A water heater can provide an ideal environment for the conversion of sulfate to hydrogen sulfide gas. Hydrogen sulfide gas (H2S) can give water a “rotten egg” taste or odor. This gas can occur in wells anywhere. In most cases, the rotten egg smell does not relate to the sanitary quality of the water. In rare instances, the gas may be from sewage or other pollution. To be safe, we recommend scheduling a test of your well water for coliform bacteria and nitrate.
The water heater can produce hydrogen sulfide gas in two ways – creating a warm environment where sulfur bacteria can live, and sustaining a reaction between sulfate in the water and the water heater anode. A magnesium anode rod can supply electrons that aid in the conversion of sulfate to hydrogen sulfide gas.
There are other conditions that contribute to flaming faucets. As we referenced in our September 2019 article, an electrical current occurs between metals when different types contact each other. Water heaters contain various metals found in the steel tank walls, copper piping, and brass fittings. These metals erode over time due to this electrochemical reaction.
To evaluate and reduce this process, water heater manufacturers incorporate an anode rod. An anode rod is a water heater component that helps to prevent internal corrosion in the unit. The rod attracts corrosive elements in water and dissolves them. An anode rod is ordinarily magnesium or aluminum, but it may also be a combination of metals. It is commonly wrapped around a steel wire or thin rod and allows the electrochemical reaction to attack it instead of essential components in the water heater. The anode rod lengthens the life of the tank’s liner by slowing corrosion, and nearly all water heaters used in homes and businesses contain them.
If corrosion and deterioration in the piping system are very pronounced, Schaible’s will install dielectric unions. Such rapid decay is often due to galvanic and stray current, especially in electric water heaters. The application of dielectric unions separate two dissimilar metal pipes (such as copper pipes and galvanized steel) and prevent galvanic corrosion caused by electrolysis. It’s common to find dielectric unions in commercial and residential applications
In some areas, the building code requires the installation of dielectric unions everywhere in dwellings where copper pipes connect to steel. However, when any indirect electrical contact exists between the steel and copper, such as naturally transferring through the earth, the insulation provided by the dielectric union is reduced. Fortunately, our professionals understand this issue and know to ensure that the appliance is properly grounded.
Are you concerned?
If you have concerns over the quality of the water coming out of your tap, speak with Schaible’s about water testing. We’ll determine if there is a problem and suggest the treatment system that is best for your family.