Advice BlogFlaming Faucets

October 2, 2020by Ed Gabrish0
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Imagine turning on your kitchen faucet, and the water coming out catches fire?

Flaming faucets aren’t ordinary. When exposed to municipal water with a high level of certain minerals, chemicals, or methane gas, the water from your faucet or shower may be flammable. Watch the short video here, taken on a recent job. The homeowner was concerned about the smell and taste of his water and asked a Schaible’s technician to investigate the cause.

Methane gas occurs naturally in groundwater in sedimentary basins throughout the U.S.A. There are towns, such as Burning Springs, West Virginia, which were named hundreds of years ago, as setting fire to the water sources was so typical. Their fires were due to naturally occurring methane bubbling up into their streams.

In some instances, a combination of bacteria in the water can harm the anode rod in your water heater. Remember, the anode rod is the most critical factor in determining the life of your water heater. An anode rod is a steel core wire surrounded with one of three different metals. With a proper water test, we can determine if switching the anode rod from magnesium to aluminum, or possibly zinc, makes sense for your situation.

Rotten Eggs

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.

Currently Speaking

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.

“Something in the water was reacting with the metals in the water heater, and no doubt the heat is the catalyst that is causing the reaction. However, the same reaction can be occurring at a lesser rate in other parts of your piping system”.
– from a 2010 home analysis

Schaible's Water TestingWhat's in my water?

The right treatment begins with analysis

If you have concerns about the composition of the water your family drinks, bathes in, and washes with, invite Schaible’s to perform a complete water test. We use the test results to recommend a treatment process that is best suited for your family.

Just use the form here, tell us a little information, and one of our specialists will contact you to schedule the test.

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