Water Heater Combustion Smell

Page 1 of 2  
We had a new GE Profile Performance gas water heater installed in April 2000. It works perfectly. However, for the last few months every time it comes on there is a putrid smell coming out of the burner. It's only bad because it is right next to the living room.
I had the gas company come out and check it for carbon monoxide, etc. The technician could find no evidence of CO or a clogged vent pipe. He did point out some debris that looks like chunks of ash on the bottom under the burner. He said that might be the source of the smell. Before I crawl on my belly like a reptile to try to clean it out, does this sound like the problem? Or could it be something else?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
You need to call a qualified HVAC company. In my area, the gas company techs are told to get in and get out as fast as possible.
"Dick" <LeadWinger> wrote in message

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dick wrote:

That "bad gas smell" can be a warning of a serious problem, even though the tech didn't find anything that day.
5 years is kind of early in the heater life, but I wouldn't rule out a heater failure.
Yes, get in there and try to find the source of the "ash". Might be rust from the tank flue or..who knows?
One cause of the bad smell we used to see frequently in older tanks was collapse of the tank flue. That's the center coaxial tube running from the burner straight up thru the middle of the tank. Near end of life, high water pressure can actually crush the central flue and choke off the combustion gases. The result is poor combustion and release of the gases into the room via the air inlet at the bottom of the heater.
The best way to see if this has happened in your case is to pull the flue pipe off the top of the heater. Look down the central flue in the heater. There may be a steel spiral strip inside the flue; ignore that and look at the round flue wall condition.
Could be other things like blocked chimney (see if cigarette smoke will be drawn up the chimney flue) or even that the "ash" was closing off part of the burner. Check everything; I think it's a dangerous condition.
Jim
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I agree that it could be a dangerous situation, but I think he should call someone ASAP. It would be terrible if something happened, especially if it takes a few days for him to get around to doing it, and someone in his family fails to wake up one morning.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Bob wrote:

<SNIP>
That's a fair point indeed. I'll amend my advice to: "Shut off the gas line to the heater ... now. Jim
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I appreciate everyone's concern, but this has been going on for at least six months. And we have CO detectors in the house which haven't picked up anything. One thing the technician and another person told us was that, if you feel the collar at the bottom of the flue pipe, and it isn't hot, the flue is not restricted. Ours does not get hot.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Don't bet your life on a CO detector, some of them are crap. A cold flue pipe tells me that the flue gases may not be going out your chimney. Has anyone been having headaches?
"Dick" <LeadWinger> wrote in message wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"Dick" <LeadWinger> wrote in message wrote:

The advice given about the flue is BS, and if you are using Lowes, or HD boght CO detectors, they suck...I dont care what brand you got. They do NOT go off until your levels of CO are, and HAVE BEEN at high levels for a set period of time.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

them. I can only assume that the gas company technician was using professionally calibrated equipment.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dick wrote:

I have a Nighthawk too, and it is a good product compared to other CO detector. My wife insisted on it when we got a gas water heater and furnace about 5 years ago. It has never measured anything but zero except when it when bonkers when the power went off for a while and the battery ran down. It is probably the most useless too in my house. Way, way down the line from a blow torch which I haven't used in 25 years.
Sorry, this isn't helping. If you really want to know what is happening you will have to look at and in the burner when it is off and if you see no cause of the smell, you will need to look at it when the burner is on.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
If it was a reputable gas company, you can assume that he was using something like the Bacharach CO detector, but don't assume that it was working properly, or that the technician knew how to use it. You obviously have something wrong, and that guy didn't find the problem. Call another service company.
It's not hard to find a good company. If they return your calls in a timely manner, that's a real good start. If the technician can explain things to you in layman's terms that you understand, it's a good bet that he also understands what the problem is. If he's thorough in both his checks and his explanations, it's a good be that he wants a satisfied customer.
"Dick" <LeadWinger> wrote in message wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Our town has a population of 35,000. The nearest city is 100 miles away. We don't have the choice of service companies that someone in a metropolitan area would have. Our gas company is the largest in the state, and I trust them much more than I would Joe's fix it shop. If I can't figure this out, I will just have another water heater installed, although this one still seems like new and works perfectly.
The next thing I will try is to hire a plumber I trust to check out the entire flue system.
Dick
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
CBHVAC wrote:

Mine certainly gets hot when the burner is on, but I don't have the highest efficiency water heater.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
And how would you feel if the person he calls comes to the door and shoots him dead? or the repairman answering his call has an auto accident and dies? or the repairman leaves his wife at alone to answer the call and she is raped? etc. etc.
All have about the same probability as someone in his family failing to wake up one morning.
No one argues that he needs to do something, but let not go nuts with scare tactics.
Bob wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Sorry, but I've never heard of the things you mention happening, but I have seen someone die because he was too cheap to call a service company.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Not many die that way. Lots more die from being too dumb or too lazy to buckle a seatbelt. Of course lots die because they can't not drive when they are drunk. And lots of kids die, because their parents are too stupid or lazy to do the proper things such as know where the children are when they back out of the drive way, put the toxic stuff where kids can't get them, watch what their kids are doing, etc. Of course no one gets shot and no one is raped either. How many die because they are too cheap to call a service company? 1, 2, 3 a year? They may die of CO poisoning but it is usually stupidity and has nothing to do with calling a service company.
Bob wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
dead mouse?
"Dick" <LeadWinger> wrote in message

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Could it be a dead critter under there?
"Dick" <LeadWinger> wrote in message
: We had a new GE Profile Performance gas water heater installed in : April 2000. It works perfectly. However, for the last few months : every time it comes on there is a putrid smell coming out of the : burner. It's only bad because it is right next to the living room. : : I had the gas company come out and check it for carbon monoxide, etc. : The technician could find no evidence of CO or a clogged vent pipe. : He did point out some debris that looks like chunks of ash on the : bottom under the burner. He said that might be the source of the : smell. Before I crawl on my belly like a reptile to try to clean it : out, does this sound like the problem? Or could it be something else?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dick wrote:

How about a WAG-- the tank is leaking. How else do you get putrid smells? Or maybe something came down the chimney and fell into the burner.
Why would you have the furnace checked for CO? you have a smell, CO doesn't smell.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
No, but other by-products of combustion do smell.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Site Timeline

Related Threads

HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.