Is it normal to smell gas when your water heater turns on

The gas company came out and checked for a gas leak because me and my husband smelled gas. They said there was no gas leak and its normal to smell gas when the water heater kicks on. I'm still paranoid about it because I looked it up and every post I've seen said you should never smell gas coming from your water heater.
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He who is BurfordTJustice said on Tue, 24 Oct 2017 08:26:00 -0400:

The smell is added by the gas company so that you can smell when there is a leak.
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He who is Dlyons09 said on Tue, 24 Oct 2017 12:14:14 GMT:

Ops. I posted to the wrong post. This is the right post. The smell is added by the gas company so that you can smell when there is a leak.
That means you should not normally smell anything.
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On 10/24/17 8:14 AM, Dlyons09 wrote:

You should not smell gas.
Probably the only reason the "gas guy" who came out and told you that has his job is because he's some department manager's wife's nephew.
I'd call the gas company back and ask for a supervisor to come out and check it.
If they won't, call the CEO's office and tell them they have four hours to show up before you call the local TV station's Consumer Action Reporter.
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He who is Wade Garrett said on Tue, 24 Oct 2017 08:49:15 -0400:

Let's use Occam's Razor on that logic.
What's more likely: a. The gas guy knows what he's doing, and, he tried to tell the lady there isn't any problem, or, .... b. The gas guy is covering up a leak because he's somehow "in it" with the top dogs at the gas company.
Occam's Razor tells us the logic is more likely "a" than "b". Could it be "b". Sure.
Is it likely to be "b"?
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On Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 8:51:43 AM UTC-4, harry newton wrote:

Key here would be if there is no smell before the WH fires and then only a slight whiff when it does. If that's all it is, the gas guy is likely correct. If it can be smelled any time, even when it hasn't fired, then it's a leak. I'd also check the vent for proper draft, make sure it's not blocked, etc.
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He who is trader_4 said on Tue, 24 Oct 2017 07:08:00 -0700 (PDT):

I sit at my computer so I can only use logic.
Who is more likely to be correct? a. Homeowner who smells gas b. Utility guy who is called by homeowner to check for a leak
I do agree that a "whiff" can be different than a real leak. So my advice to the homeowner is to call the utility again.
It's less likely two utility guys are related to the utility owner such that they'd give a false report on leaks to all homeowners. :)
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On Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 11:25:07 AM UTC-4, harry newton wrote:

Since you're evaluating logic and probabililities, they can both be right. And the gas company guy apparently agreed.

What I can tell you is that in decades of my experience, I've never had a water heater where you smelled gas. And if you do, it would seem that it would result in lots of false alarms to the gas company, fire company etc. As well as defeat the whole purpose of putting the smell in there. If you get used to smelling it, what happens when there is a real leak?
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On 10/24/17 8:51 AM, harry newton wrote:

Nope, the simplest explanation is the gas guy is incompetent.
And yup, old William of Ockham would have deducted a few style points from my hypothesizing about his pedigree ;-)
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On 10/24/2017 8:49 AM, Wade Garrett wrote:

Good luck with that!
A supervisor is usually the department wang-slurpin' brown-noser that was promoted because he was too incompetent to do the work.
Hire a union plumber if you want it done right.
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On 10/24/2017 9:27 AM, Jon Doe wrote:

In Massachusetts it would not work. You need a gas fitter license and it can be union or non union. The only difference is the union guy will cost twice as much and take 4X longer.
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On 10/24/17 9:27 AM, Jon Doe wrote:

...or a non-union plumber if you don't want to get hosed on the bill ;-)
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On 24-Oct-17 7:14 AM, Dlyons09 wrote:

It isn't that unusual that there is just a whiff of the odorant not fully burnt when the burner first ignites.
The odor isn't gas; the test "sniffer" they use is quite sensitive and if it didn't indicate the presence of gas you can be comfortable there isn't a leak...
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He who is dpb said on Tue, 24 Oct 2017 07:54:31 -0500:

I was going to mention that some people are super sensitive who can supposedly "smell" when the gas is low, simply because the oderant gets concentrated due to its properties when your gas supply is low.
That only works for those with external tanks though, and not for those with a permanent connection to the gas line.

Exactly my point. The gas guy is trained to sniff stuff out. If he doesn't sniff stuff, then at that point, there's no leak. If the homeowner *still* thinks there is a leak, then all the normal options apply.
1. The possibility exists that the owner was wrong 2. The possibility exists that the gas guy was wrong
The simplest solution, logically, is to call the gas company again and get a *different* guy.
They can't all be the nephew of the owner's brother...
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If you are a liberal DemocRAT, it is perfectly normal. When you smell this, simply light up a cigarette, cigar, or pipe to dispell the odour.
If you are a conservative or libertarian it would be best to call in a qualified technician to check it out and repair or replace the water heater..
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replying to Dlyons09, Iggy wrote: The gas guy's wrong and a liar and every other post you read is absolutely right. Any initial puff of unburned gas should not exist in any circumstance, there's either a Pilot Light or an Ignition Hot Plate that are burning before any gas is introduced. Even if there was a malfunction, the exhaust flue should and must have been confirmed to have sufficient draw to evacuate it. Get an HVAC guy or company out to assess and fix the situation and ensure everything's proper.
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Natural gas or propane??
I was ready to start tearing apart my 'park model' forced-air heater (Suburban P40) fer fear of a leak, when my propane 'guy' sed, "It's not a leak! It's jes that yer propane tank was bumping 'zero' and you will always smell more 'Mercaptans' from yer system, than when yer propane tank is full".
NOTE: propane mercaptans smell different than natural gas mercaptans. First time I smelled propane mercaptans, I thought my dementia mom had left a whole chicken to rot, somewhere in the room. Turns out she's left a propane burner on! Double "Yikes"!!
Turns out my propane guy was correct, as he filled my 250 gal propane tank and the heavy 'Mercaptan' smell from my forced-air furnace disappeared. ;)
nb
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