Odor - Hot Water only (within a well-water, water softener system)

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by LeBlanc, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc New Member

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    We have a water-odor issue, but it's only on the Hot Water side of our well-water system (with a water softener).

    My family owns a house in Michigan we use sporadically. The well water system is connected to a water softener that’s been in place for about 12 years.

    When we leave the house, we flip the switch to the well to “off,†open all faucets, turn the gas HWH off, and during the winter leave the heat on its lowest setting. We do not empty the hot water heater.

    Upon our return after a few weeks or more, we start everything up and though the cold water is fine, the water from the HWH has an odor, sort of like rotten eggs. Before re-lighting the HWH, I’ve tried to “flush†the water inside the HWH by opening the hot water side of all faucets to run for an hour. This allows the system to dilute the water that has been standing in the HWH so that the odor subsides. If we use the house for a few days (showers, dishwasher use, etc) eventually the hot water does not include an odor.

    Any suggestions as to how I can avoid this issue, to keep from having stinky water, and also to keep from having to run faucets for an hour? If a certain type of salt (or salt substitute) will work, I’ll try it. Thank you.
  2. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

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    http://www.ehow.com/how_7894797_put-clorox-hot-water-heater.html

    The low temperature setting of a hot water heater will encourage bacterial growth. Santizing the water heater is the first step.

    The link above is actually not too bad. You can also do the heat sanitization method but use extreme caution when doing this. Do not allow the kids or the elderly access to the water during the time of heat sanitization. Turn the water heater to its maximum setting for an hour. The burner should turn itself off after a short amount of time after it has reached its maximum temperature. The water can cause extreme burns almost instantly at these high temperatures. Let it set for an hour, run the hot water through the lines of the house, and set the temperature back down to its proper setting.

    This will usually take care of the problem.
  3. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc New Member

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    Wow. Thank you, Dittohead.

    I had no idea it could have been bacteria. For a number of reasons, I will employ the heat sanitization method during my next visit in May. Since I will likely be alone during that trip, hazards to others should not be an issue.

    I truly appreciate knowing this, and while I will not keep the heater lit while being away for several weeks at a time, I will heat the standing water to as hot as possible before using it. Again, thank you.
  4. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

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    I had similar problems even during normal use. Initially I replaced the stock anode rod with one designed to suppress bacteria growth, but I now have a solar water heater that easily maintains the water at 160° and no longer have a smell problem. That's also hot enough to kill Legionella, which is comforting. I maintain the high temperature to the kitchen, but use a tempering valve to the bathrooms to drop it to 125° or so.
  5. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

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    Location:
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    Nicely done Mikey. I have seen too many people brag about how hot the water is with their solar systems and send it throughout the house. The potential for serious or deadly injuries is greatly increased with that hot of water. The use of proper tempering valve designs is critical.
  6. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

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    Well, we'll see if this is a proper design. It's a Cash Acme Heatguard 110D, working OK now, but in the summer the cold water side can easily be 120° as the in-attic piping warms up. I don't know what will happen when the cold side gets way out of whack, but I'll find out. It's only a temporary situation, since the cold water flow from the well will pretty quickly drop the temperature to 70° or so. Timing is everything, though -- the hot side rests at around 120° also, so it'll be a race to see whether the hot or cold gets to the valve first. If it turns out to be a problem, I can move the tempering valve to be farther from the water heater and closer to the incoming cold water.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2013
  7. Smooky

    Smooky Member

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  8. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

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    Location:
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    That's an excellent link. I did the same thing for a couple of years, but got tired of it. It was a little more trouble for me, since the water heater is difficult to get access to. The replacement anode did the trick for me for years, and the super-hot water is the icing on the cake, to use a lousy metaphor. Randy's comment about stagnant water being more difficult is obviously true -- that's another issue.
  9. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc New Member

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  10. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc New Member

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    The odor issue has FINALLY been solved. And it was not at all what I would have imagined.

    High use over the past weekend (lots of guests; lots of showers, etc.) caused the softener and well-water holding tank to sweat profusely. This has been an issue, but it was REALLY sweating, and I decided to install drip pans to avoid water on the tile flooring.

    When I disconnected the salt holding tank, I noticed the salt had "crusted" at the top and when I touched it, the water level was so high it began to leak out the side vent. Grrr. Irritating.

    So, I elected to dump all of the water and the salt out of the tank to try to figure out that problem. In doing so, I dumped about 150 pounds of the proper salt pellets, and below that, at the bottom of the salt holding tank, several inches of Rock Salt.

    Are you kidding me?

    It was brown-ish, dirty, stinky and nasty. The disgusting brown film, the fact that the rock salt never melted, and the pooled dirty water made me ill. I thoroughly cleaned everything, placed new salt pellets into the tank, hooked everything up, and voila! No odor!

    We continued our stay for three more days, and aside from lots of sweating pipes and tanks (now pooling the water in drip pans), all is good.

    I sure wish I had thought to empty that tank when we bought the house in 2007. The previous owner probably tried to save a dollar.

    Now, and recommendations for the sweating pipes and tanks?
  11. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

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    Cleaning and sanitizing your brine tank every couple of years is an important part of maintaining a water softener. Salt varies in quality regionally. If you look on the bag, the salt is 99.? pure, leaving up to 1% non salt debris. If you use 500 pounds in a year, you can have up to 5 pounds of mud, muck, bird droppings and other misc. debris. Grids tend to hide this dirt and is one reason I try to avoid the use of them. I would recommend sanitizing your softener.
  12. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

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    NW Ontario, Canada
    Some folks like to keep their salt topped up but that then hides what lays beneath and if salt bridging happens, it may go unnoticed for some time. I like letting the salt level drop below the brine level so that I can see what is at the bottom and I periodically dump out what's left on my gravel driveway.

    As for water heater temperature settings, low settings can allow bacteria to establish. One solution is to set the temperature higher and then to add a tempering valve after the HWT to blend the water back down to non-scalding temps. It also has the added benefit of not running out of hot water as quickly.
  13. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

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    How would you do that?
  14. LeBlanc

    LeBlanc New Member

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    Uh oh. You mean there's supposed to be two different materials in there? Like, perhaps, the "brine" is what I thought was rock salt?
  15. Reach4

    Reach4 Active Member

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    It could be the two materials were salt and dirty salt. Brine is water with a lot of salt dissolved in it.

    I dumped a bunch of compacted salt a couple months ago. It might have been fine if I just stopped adding salt for a while, and wait until the salt was nearly gone before cleaning the brine tank. I am now keeping some water visible by slanting my salt fill.
  16. ditttohead

    ditttohead Water systems designer, R&D

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    Location:
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    I fill my brine tank to the top about 6 months prior to when I plan on sanitizing and cleaning it. Just let it run very low, then dump it out, clean it with a garden hose and a brush, a little bleach and water, rinse and refill with 5 gallons of water and fill with salt. That's it, I recommend every year or two.
  17. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,991
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Well... there are two things in there, salt and water. When you dissolve salt in water, it is called brine.
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