What is an anode in a hot water heater?
An anode rod or sacrificial anode is part of a hot water tank protecting your water system against rust. Anode rods are a crucial piece of hot water systems and ensure the lifespan of your tank.
A sacrificial anode is a steel rod surrounded by magnesium, aluminium or zinc and is located on the top of water heaters. It works through a process called electrolysis.
The sacrificial anode will corrode instead of the water heater steel, saving the hot water system from creating rusty water and bursting. Hot water tanks made from stainless steel do not corrode and, therefore, do not have an anode rod.
How often should you replace the anode rod in a water heater?
Many people are unaware that a water heater anode should be replaced regularly. They assist in working fine if a tank produces hot water and a continuous water supply. However, understanding what is happening behind the scenes and inside the unit is crucial.
Your hot water system, either electric, gas or solar, has a shelf life of around 10-12 years, depending on the condition of your system.
They may suffer from leaks and temperature and water pressure issues from time to time. But generally, if your anode rod is inspected and changed at the right time, you can increase the tank’s durability and overall life span. Changing your hot water tank anode rod is recommended every 3-4 years.
You should remove the anode,
- If the sacrificial anode rod has been 3+ years since you last changed your anode rod
- Your hot water tank makes a popping noise when heating up
- You want to extend the lifespan of your water tank
- You notice bad-smelling water
- You have a higher-than-usual water bill
How do you change an anode rod in a hot water heater?
You will need a replacement sacrificial anode, a bucket, and an impact socket. Make sure you have these materials ready.
Step 1: Turn off the power supply to your water heater at the circuit breaker. You must also shut the gas supply off if yours is powered by gas. Then, turn off the cold water supply on the unit’s side or top to let the tank fill. Switch on a hot water tap or hot water faucet to relieve the tank pressure.
Step 2: Drain the tank water by opening the drain and hot water valve. You can partially drain about 10% of the water supply in the tank. Have your bucket or garden hose handy to divert the water outside. Attach your hose to the boiler drain, which you can find at the bottom of the tank.
Step 3: Find the anode or sacrificial rod. You may have to remove the top lid or remove the plastic cap and look inside the heater.
Step 4: Removing the rod may prove difficult. Getting help from another person may be beneficial. Loosen the hex head bolt with a large and durable socket wrench. Once the bolt is loosened, you can remove the anode rod. Be careful, for this action might cause broken pipes or leaks.
Step 5: Install your new anode rod. You can use a plumber’s tape (Teflon Tape) to wrap around the joint threads. Use your socket wrench to tighten (not over-tighten) the rod into the opening. It would help to tighten it by hand and then use the wrench at 180 degrees to finish it. Then, turn on the power for your hot water and cold water supply.
Most of the time, for your hot water systems, it is best to contact a licensed plumber and check the condition of your water heater and sacrificial anodes. They will have the right tools for this hot water service, like correctly removing your existing water heater anode rod and new anode replacement.