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Thread: Smelly water from hot water tank

  1. #1
    Contributing Member II
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    Smelly water from hot water tank

    The hot water coming from the hot water tank stinks. I end up not using it because I am fearful of bacteria. If you have resolved this problem, I'd love to hear about it.
    Galley_Slave a.k.a Peg
    Kokomo
    Ericson 34' ('88)
    Fairhaven, Maryland

  2. #2
    Moderator Guy Stevens's Avatar
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    What does it smell like?

    Does it smell sickley sweet? = Leak from the heat exchanger into the tank.
    Metalic = Sediments
    Old Socks? = Sulphor, bacterial breakdown of biological mass

    Each has a different cause, and a different treatment, however that said, if it doesn't smell Sickley sweet, (Which means it is dead, and needs to be thrown out), then you should flush it. I would go ahead and flush it really welll.........

    WITH THE HEATER OFF

    At the dock, disconnect the input hose from the pump on your system, plumb a short hose onto it that you can stick in a bucket. Drain the water heater, using the drain plug.

    First Fill the bucket up with vinegar, straight a good place to get cheap vinegar by the gallon is Costco. (This is an anti-scaling compound, known in the chemical world as acidic acid.). Pump this through your system into the water heater. Try to get the water heater full of the vinegar. Leave it sit for several hours.

    Next put fresh water in the buckets and pump through the system till all the vinegar, and the associated brown crud comes out of the water heater. (Now sometimes your pump doesn't have enough umph to make this happen, and you have to get the shore power hose with better pressure connected into the game, but you have to be carefull not to burst any fittings or hoses when you are using the higher pressure.) Again drain it.

    Next you can neutralize the water tank to eliminate the acids, drive it base, and get rid of any of the bacteria that may be acid dweling. To do this fill your bucket with water, and disolve a box of baking soda in it.... Pump this through, again trying to let the water heater stay full of the mixture for a couple of hours at a minimum.

    Again pump clean water through it, then drain it.

    Third do a bilogical shock, mix up about 2 capfulls of unscented Chlorox tm in each of your five gllon buckets and pump that into the water heater.... Again leave site for several hours if not overnight.....

    Pump the water heater out again with clean water....... And again drain it.... Then hook everything back up.


    If you still get the smells etc, it may be that your tanks need the same treatment, and that the smell is from the water in the tanks and is more prevelent to the nose in the heated water. (Cold spagatti sauce has no smell, only when you heat it in a pan do you smell it. )Drain the tnanks fill with vinegar based solution, drain, fill with baking soda, drain rinse fill with Chlorox. Drain rinse fill with fresh water taste smelll etc...


    Guy
    :-)
    Last edited by Guy Stevens; 06-25-2006 at 10:52 AM.

  3. #3
    Contributing Member II
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    Thanks for the thorough answer. Looks like you've been there, done that.

    I believe it's the sulphur-like smell and therefore the bacteria problem.

    One question. You said, "Next you can neutralize the water tank to eliminate the acids, drive it base, and get rid of any of the bacteria that may be acid dweling." I can guess at the meaning of that term, but not having heard that before, would you mind clarifying for me?

    Next question for the group, what is your preferred method/product for keeping the water pure? There are off the shelf tablets and powders. Perhaps someone has a home brew that is just as effective or even better (without a chlorine smell)?
    Galley_Slave a.k.a Peg
    Kokomo
    Ericson 34' ('88)
    Fairhaven, Maryland

  4. #4
    Principal Partner
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    Antifreeze?

    It could be that there was antifreeze in the water heater from the last winterization of the fresh water system. If antifreeze is allowed to be heated, it can create an unpleasant smell.

    Laura Bertran
    Footloose, 1985 E35-3
    Annapolis, MD

  5. #5
    Accelerant CaptnNero's Avatar
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    no antifreeze

    I know it's not antifreeze since I isolate the tank, drain it, and blow it out before the winter instead of filling it with antifreeze.

    What's different this season is that we are leaving the tanks full instead of draining them after a trip. We actually had the same problem in our RV days and it went away when I started draining the system between trips. Of course that's much harder on the boat since you need to run the pump. In the case of the hot water tank I could drain it separately, but that's too much trouble.

    I suppose it just needs a thorough flushing as Guy suggested.

    Quote Originally Posted by lbertran
    It could be that there was antifreeze in the water heater from the last winterization of the fresh water system. If antifreeze is allowed to be heated, it can create an unpleasant smell.

    Laura Bertran
    Footloose, 1985 E35-3
    Annapolis, MD
    -- neal
    S/V KOKOMO
    '88 E34 #253
    Get there fast and take it slow

  6. #6
    Accelerant CaptnNero's Avatar
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    on the list

    Guy, thanks for all of the gory details. I'll put it near the top of the list.

    In the meantime we had 5 1/2 inches of rain over the weekend and the vberth port side is seaping. I re-sealed the anchor locker last year so I guess I'll be removing the anchor well after all so I can rebed the stanchions and bow cleats.

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Stevens
    Does it smell sickley sweet? = Leak from the heat exchanger into the tank.
    Metalic = Sediments
    Old Socks? = Sulphor, bacterial breakdown of biological mass

    Each has a different cause, and a different treatment, however that said, if it doesn't smell Sickley sweet, (Which means it is dead, and needs to be thrown out), then you should flush it. I would go ahead and flush it really welll.........

    WITH THE HEATER OFF

    At the dock, disconnect the input hose from the pump on your system, plumb a short hose onto it that you can stick in a bucket. Drain the water heater, using the drain plug.

    First Fill the bucket up with vinegar, straight a good place to get cheap vinegar by the gallon is Costco. (This is an anti-scaling compound, known in the chemical world as acidic acid.). Pump this through your system into the water heater. Try to get the water heater full of the vinegar. Leave it sit for several hours.

    Next put fresh water in the buckets and pump through the system till all the vinegar, and the associated brown crud comes out of the water heater. (Now sometimes your pump doesn't have enough umph to make this happen, and you have to get the shore power hose with better pressure connected into the game, but you have to be carefull not to burst any fittings or hoses when you are using the higher pressure.) Again drain it.

    Next you can neutralize the water tank to eliminate the acids, drive it base, and get rid of any of the bacteria that may be acid dweling. To do this fill your bucket with water, and disolve a box of baking soda in it.... Pump this through, again trying to let the water heater stay full of the mixture for a couple of hours at a minimum.

    Again pump clean water through it, then drain it.

    Third do a bilogical shock, mix up about 2 capfulls of unscented Chlorox tm in each of your five gllon buckets and pump that into the water heater.... Again leave site for several hours if not overnight.....

    Pump the water heater out again with clean water....... And again drain it.... Then hook everything back up.


    If you still get the smells etc, it may be that your tanks need the same treatment, and that the smell is from the water in the tanks and is more prevelent to the nose in the heated water. (Cold spagatti sauce has no smell, only when you heat it in a pan do you smell it. )Drain the tnanks fill with vinegar based solution, drain, fill with baking soda, drain rinse fill with Chlorox. Drain rinse fill with fresh water taste smelll etc...


    Guy
    :-)
    -- neal
    S/V KOKOMO
    '88 E34 #253
    Get there fast and take it slow

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