What’s That Water Heater Smell?

What's That Water Heater Smell?Something mystic is wafting in the air from the around the water heater in the utility room and it doesn’t smell like anything delightful… And when it comes to major appliances issuing fumes, it’s best to untangle the mystery quickly and fix the problem.

If you have a natural gas water heater, you’ll first want to make sure you don’t have a natural gas leak. Be sure to turn the gas off and call Pronto immediately to check for leaks.

A hot wiring smell or electrical fire smell will tell you that your wiring needs to be checked for possible arcing. Also, if you smell something like rubber or plastic burning, this could be the insulative coating on the wires. Turn off the power source (flip the breaker to the hot water heater) before trying to pinpoint the smell. Call a licensed electrician, like Pronto, to find the precise source of the problem.

Another common culprit: A sulfur smell may be produced if the water is reacting with the sacrificial anodes. These are metal rods, often aluminum or magnesium, that are intended to “sacrifice” themselves to rust rather than allowing the water heater tank to rust. Removing these will probably void any warranty you have on the water heater and besides, the tank’s life would be reduced because of the rust, so that’s not a good solution. A water heater tune-up may be just the ticket to help solve this issue.

Another problem that can have smelly results is if there’s a backdraft coming from the vent. In this case, you may see condensation or corrosion on top of the hot water heater, especially at or near the vent.

Occasionally, previous problems that have already been fixed like water leaks or condensation could have caused moisture to build up under your flooring. This provides a quality nursery for the growth of bacteria, mold, and other fungi.

Some of these water heater smells may seem benign, but trust your nose. If it says that something’s wrong, it most likely is. Take steps to identify the problem and get the professional help you need to remediate it.