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Smelly water heater means gas buildup

Proper care of heater for vacant home is recommended
Published on Jan 3, 2006

Dear Barry, My vacation home sits vacant for several months at a time. When I return, the water always has a strong sulfur smell, like rotten eggs. What could be causing this problem? Is it unsafe, and how can I keep it from happening? - Patrice Dear Patrice, Water heaters contain a specialized metal rod known as a sacrificial anode. Its purpose is to absorb the corrosive effects of the water and minerals, and thereby prevent deterioration of the water tank. Gradual deterioration of this rod produces small quantities of sulfur and hydrogen gases. When the water heater is subject to daily use, these gases pass from the plumbing system without being noticed. When the house is vacant and no water is drawn from the tank, the sulfur and hydrogen gradually accumulate. The sulfur dissolves in the water, causing the rotten egg smell you notice when returning to the property. The way to eliminate this smell is to drain the tank, by way of a hose, to the exterior yard. The hydrogen gas, however,...

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