean
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« Reply #28 on: August 15, 2008, 06:06:19 AM »

Would one of those UV water filters kill the sulphur reducing bacteria?   We have a 6 stage RO on our water at home, but we had the option of going with a 7 stage. The 7th stage was the UV light.  Jack
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« Reply #29 on: August 15, 2008, 07:04:38 AM »

Jack,

I don't know if UV will kill those bacteria (my guess is that it would), but you don't need to worry about them:  Bacteria are too large to pass through an osmotic membrane.  The smallest bacteria are around 0.2 micron, whereas the pores of an osmotic membrane are smaller than .001 micron -- 200 times smaller.  Even viruses are larger than .02 micron, or 20 times too large to pass through an osmotic membrane.

Consider that RO is commonly used to produce drinking water from raw seawater, which is loaded with microorganisms.  Even the sodium and chloride ions in solution can't pass through the membrane, which is why an RO system can desalinate seawater.

-Sean
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« Reply #30 on: August 15, 2008, 07:27:27 AM »

Jack FWIW the UV system works it has been used in Europe for years to treat water for municipalities and gaining popuatry here in the US here the City Of Houston uses the system now to cut back on the use of chlorine. 
We had it on our pool in Scottsdale because my wife has a reaction to chlorine
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« Reply #31 on: August 15, 2008, 07:36:01 AM »

Thanks for the information.  I had thought about installing an RO in the bus also, but our system requires a minimum of 40 PSI water pressure and recommends 50 PSI.  Since our bus water system is usually 35-40, I don't think it would work very well. Plus the system we have would take up considerable under counter space that we are already using for other storage needs.  Jack
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« Reply #32 on: August 15, 2008, 08:23:30 AM »

Hmmmm, I've not had that experience with needed that much pressure to run an R/O system.  We will have one in BigBus and currently run several in our home.  The higher PSI will produce water faster, but you surely are not required to have a minimum of 40 psi in any system we've installed.  Shoot, a lot of homes on wells only run 35 psi on their low end.

We installed an r/o in my mom's motorhome and it's always worked great for her.  The concern is often more with the amount of wastewater produced into the waste tank than water pressure. 

Perhaps the system you are investigating is different. 

As for UV, well, it can disinfect, that's for sure, but it does not filter out so many of the contaminents that an r/o membrane can.  Also, although R/O unit can reject some bacteria, it is strongly advised that a bacteria problem be treated separately from the filtering process and any continuous bacterial problem should be corrected asap.  Do NOT rely on any "treatment" to continually protect your drinking water, find the source of contamination and correct it if any way possible. . .IMHO, Christy HIcks
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« Reply #33 on: August 15, 2008, 09:42:44 AM »

Most people buy a RO system and I have a RO system ,thinking it will  remove the chlorine in water most manufactures are careful about the wording like our Culligan reads reduces the taste and color of chlorine.

Working around water treatment plants most use a gas chlorine to treat the water and I always wondered how you would remove a gas from water with a RO system and filters
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« Reply #34 on: August 15, 2008, 09:50:48 AM »

hi Guy's,

Here is a link on Ultra Violet water treating and specs.
http://www.americanairandwater.com/uv-water-applications.htm#Drinking_Water


Nick-
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