The type of answer that far too many homeowners respond to when faced with the question posed in the title is: “What’s an anode rod?”
If you use a tank water heater to provide hot water in your home, and you do not know what an anode rod is, then this is the post for you. Why? Well, the short answer is that the anode rod is all that stands between your hot water storage tank and total obliteration!
Okay, that last bit was a little melodramatic, but that does nothing to change that an anode rod really is your hot water tank’s best source of protection from the damage and eventual leaks caused by corrosion. An anode rod doesn’t last forever, either. In fact, it’s not supposed to. That means that your anode rod is going to have to be replaced at least a few times throughout the course of your water heater’s lifespan. Be sure to schedule your water heater services in Phoenix, AZ with The Sunny Plumber Phoenix.
Okay, So What Is an Anode Rod and Why Is It Important?
First, think about the way water and metal interact. You do not need to be a renowned chemist to know that water causes metal to rust. And your hot water tank is a big, metal container filled with water. So why doesn’t it rust out? The answer is that it would, and can, without a good anode rod in place.
An anode rod is also called a sacrificial anode, which is a very fitting moniker. Basically, the anode rod—which is usually installed in the top of the tank and hangs down into it—is a rod made specifically of materials that will draw and interact with corrosive elements in the water that comes into your home and the water heater. They are usually made of aluminum or zinc, though magnesium rods, which don’t last as long, are also common.
By drawing these elements away from the tank, the anode rod is able to protect it effectively but not indefinitely. Eventually, the rod will waste away. When it does, corrosion can attack the tank itself. While tanks do have a glass/ceramic liner to protect them, the constant exposure to high heat will lead to cracks over time. That’s all it takes for corrosion to set in.
When Do I Replace My Anode Rod?
When your professional plumber, during routine maintenance, tells you its time! You don’t want to be fiddling around with your water heater too much. Routine maintenance keeps it functioning effectively, reliably, and safely, and it also gives us the chance to remove and evaluate your anode rod. They’re typically going to last for a few years, but a lot of factors, including water quality, will affect that. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in this scenario.
Remember, there is no patching up a leaking water heater tank. Once it goes, it’s gone. Protecting your tank with a good anode rod and regular service can’t make it last forever, but it will maximize the lifespan of the system.