When Do I Change a Water Heater Anode Rod?

January 24, 2023

Water heater tanks have a feature called a sacrificial anode rod. It attracts corrosive compounds present in water to protect the steel tank. The thin glass lining in most tanks can crack over time. But an anode rod only lasts so long too, as it eventually becomes too corroded to serve its purpose. Although it can last five years, it’s important to be aware of signs it’s time to change a water heater anode rod.

How a Sacrificial Anode Rod Works

An anode rod is often made of magnesium, aluminum, or an aluminum/zinc alloy. Possessing a more negative electrical charge than the steel of the tank, it attracts corrosive materials to itself instead of the steel tank or electrical elements. It will therefore oxidize and corrode faster than these other components. Once the anode rod rusts out, corrosion will accelerate on the tank, eventually causing it to fail and even break.

Change a Water Heater Anode Rod Every 3 to 5 Years

That’s the general rule, but higher temperatures can accelerate corrosion. Water quality and the amount of water traveling through the water heater also affect how long the anode rod lasts. Replacing it when necessary can double the lifespan of your water heater.

How to Check an Anode Rod

You can change a sacrificial anode rod, but it’s best to leave this complex task to a professional. It’s not always easy to access the tank to perform a replacement. Also, you’ll need a few tools, and it can be challenging to remove the old anode. But here’s a look at how you can check it for signs a replacement is needed:

  • Turn off the water supply.

  • Turn off the power at the circuit breaker.

  • Consult the user’s manual for how to access the anode rod (this can vary depending on the water heater model).

Signs the Anode Rod Needs to Be Replaced

Knowing when to check and replace the anode rod can save a lot of money on repairs. It also costs much less to replace than the water heater. And, if the water tank cracks or bursts, a torrent of water can be unleashed, so you could end up with expensive water damage. To avoid such issues, be aware of these signs:

  • Your Water Heater Is Over 5 Years Old: The label on the side of the unit should say when the water heater was built. It may contain an alphanumeric code. This serial number can be deciphered by checking the manufacturer’s website.

  • The Unit Is Noisy: Loud popping sounds during a heating cycle can mean that mineral sediment has hardened inside the tank and that corrosion may already be occurring.

  • Water Is Not as Hot: The water at your faucets and fixtures may be lukewarm or cold. This can be due to excessive sediment at the bottom of the tank. It can also be a sign the heating element has failed.

  • Water Looks Rusty: If water is brown or discolored, there may be corrosion inside the water heater. This can mean the anode rod is at the end of its life. Call a plumber quickly or the heater may develop cracks and leaks.

  • Cracked/Corroded Water Heater: Rust and corrosion on the outside of the water heater likely mean there’s damage inside it too. Water should not collect around the unit. Call a professional ASAP to address the issue.

  • Water Smells: Check the water heater anode rod and the appliance itself if there’s a rotten egg odor coming from hot water.

  • You Use a Water Softener: If there’s a water softener in your home, it can accelerate corrosion, so check the anode rod at least once a year.

  • Water Is Acidic: Also check the anode rod annually if you know you have acidic water, which can also accelerate corrosion.

  • Clogged Faucet Aerators: If the aerators clog frequently and you notice a slimy gel when cleaning them, the anode rod should be checked.

Contact Service Champions

Our experienced team provides water heater repair services in Northern California. Licensed and trained, our technicians are always on time and efficient. They address any problem quickly and effectively. Whether it’s time to check or change a water heater anode rod, schedule a visit by service Champions online or call 833-600-0991 today.

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