Hot water sulphur smell

I installed a brand new GE (Rheem) electric water heater about 4 months ago. Recently I've noticed a slight (but strengthening) smell of sulfur when I run hot water anywhere in the house.
Years ago, I had a problem with a really strong sulfur smell from the hot water, and it turned out to be the sacrificial anode. Could that be the problem already?
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Not an expert or a plumber here... but did you put on dielectric couplings to the hot/cold water lines coming in/out of the tank? If i remember right this thing isolates the dissimilar materials so corrosion can't occur... anyone else?
rod

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Do you happened to have a water filter in need of changing ?
Randy http://members.aol.com/rsmeiner
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Well water or city?
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Robert A. Barr wrote:

The anode may encourage the odor formation but the underlying cause is far more complicated. Go here: http://www.hotwater.com/techhome.htm
Click on the FAQ.
Substituting an aluminum anode may help, but I don't know if that will affect the warranty.
As Gary Slusser will tell you, the real fix is to treat the water beforehand so that the conditions for odor generation don't exist.
Jim
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Yipes!
I wonder if I did something wrong during installation, but it was basically just a swap of one unit for another. Well, I guess I can try the chlorination technique.
No water treatment (other than softening) was ever necessary before; it's city water, usually not a problem. A little hard, but otherwise OK.
Just FYI, the links in the FAQ don't work using Netscape. They work fine using IE.
Thanks for the tips.

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As I recall from the RV NG's, do not use Clorox as it uses a different type of clorine. Could anyone shed some light on this? Stick with the cheaper brands.
-- Mike D.
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All household bleach uses the active ingredient of sodium hypochlorite. Clorox bottles have a statement on the label stating that the product "is not to be used for water treatment". Some other brands do the same while others don't.
There are chlorine pellets that are FDA approved for potable water use. Their active ingredient is calcium hyopchlorite IIRC.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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You may want to sanitize your water softener. Reducing types of bacteria can colonize softeners.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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I had the smell for about a year after Sears put in a new hot water heater (electric) and then it went away on its own. I assume the anode rod went away. It's been 25 years now since that happened and everything's fine since then. Apparently you don't need anode rods.
Just goes to show that disattention to the matter sometimes fixes it. Treat it as an interesting experiment, though it may not be possible if a female gets to contribute to the decision.
I have well water, high iron, softened with red-out.
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Ron Hardin
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Here's a partial copy of a water treatment article and some additions I've made to it that I saved from a few years ago. It explains the cause of hot water only odor.
If there is no cold water odor, and there can be although you don't smell it in the house without spraying water under force into a large bucket while smelling for the odor, sulfate is present in the water. A magnesium anode rod (or what's left of one) is in the heater and a sulfate reducing bacteria is present in the water. This bacteria takes the oxygen off of the sulfate, making it sulfur. Reducing types of bacteria are nonharmful.
The anode rod generates free hydrogen in water.
The hydrogen and sulfur together produces the smell.
Removing the anode rod altogether will remove one part of the equation, eliminating the smell. Replacing the rod with one of different material may also solve the problem. But if any of the rod falls off into the tank as you remove a rod, it's the same as not removing or replacing the rod. Removing the rod voids the heater warranty. Raising the temp to 140 deg f will also (usually) prevent the odor by killing the bacteria. Most hot water manufacturers also have a different type of anode rod available that does not generate the hydrogen - you would have to call them and see what is available.
Cleaning the hot water heater with a heavy chlorine rinse eliminates the bacteria and produces a temporary relief. Temporary can range from a few days to months. Draining and then flushing the heater as part of this sanitizing is always a good idea.
To quote Wes McGowan, excerpt taken from Water Processing for Home, Farm and Business 1988:
When a hydrogen sulfide odor occurs in a treated water (softened or filtered), when no H2S is detected in the raw water, it usually indicates the presence of some form of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the system. These anaerobic, single-cell bacteria (Thisbacilles) can exist in the piping system in the hone, especially on the hot water side. It is most noticeable on the first hot water drawn in the morning. Water softeners provide a convenient harbor and environment for anaerobic (oxygen depleted) bacterial growth.
Sulfate bacteria can derive energy by reducing the sulfate ion in the water to H2S, and produce by-product bicarbonate in the process. Organic matter needs to be present for the bacteria to survive. However, the concentration of organics in the raw water is often below detectable levels. When this condition of H2S in hot water arises, the initial task is to heavily chlorinate the entire piping system including storage and hot water tanks. Usually, a dose of household bleach left standing in the piping system (hot and cold) overnight will destroy the sulfur bacteria. I has also been reported from the field that after water softeners are installed, the hot water will develop traces of H2S odor. Where softened water is fed to certain hot water heaters, this condition has been overcome by removing the anode element from the heater.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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Thanks for all the info.
I'm curious about one thing: The last time this happened, the anode had been depleted. I called a plumber, who replaced the rod. That solved the problem -- no more odor. In that case, it was REALLY strong, and replacing rod fixed the problem.
I've also read that using softened water will hasten the erosion (consumption?) of the anode, requiring more frequent replacement. I'd think, though, that a few months is too soon no matter what.
In any event, I can try the bleach trick and hope for the best. I have no idea how I'd go about chlorinating the cold supply, though, and if there's a bacteria source upstream of the heater, well, is there any point in chlorinating just the hot water?
Perhaps a different rod type would be a simpler approach. We'll see.

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More likely the process used to replace the rod with a different type fixed the problem. There's at least two parts involved that will. Draining/flushing the tank and a different type rod. Also, water quality changes over time (guaranteed) and in the beginning you may not have the required sulfates and/or sulfate reducing bacteria present so there could be no odor.

That's not true. First, many folks with no softener suffer the same eaten up rod and odor problems.
Second, the vast majority of folks with softeners (millions), do not have the odor problem.
But to prove softeners don't 'cause' the problem.... ask those that say they do to prove how that happens.
The figure it out, you must look at the chemical analysis of the water. A softener changes the water in two ways. One they remove certain things from the water. Such as calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, lead, copper, radium etc., all of which are not found in all waters and in those that they are, the amounts vary widely. BUT, the lack of any of them is not known to increase rod deterioration. Also, the TDS (total dissolved solids) content of agreessive/corrosive water is low (=< 7.0) which causes an acidic water but... ion exchange softening adds (sodium) to the water and actually increases TDS althouhg it removes those other ions.
So wherever you heard that softeners increase rod deterioration needs to be questioned as to the proof of their claim. I know certain heater web sites mention softeners as a cause of heater odor and/or deterioration but... facts be known, if their glass lining was intact all over the inside of the tank when you install the heater, there would be (is no) need for a rod.

I have a number of chlorination systems, I guess most could be used for just the hot side but I've never seen it done. I also wouldn't propose doing that. And then possibly the homeowner would want the chlorine removed from the hot side. It would be much better and easier to to treat the cold for both needs. Dealing with hot water filters etc. is more expensive anyway.

Aluminum is a choice. Another choice is to increase the temp of the heater. And before some jump on the potential burn problems, they should read up on the latest research done on Ligionnella bacteria deaths attributed to water heaters set at or below 120 deg f. Just last night I read of another study that shows very seroius statistics containing a number of deaths.

That's somewhat misleading but okay as long as everyone understands that removing the softener will not solve the problem because a softener doesn't cause the problem in the first place; it's physically and chemically impossible.
Gary Quality Water Associates
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