Water heater smells like gas - here’s what to do

When a water heater smells like gas, it can rightfully cause concern for the homeowner. Water heaters keep the water at a comfortable temperature for showers and baths. They also ensure the water reaches an optimal temperature for washing dishes and clothes.

However, these appliances do more than make your life more convenient on a utilitarian level. They can also pose a threat to your property and family without prompt, professional services to address malfunctions. If your water heater emits a gaseous odor, contact our emergency plumber in St. George, UT, immediately by calling (435) 500-2576.

Otherwise, continue reading to find out what to do when you smell gas coming from your water heater. 

Do You Have a Gas Leak?

The first concern that likely pops into your mind is whether your water heater has sprung a gas leak. Homeowners should always address this question first to ensure the safety of their families and properties. Although your water heaters can emit a strong odor for various reasons, eliminating the most dangerous concern brings peace of mind and protects your loved ones and home.

How can you tell whether you have a gas leak? Determine whether the scent you’ve detected is just a gassy smell or has something more to its odor. For example, you may pick up a burning smell coming from your water heater.

A burning smell may indicate the presence of a gas leak. You might detect other unpleasant odors resembling:


      • Sulfur

      • Rotten eggs

      • Scorched rubber

      • Sweaty socks

      • Paint thinner

    Since most natural gas leaks don’t otherwise emit a smell or color, read below for other common gas leak indicators.  

    Signs of a Gas Leak

    If you picked up on a worrying smell, check for other common symptoms associated with a gas leak. For example, water heaters can make a high-pitch whistling or hissing sound as their gas connections release pressure from a leak. Some homeowners also observe:


        • Unusually bubbly hot water

        • Increased gas bills

        • Clouds of dust or white, steamy fog near the heater

        • Dead or dying foliage located near the water heater. If the dying plants are indoors, you and your family should leave the vicinity immediately!

        • Visible damage around the gas connection, such as rust, corrosion, and breakage

      Symptoms You Can Experience with a Gas Leak

      You may also exhibit or observe concerning symptoms in family members and pets. Keep an eye out for the following signs of exposure:


          • Fainting

          • Breathing difficulties like shallow breaths or panting

          • Dizziness 

          • Confusion

          • Exhaustion

          • Weakness

          • Irregular heartbeat

        You should see a medical professional regarding these issues, whether you have a gas leak or not. However, exhibiting symptoms coupled with malfunctioning utilities strongly indicate a gas leak.  

        What to Do If You Have a Gas Leak

        Once you’ve determined that your water heater smells like gas due to a leak, your next mission involves getting your family, pets, and yourself to safety. Follow the steps listed below to inform your action plan. 


            1. Turn off your water heater: First, switch the heater’s thermostat to the “off” setting. Then, find the main boiler switch and turn it to the off position. Locating these appliances before an emergency can save lives. 

            1. Create a draft by opening all doors and windows: You want to allow as much gas to escape as possible. Releasing gas outdoors may save your property. 

            1. Evacuate family members and, if possible, your pets: Find a distance up to 350 feet away from your home. Determine a plausible evacuation space before emergencies occur to keep everyone on the same page. 

            1. Call first responders: Firefighters and paramedics will arrive on the scene to examine any family members displaying symptoms of exposure. They’ll also investigate your home to confirm a gas leak and determine the property’s safety. 

            1. Call for prompt emergency repairs: You need a reliable plumbing service provider to assess your water heater for damages. They’ll determine whether you need a repair or replacement

            1. Choose a course of action informed by your HVAC technician: Once your technician determines the cause behind the leak, they’ll help you move forward in your decisions. They possess extensive knowledge about the safest and most cost-effect route for you and your family. 

          Other Common Reasons Why Your Water Heater Smells Like Gas

          Although gas leaks are frightening, they aren’t the only reason why your water heater might stink. You’ll find some other, less dangerous common reasons below. 


          Most water heaters contain an anode rod. This rod draws corrosive substances away from the tank. The substances attach themselves to the rod instead, prolonging your heater’s lifespan.

          Some rods become corroded with time, which causes them to release metal particles into the water supply. These metals react with the other gasses, causing bad odors in your water.  


          Each water source contains sulfate, which presents an excellent feeding source for sulfur-reducing bacteria (SRB). As the bacteria feed on the sulfates, they emit hydrogen sulfide gas. While water treatment protocols typically wipe most bacteria out, the SRB population can rise in water that doesn’t get flushed and replenished. 

          Stagnant Water

          All appliances require regular maintenance, and water heaters are no exception. Without maintenance, the water stagnates and becomes smelly.

          You can avoid this problem with a maintenance plan that includes occasional water flushing. A technician will flush water out of the system until it empties. Then, they’ll refill it with fresh, clean water.

          Sometimes, the smell of stagnant water sticks to the tank. Even repeated flushings don’t solve the stinky problem after going untreated for a long period of time. In this case, you may want to invest in a new water heater and follow up with regular maintenance flushings.

          Flushing your water heater prevents other issues such as:


              • Mineral buildup

              • Extensive corrosion

              • Clogged components

            Contact Iron Mountain Plumbing with Any Water Heater Concerns

            When your water heater smells like gas, contact the best water heater repair company in St. George, Utah. Our technicians at Iron Mountain Plumbing have the tools, training, and experience to protect your family’s comfort and safety. Call us at (435) 500-2576 to speak to a representative at any time of night or day.

            Author Bio:
            Daniel Tanner
            Owner / Managing Member. Iron Mountain Plumbing is located in Cedar City, Utah. This organization primarily operates in the Plumbing Contractors business / industry within the Construction – Special Trade Contractors sector.

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