The Role And Replacement Of A Water Heater Anode Rod

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The anode rod is perhaps the single most important component in ensuring that your water heater enjoys a long lifespan. Yet relatively few people understand the vital role played by the anode rod--let alone how to replace one. If you would like to improve your knowledge of water heater maintenance, read on. This article will get you up to speed with everything you should know about the anode rod.

The Basics

Tank corrosion is one of the most common reasons why a water heater fails. Without anything to stand in its way, corrosion will begin to attack the walls of your tank. Eventually, it will cause leaks to spring and may even lead to the tank collapsing entirely. Fortunately, the anode rod functions to prevent this from happening.

The basic idea here is that an anode rod represents a much more appealing target for corrosion than your tank itself. This is accomplished by virtue of the fact that an anode rod is composed of a so-called sacrificial metal such as magnesium, zinc, or aluminum. These metals attract corrosion and thus protect your tank--that is, until the anode rod itself has been entirely consumed.

Anode Rod Inspection

An anode rod that has become excessively corroded will no longer serve its purpose. In other words, at this point, corrosion will begin to attack your tank once more. Thus, it is important to assess the state of the anode rod from time to time. Should the sacrificial metal on the outside of the rod be chewed away enough that it reveals the thin steel underwire, it is likely time for a new anode. Generally speaking, if more than 6" of steel wire is visible, the rod should be replaced immediately.

Accessing The Rod

The anode rod is removed from the top of the heater. Take a look and you should be able to find a flat hex bolt somewhere on this top panel. Unscrewing this bolt with an appropriately sized wrench will allow you to lift out and inspect the anode rod. Yet before you attempt this task, you must ensure a safe working environment.

First of all, you will need to shut off your water heater several hours before you intend to undertake this task. That way, the water will have time to cool down to a non-scalding temperature. Next, you will have a much easier time loosening the hex bolt if you begin by giving it a squirt of lubricant to help overcome any corrosion.

Be aware that most anode rods contain a number of joints along their length. These allow the rod to be bent as it goes into and comes out of the tank, thus permitting its easy removal even in the relatively cramped space of a basement. 

For more information and assistance, contact a company that specializes in water heater repair, like HELP Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric.