Water Heater Troubleshooting: Water Heater Smells Strange

What You'll Need
Your nose

If you are noticing a strange or even rotten smell coming from your water heater, you are probably wondering if water heater troubheshooting is in order. There are a couple of different things that could be causing such a problem. And while the common sources of these smells may not necessarily affect the smell or taste of the water coming out of your hot water faucet, they can be potential fire hazards and should be taken care of immediately.

Step 1 - Turn on the Hot Water

Most hot water heaters will produce a smell when switched on. When it initially fires up, the heater produces fumes from the draft hood. These fumes then get vented out through the draft and filtered outside the house. If this is not happening, the fumes linger, and you could have a problem with ventilation, or it may be a problem with the air pressure.

Step 2 - Check the Outside Vent

Another source of such a smell, unfortunately, may be the result of an animal—a mouse, a rat or a bird perhaps—that has gotten caught and has died inside the ventilation pipe. Go outside to where your water heater vents. Be sure the vent is cool before you try to remove the screws and take a peek inside.