Apartment Hot-water Heater Emits Foul Odors - La Times

QUESTION: I live in an apartment where there is an electric hot-water heater. When showering or washing at the kitchen sink, I detect a foul odor coming from the hot water. I can live with the smell, but I'd like to know what's causing it.

ANSWER: A domestic water heater basically consists of a lined steel tank. The lining is usually vitreous enamel (glass) but can be concrete (stone) or copper.

Because the lining may have imperfections and pinholes, most heaters are equipped with a sacrificial magnesium anode rod that's suspended inside the tank to minimize tank corrosion. The electrochemical action that causes corrosion takes place between the water and the anode, rather than between the water and the tank.

Therefore, the life of the tank is increased. Some tanks are constructed so that the magnesium anode can be replaced if necessary.

The odor is probably the result of a reaction between the water and the magnesium anode. Water sometimes contains a high sulfate or mineral content. These chemicals can react with the anode and produce hydrogen sulfide or rotten-egg odor in the heated water.

It's also possible the odor is the result of the action on the anode of certain non-harmful bacteria in the water. In either case, chlorination of the water should eliminate or at least minimize the problem.

Replacement Anodes Can be Flexible Type

Q: I realize magnesium anodes are installed in water heaters to extend their life. However, replacing them when they corrode away is usually difficult because the headroom above the water heater is generally less than the length of the anode. Do you have any suggestions on how a replacement anode can be installed?

A: Flexible sausage-link type replacement anodes are available for installation in tanks where the ceiling clearance is limited. Each anode link is about 12 inches long and there are about four links strung on a wire. The anode string is about 52 inches long and costs about $45. It can generally be purchased from a plumbing supply company.

Air Conditioning for Room Addition

Q: We live in a 1,200-square-foot, one-story house, and plan to add a family room to the kitchen. We have an oil-fired hot water heating system with baseboard radiators. Would it be practical to centrally air condition our house? Can the ducts be run through the attic? And how would it be powered?

A: It is possible--in fact, relatively easy--to install central air conditioning in a one-story house. The basic components of an air-conditioning system are the compressor-condenser, ducts and a blower coil or air handler. The compressor-condenser is usually located outside the house. Refrigerant lines run from the unit to the blower coil--up the outside wall and along the attic floor.

Unless the attic is extremely low and inaccessible, the blower coil is usually located there. The ducts run along the ceiling beams to ceiling registers located in the various rooms.

When a blower coil is located in the attic, mount it on an insulating material to minimize vibration noise. You should have an auxiliary condensate drain pan located below the unit to collect overflow if the primary condensate drain becomes clogged. If your electrical service to the house is not at least 100 amps at 220 volts, it will have to be upgraded.

Can't Install Toilet Without Some Digging

Q: I'm interested in installing a toilet in my basement. However, I don't want to dig up the basement floor for tanks or piping, and the sewer line is 5 feet above the floor.

An up-flush toilet would be the solution, except that it's not approved in my state.

I have been advised that an ejector system is approved for this application, but have found no one who is familiar with such a system. What is an ejector system and who manufactures components?

A: Before getting into the mechanics of an ejector system, realize that it still will be necessary to dig up a section of your basement floor.

An ejector system is basically a submersible pump mounted in a tank located below the lowest fixture. The pump lifts the waste to the level of the municipal sewer line.

Although the tank is usually below the basement floor slab, it could be buried in a side yard below the level of the basement floor. This, however, would require a hole through the foundation wall so the tank could be connected to the waste line.

One manufacturer of components for this system is Gould Pumps Inc. (Seneca Falls, N.Y. 13148). Since you will not have many fixtures discharging into the tank, you can use a Simplex Sewage Ejector System, which Gould sells for about $650.

It includes an 18-inch diameter, 30-inch-high tank, a pump, one-half horsepower motor, check valve and float switch.

Use Vinyl Tile to Cover Smooth Concrete Floor

Q: I'd like to cover the concrete floor with tile. The concrete is even and has no cracks or holes. Can you tell me what kind of flooring to buy and give me any hints on installation?

A: Since your floor has no irregularities, cracks or holes, it will require no other preparation than cleaning. You can use vinyl tile or vinyl-composition tile.

The latter used to be called vinyl-asbestos tile, but because of the nationwide scare over asbestos, the word

asbestos

is no longer used. Actually, a product containing asbestos is not a health hazard unless it has been damaged or has deteriorated to the point where the asbestos fibers are becoming airborne. The asbestos in floor tiles is encapsulated by the vinyl and, as such, does not pose a health hazard.

Before laying the tiles, make sure the concrete is dry enough to ensure a good bond. Be sure to use an adhesive that's appropriate for your type of tile.

For example, adhesive for vinyl-composition tile shouldn't be used with vinyl tile because it is not strong enough.

For further information on any home problem, write to Popular Mechanics, Readers Service Bureau, 224 W. 57th St., New York, N.Y. 10019.

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