Still Rotten Egg smell after replacing aluminum rods

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by ArayT, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. ArayT

    ArayT New Member

    Messages:
    28
    Location:
    Middle Georgia
    Can someone tell me the source of my rotten egg smell. I replaced the aluminum rods in both water heaters & I Still have that smell. I ocassionally get the smell downstairs (which is served by a different water heater) but upstairs its still real bad. I replaced the anode rods and the problem pretty much went away, but now its back. Had the water tested in 09 these are the results. Calcium 62.2 ppm, iron .25 ppm, magnesium 1.4 ppm, manganese .05 ppm, potassium .8 ppm, silica 34.76 ppm, sodium 2.9 ppm, all else was negliable. I installed a water softner just after this test and then replaced the anodes. Could gasses be traveling to the high point in the system which is upstairs? anyhelp would be appreciated.
    Thanks, Ray
  2. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,494
    Location:
    Alaska
    I know that if there is a softener treating the water then at times the rods have nothing to do and they break down and often give off the smell..

    If you replaced them with new and it was good for awhile and now the smell is back I would say that the new rods that you put in are looking like the ones that you took out awhile back.

    Now it will go back and forth as to rods or no rods.... some say remove the rod and plug the hole, some say that you have to replace when it is doing what it is doing..

    Upstairs most likely will have it stronger if there is going to be a smell.
  3. ArayT

    ArayT New Member

    Messages:
    28
    Location:
    Middle Georgia
    I replaced the factory alum rods w/ magnesium rods. Are you saying I should totally remove the rods? What effect will this have on my water heater?
    rt
  4. Akpsdvan

    Akpsdvan In the Trades

    Messages:
    1,494
    Location:
    Alaska
    Leaving the rods out is the great debate...........
    With out the rod it might shorten the life of the lining in the heater, but by how much is part of the great debate, some say by only a little and others say that by much more..

    There are people in my area that have removed the rod and the life on the heater has not really changed... in part it is what is in the water... some water is harder on heaters than others.
  5. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The odor is caused by reducing type bacteria (sulfate specifically but also iron) that use a hydrogen ion off the rod to create H2S gas, which rises in the system.

    You must kill the bacteria or remove the rod and if any of the rod material falls off in the heater, it's like still having the rod. Turning up the temp to 140f for a few hours will kill the bacteria but they will come back in with water as you use it. Bleach also kills them but they come back.
  6. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,451
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    ArayT,

    I agree that magnesium rods would be better. But also you could have your Water softener set to soft.
    You might want to try backing off the softness setting on your Water Softness if you can.
    It will take a while before you notice a difference, because you need to purge the system and let
    it recover.

    Iron is normally the reason for the smell, but if the water is to soft it will eat the Rods Quicker.

    DonL
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2011
  7. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    All odors are caused by bacteria or chemicals, not iron etc..

    Softened water does not corrode or otherwise dissolve anything other than hard water scale buildup in a plumbing system. It does not dissolve magnesium or any other type rods. It's physically impossible.
  8. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,451
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Hello Gary,

    I agree with you. But Iron Bacteria is what i was talking about.

    And my thought about Rods is that the water needs some electrolyte property for the rods to do there job, Keep the tank from deterioration.

    If you remove All of the Electrolyte property from the water, as Very soft water does, then what prevents the the tank from deterioration ?

    The Elements are another Element in the equation.

    Glad you corrected me if I was wrong.

    Keep up the good work...

    DonL
  9. Dorrough

    Dorrough New Member

    Messages:
    30
    Location:
    Southern Indiana
    Hey, this is a familiar problem! We had the same issue especially after the water softener went in. Replaced the anodes as suggested which helped some, but the water was coming out with spurting when first turned on. Suspicious, we caught a balloon full of water and "air" and took it outside and applied a match to the outside of the balloon. Yep, hydrogen gas all right. J took out the water heater anode and replaced it with a powered anode. This is a totally improbable sounding thing. Instead of the anode, there is a wire thing that goes in the hot water heater and you plug it in. This supplies the needed electolytic whatever to protect the tank. Since then, no gas and the stink is reduced (but don't get me started on the well water and all the stuff we've done to try to soften and disinfect it). Powered anode seems to work great. We just drained some gunk off the bottom of the heater - gray granular stuff, maybe some of the salt? but no rust at all. Bonus, draining the gunk reduced the smell even more.
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,054
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Usually magnesium rods ARE the problem because they generate magnesium sulfate which is the "rotten egg odor". By the time the original rod has deteriorated, there is not much subsequent rods can do to lengthen the life of the tank, so I remove them and plug the opening.
  11. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Water is a great conductor of electricity. That includes softened water. The conductivity of water is measured by a TDS test - Total Dissolved Solids. Softening water ADDS to the TDS of the water, making it more conductive because the higher the TDS, the better the water can conduct electricity. So... naturally soft water has much lower TDS and ion exchanged softened water as a higher TDS than the raw hard water has, hence more conductivity and the "electrolyte" is better than it was when the water was raw hard.

    Also, water is either hard or soft(ened), you can not soften water "too soft". The measurement for residential and most commercial waters is 0 gpg of hardness (calcium and magnesium removal). A gpg is 17.1 mg/l or ppm, so you will usually always have some hardness in your softened water if only a few mg/l less than 17.1 or 1 gpg.

    Softeners do not remove any type of bacteria and especially the reducing types which are groups of different bacteria. Bacteria produce digestive gas as you and I do and usually it is H2S or very similar. And they do it in hard or softened waters which has no effect on them.

    Rods can not produce H2S (hydrogen sulfide gas); bacteria in the water do.
  12. Drewmcg

    Drewmcg New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    So if I've got this right, if I get the "rotten egg smell" in my (cold, hard, untreated) water -- right out of the well -- then there's hydrogen sulfide in the well water in the ground (naturally occurring)? I get this even though I had my well shock chlorinated and re-tested with a result of no coliform (total) bacteria. (BTW: total hardens = 24 grains and dissolved iron = 2.6 ppm).
  13. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,451
    Location:
    Houston, TX

    Is it right out of the well, or after it comes out of the pressured tank ?


    DonL
  14. Drewmcg

    Drewmcg New Member

    Messages:
    17
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I don't see a hose bib before the pressure tank, so post-pressure tank but pre-softner.
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