Water Heater Maintenance Guide | Signs of a Failing Anode Rod

Water Heater Maintenance Guide | Signs of a Failing Anode Rod

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Video water heater without anode rod

Water Heater Troubleshooting

Is your water heater not performing up to par? It could be due to a worn-out anode rod. Anode rods are crucial components of tank-style water heaters. They sacrifice themselves to protect the lining of your water heater by corroding over time. This means that every few years, you will need to replace the anode rod to ensure your water heater functions optimally. In this guide, we will explore how to troubleshoot anode rod issues and know when it’s time for a replacement.

Types of Anode Rods

There are four primary types of anode rods commonly found in gas and electric tank-style water heaters:

  • Magnesium: The most commonly used anode rod, magnesium rods corrode quickly and should not be used in homes with hard water.
  • Aluminum: Inexpensive and long-lasting, aluminum anode rods are perfect for homes with hard water.
  • Zinc/Aluminum: These anode rods, consisting of 10% zinc mixed with aluminum, are effective in eliminating odor-causing bacteria if your water has a sulfuric smell.
  • Electrical (non-sacrificial): Unlike traditional anode rods, electrical rods use pulses to remove corrosive elements from the water. They last significantly longer than other types.

Generally, anode rods are interchangeable, and you can replace one type with another. However, always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions before making any changes. Now, let’s move on to how to determine if your anode rod needs replacing.

Signs of a Failing Anode Rod

The most prominent indication of a bad anode rod is when your hot water smells unpleasant or appears discolored. When the anode rod has corroded completely, it can no longer protect the water heater lining. Typically, an anode rod lasts around five years before needing replacement. To confirm if your anode rod is the cause of your water issues, follow these steps:

  1. Close the water supply shut-off valve.
  2. Open a hot water faucet for about a minute to relieve pressure in the tank.
  3. Turn off the electricity or gas supply to your water heater.
  4. Attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank and drain several gallons of hot water into a sink or bucket.
  5. Inspect the drained water for rust or sediment. If it appears discolored, gritty, or has an unpleasant odor, consider fully draining and flushing the tank.
  6. Locate the hex head on top of the water tank. Unscrew it with an impact wrench (or socket) and remove it completely by hand. This will give you access to the anode rod.
  7. Detach the anode rod using a spray lubricant if it’s stuck due to corrosion. Inspect its condition. A corroded anode rod may appear pitted or have sections missing.
  8. If the anode rod is corroded, it’s time for a replacement.

If the water seemed fine and the anode rod is in good condition, reverse the above steps to restore your water heater’s normal functioning. However, if you’re unsure or need professional assistance, reach out to a licensed plumber.

Replacing the Anode Rod

Once you’ve determined that your anode rod is faulty, it’s time for a replacement. Follow the steps outlined above in reverse order, using your new anode rod. When selecting a replacement, consider your water’s condition and your budget. Zinc/aluminum or electric anode rods are excellent choices for eliminating bacteria that cause foul smells. If budget is a concern, go for magnesium, but be prepared to replace it more frequently.

Flexible anode rods are available for all types (except electric) and are recommended for areas with limited clearance above the heater. These rods have segments that snap together, making them easier to remove, inspect, and replace.

Trust Mr. Rooter for Water Heater Issues

If you’re experiencing troubles with your water heater, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Mr. Rooter. Our dedicated team is well-versed in anode rod replacements, troubleshooting, and repairs for all types of water heaters. Call us today or visit our website for more information and to request an estimate. Remember, a functional water heater is essential for a comfortable home.

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