Wednesday, January 13, 2016

RV Troubled Waters

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We are new at this RV game. This is our first winter with our brand new motorhome. We are loving the weather here in North Central Florida. However, my wife is not a happy camper right now.

We keep getting a rotten egg smell from our water. I think it is from the hot water tank, but I can't be sure. She thinks it must be caused by the motorhome water storage tank and does not want to use our water until we fix this issue.

I tell her it won't kill us, we just won't drink it. She is adamant about not drinking it, showering or even washing the dishes.

Am I being too flip about this or could it be a serious issue?
--Troubled Waters in Juniper Springs

Dear Troubled:
Like many questions I get, I just have to take a stab at what might be your issue. A couple things come to mind immediately. First, make sure it is a water system smell. It is very possibly one or more of your batteries could be boiling. That gives off a very sulfur, rotten egg smell.

The next thing that comes to mind is your water source. You sound like you are in the Ocala National Forest area of Florida. Many springs in the Ocala area are sulfur springs. Your water could be coming from just such a source.

Think back about where you filled last. If you are connected, check your source. I think I would be safe in saying it is not your tanks. If you find it is your water source you will want to flush your hot water tank occasionally and maybe your water storage tank. You will most likely find a recommended measure of bleach in the manufacturer's manual or a million places online.

If it turns out to be your batteries it is possible your coach converter is not shutting down when the batteries are fully charged. This is something you want to solve immediately.

It is not so critical if it turns out to be a water source problem. You could just put up with the smell and pretend you are visiting Yellowstone National Park.
--Keep Smilin', Dr. R.V. Shrink


electricbuzz said...

I have smell problem also. It smells using hot or cold. It's certified city water using the proper white hose. I use a Camco product that is supposed to keep it sweet. I'm going to try one of the new disinfectants when it comes out of storage. I did try emptying the hot water heater with no luck.

Unknown said...

Another potential source of 'rotten egg smell' in the plumbing is a water line that dead-ends for a potential option that was not installed. We had the same problem with the hot water line in the bathroom sink in out Montana 5th wheel and occasionally got a funny rotten egg smell from there. We finally traced the water line between the hot water heater and sink, and found there was a Y-connection in the line near the sink that lead to a closet where there were connections for a potential clothes washer. We removed the Y-connections (hot and cold lines) and replaced then with a valve, sanitized the lines, blew them out with compressed air, and closed the valves leading to the closet. We have no plans to install a clothes washer, but the lines are there, dry, closed off, and we also don't have to worry winterizing them since they are dry.

jean said...

My goodness, Dr Shrink! is there anything about motorhomes, etc that you do not know? Happy Happy New Year and good travelin' - by the way - Keep On Smilin' too! Jean

jean said...

7:22 today? Do you really operate as the rest of the world does - on a deadline? It seems so to be. J

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, we camped in upstate New York. Sulfur water was our only water source. Horrible mixed with toothpaste flavor when brushing. Revolting mixed with Kool Aid. Then we discovered a little trick. If you let the water sit in a glass for about a minute, the hydrogen sulfide gas (typically the source of the odor) would dissipate and the water no longer offended our taste buds. Thanks for triggering memories long ago forgotten!

Bill said...

Not just springs, but many wells in Central Florida, some other coastal areas, and some areas above shale or sandstone can have sulfates in the water. You might ask the campground owner/operator if they know the level and if they have a suggestion for dealing with it. The campground may have a treatment system, which may need maintenance and they haven't noticed yet. The local health department may also have some information. A filter may remove it, or you could just use bottled water while you are there. Sulfates in drinking water rarely cause any problems, although some people may experience gastrointestinal problems until they become habituated.

Anonymous said...

A “rotten egg” smell is a common problem in residential hot water heaters. There are many websites that describe the problem and offer solutions. In essence, well water can contain bacteria that “eat” sulfur and produce H2S gas as a by-product. The H2S is what produces the rotten egg smell. Neither the bacteria nor the H2S are harmful to one’s health. You can safely drink water that smells like rotten eggs.
There are many different solutions to be found on the Internet. Basically they fall into two types: killing the bacteria, or changing the hot water tank anode to a different metal that doesn’t generate as many hydrogen ions in the water.
To kill the bacteria, you can heat the water to 140 degrees for several hours. This worked well for us in our sticks-and-bricks home; after 8 hours, we returned the temperature to a lower setting and the smell was gone. Alternately, you can try putting a bleach solution into the hot water tank, or use hydrogen peroxide. I can’t advise on the concentration of either.
Changing the hot water tank anode can change the chemistry of the water, reducing the bacterial activity. Contact the manufacturer of your hot water heater to find out if a different anode is available for your model.
Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Let's talk basics first. I've see many RV'rs leave their black tank valve OPEN WHILE IN CAMP. This will cause a back flow of this smell into your rig. Always keep it shut, until ready to dump.