Do Tankless Water Heaters Smell?

Tankless water heaters are becoming a popular alternative to traditional tank-style heaters. Instead of heating water and storing it in a tank for use like tank-style water heaters, tankless models heat water on demand. This on-demand style of producing hot water allows homeowners to save money with the more energy-efficient system and reduce space consumption, maintenance costs, and replacement frequency. 

So, you decided to replace your old tank-style water heater with a tankless model. However, you notice the system emanates an unpleasant odor during use. Is it normal for the tank to smell? If it’s functioning normally, powerful odors are atypical. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is A Tankless Water Heater?

As mentioned, tankless water heaters are an excellent alternative to their less efficient counterpart. They’re a tankless version of the traditional water heater (like the name implies), producing hot water as you need it in your home. 

These water heaters utilize an electric element or gas burner, which heats the water passing through before shipping it to wherever you need it in your home. The unit is usually mounted on the wall, saving precious floor space in a cramped garage or maintenance room. 

Since they don’t produce a tank full of water and keep it warm until you use it, these heaters are highly efficient. Of course, demand can impact this efficiency, as the system produces water as you need it. So, if multiple people in your home simultaneously use water-consuming appliances, your tankless water heater might struggle to keep up. 

What Causes A Tankless Water Heater To Smell?

When tankless water heaters are operating correctly, they shouldn’t emanate any unpleasant smells. If your water heater produces pungent odors, there’s a good chance something is amiss.

Tankless water heaters skip most of the typical water heater problems, as they don’t have a tank. For example, the common issue of rotten egg smells from water heaters doesn’t typically plague these systems, as they don’t have a holding tank that promotes the perfect environment for sulfur bacteria (since they heat water on demand). This problem can also result from a corroded anode rod in those water heaters. 

So, if your water heater stinks, with a stale, musty, or rotting smell near the system, it could be the result of a leak. This is pretty unusual with tankless water heaters, but it can happen. If you suspect there might be a leak, check around the system for water damage. 

Water leakage could cause significant damage to surrounding areas and create the perfect environment for mold and mildew. Growth of these colonies could cause flare-ups in allergies and health issues, so it’s essential to handle these problems sooner rather than later.

You might sometimes smell a faint odor of combustible fumes while the system runs, which is okay. However, since the system uses a closed-off system that doesn’t vent into your living space, you shouldn’t smell pungent gas odors.

Is It Normal To Smell Gas From A Tankless Water Heater?

Gas tankless water heaters may emanate the smell of gas from time to time. However, this isn’t an everyday occurrence and can indicate the presence of a severe problem. If you smell gas coming from the system, this likely indicates a leak somewhere.

Generally, these water heaters give off a gas smell when there’s a leak or incomplete combustion, both of which can be serious. Gas leaks can quickly become hazardous, so if you smell gas near your tankless water heater, immediately call a professional to examine the system.

How Do I Get Rid Of The Smell In My Tankless Water Heater?

The process of eliminating the unpleasant odor from your tankless water heater comes down to what is causing the odor. While homeowners can handle certain problems with the water heater, it’s usually best to leave substantial issues to a professional. 

For instance, if your water heater smells strongly of gas, it’s best to avoid tinkering with it yourself, as these fumes can be hazardous. Instead, call a professional to examine the system for a potential leak or malfunctioning component that could be allowing leakage. 

Or, if your tankless water heater smells musty, stale, or rotten, check for signs of water damage. If the problem is evident and easy to repair, you can correct the problem yourself (if you feel comfortable doing so). Sometimes, the leak might lie further back in the plumbing, so it might take extra work to locate the issue. However, if you’re unfamiliar with these repairs or can’t find the origin, it’s best to pass the problem to a licensed professional.

Generally, plumbers charge anywhere from $70 to $120 per hour, not including parts. So, you can expect to pay anywhere up to several hundred dollars (or more, depending on the severity of the problem) to isolate and resolve the issue. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Tankless Water Heaters Safe?

Compared to their traditional tank-style counterpart, tankless water heaters are reasonably safe. Unlike the alternative, these water heaters don’t have a massive holding tank containing hot water that could overheat or explode. While there are hazards associated with tankless water heaters, they’re generally safer than tank-style water heaters.

How Long Do Tankless Water Heaters Last?

Tankless water heaters are pricier than their tank-style counterpart, even though they aren’t nearly as large. However, while they cost more, you can usually get more out of them. These water heaters can last up to 25 years, which is considerably longer than standard water heaters, which typically tap out within 8-12 years. 

Do Tankless Water Heaters Require Maintenance? 

Like any appliance, regular maintenance is essential for prolonging the lifespan of your tankless water heater. Although it won’t make the system last forever, maintenance will help ensure your system runs smoothly and catch problems as they arise. 

In comparison to tank-style water heaters, tankless water heaters require less maintenance. That said, they still need care for optimal function, so it’s essential to have a professional complete annual or semi-annual maintenance.

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