If you want to get the absolute maximum number of years of service out of your hot water heater, you need to learn a little about one vital component. The metal anode is the essential key that provides protection from rust and determines the longevity of the tank. Follow these tips to help you understand the workings of water heater anodes and some simple steps you can take to save precious dollars.
The Role of Anodes
Anodes are metal rods with an inside core of steel wire. They are suspended inside the hot water tank. Usually they are manufactured from magnesium or aluminium with a coating of zinc.
Without the presence of the anode, impurities and substances in the water react with the metal on the inside of the tank and trigger the process of corrosion.
The function of the anodes is to attract these substances away from the tank and undergo the gradual corrosion and eventual deterioration instead of it happening to the tank. For this reason they are often termed "sacrificial anodes".
Check Your Hot Water Heater Anode
The most common cause of hot water tank failure is allowing the anode to completely wear out and disintegrate, leaving the tank vulnerable to rust.
It is important to keep a close eye on the state of your hot water anode and replace it when it shows signs of too much wear. Check to see if the anode rod is splitting or there is a large amount of exposed core wire as they indicate a need for replacement. The simple maintenance of replacing the anode regularly every few years will add many years to its life.
Choose the Anode Replacement Rod
You can find replacement anodes at home improvement and hardware supply stores. Expect to pay around the $20 mark.
Anodes are available in various lengths to suit all sizes of tank and the handy flexible variety allows the rod to bend. These are ideal for situations that require the work to be done in a confined space.
You also have the choice of purchasing either aluminium or magnesium anodes. There are pros and cons for each metal, so the choice will depend on your individual needs and preferences.
Aluminium rods tend to be less expensive and are popular for that reason. On the other hand aluminum is inclined to collect a larger build up of corrosive materials that accumulate on the bottom of the tank
Magnesium anodes, are thought to offer greater efficiency as the metal is capable of generating a stronger current and improved protection However, the initial outlay is more expensive.
Replace the Rod
If it turns out that you need a rod replacement, it's fairly simple to do. The tools you need are very basic:
- Screwdriver—flat blade
- Socket wrench
- Ratchet or breaker bar
Proceed with care as you are dealing with extremely hot water.
- Turn of the electricity or gas supply for the heater and close the shut off valve.
- Relieve water pressure in the home by gently turning on a bathroom or laundry tap just slightly.
- Drain off a few litres of water from the tank by opening the valve on the bottom and lower the level from the top of the tank.
- Unscrew the hex head on top of the water heater—usually situated near the outlet flue and release the anode rod. A good spray of lubricant will assist in loosening it.
If you are reluctant to play around with hot water and electricity or gas, it is quite understandable. The small cost of securing a qualified technician to carry out an inspection and replacement every few years is well worth it when you compare it with the cost of a new heater.