How To Spot And Eliminate Bacteria In Your Water Heater

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One of the biggest threats to the safety of your home's hot water heater is bacteria. Many homeowners are unaware of this significant concern, though you can often spot the early signs of bacterial problems before they become serious health threats. Here are some tips to help you understand what you should look for and how to treat bacteria growth in your water heater.

Foul, Sulfuric Odor

When your hot water tank starts to develop Divibrio Sulfuricans, it will turn all of the sulfates present in your water into sulfides. As those sulfides are exposed to and mixed with hydrogen, it will create a foul odor that resembles rotten eggs. The odor comes from the hydrogen sulfide gas released when the hydrogen and sulfides combine.

Water's natural composition of high sulfate levels and sufficient hydrogen makes a great environment for the bacteria to thrive. The anode rod in your water heater may actually lead to enhanced hydrogen presence. Unfortunately, you can't fix the problem by removing the anode rod, as you can't leave the rod out long-term. The anode rod is vital for preventing corrosion in the tank.

Rust-Colored Water

There's a glass lining in most hot water tanks, which is ideal for limiting corrosion risk. Now, the leading cause of rust color in water is the growth of Leptothrix bacteria in the water. The more soluble iron content there is in the water, the faster the bacteria will reproduce. The rust color in the water is a natural byproduct of that feeding and reproduction process. In fact, it can even stain your plumbing fixtures if left untreated.

In some cases, you might even find sediment in your hot water tank or at the bottom of your sink that's brown, black or dark red. If your water is heavily saturated with iron, you'll also need to replace the anode rod frequently, because the iron content can cause the rod to fail prematurely.

Treating The Tank

The most effective treatment option for eliminating bacteria from your hot water tank is a chlorine flush. If the water is heavy with iron, you might need to treat the tank twice before it's fully clean. If the problem is severe, you might have to add a chlorine filtration system to your hot water tank.

How To Treat The Tank With Chlorine

The first step to a proper chlorine treatment is to turn off the power or the fuel supply to the water heater. Then, close the water supply valve. Drain the tank fully by turning on a hot water faucet in the house and opening the drain valve. Turning on the hot water faucet will break the vacuum that is created in the tank, allowing it to drain.

Close the drain once the tank is empty. Then, you can pull out the anode rod. Put a funnel into the hole that's left where the anode rod was, and use that funnel to pour chlorine into the tank. You'll want a gallon of chlorine for every 25 gallons that your tank holds. Remove the funnel, replace the anode rod and open the valve on the water supply line.

Refill your hot water tank, then turn the hot water on to every faucet in your house. When you start to smell chlorine coming through the tap, shut the hot water off. Do the same with your dishwasher, washing machine and any other hot water spouts. This ensures that the chlorine cleans the entire hot water system.

Let the chlorine solution sit for a couple of hours, then drain the tank again using the same process. Refill the tank, then run the water at each hot water outlet until you don't smell any more chlorine. Once you have eliminated the residual chlorine smell, you can return your water heater to its normal operation.

If you're a new homeowner or just unfamiliar with the threat of bacteria in your hot water tank, the information here can help you identify and address it. If you're unsure of what you're facing with your tank, you can call a plumber to evaluate it and help you eliminate any problems.

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9 March 2015

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