A Nod to the Anode Rod and Water Heater Maintenance

Ever get a sticker in the mail that advertises flushing your tank style water heater? 

For those of us who live in San Diego, a hard water zone, this is an unnecessary and water wasting task. Unfortunately, it is also unlikely to lengthen the life span of your water heater. We don’t recommend that you waste the hot water in the tank by flushing your water heater every year because this really won’t be able to keep up with the day-to-day mineral build up that occurs in the bottom of the tank  Instead, we recommend that you inspect the anode rod and expect to change it approximately after five years.

San Diego’s hard water is caused by the high mineral content of our water supply.  Calcium binds with the H2O molecules and creates sediment (literally rocks) in the bottom of your water heater tank.  If you drain it out once per year you are doing very little to stop this sediment from building up on the bottom of the tank. 

Under the steel cover, tank style water heaters have a glass lining to help separate the water and metals.  The anode rod is a long rod that attracts the corrosive elements in the water, which conversely distracts those elements from corroding the tank itself, thereby preserving the tank.  The anode rod is known in the industry as a sacrificial rod.  Manufacturers recommend replacing the anode rod when there is more than six inches of core wire exposed at either end of the rod.  But you can’t see this from the outside of the water heater. The anode rod is long and to change it, you typically need room above the water heater because it is almost as tall as the tank.  (For tight spaces, there are also linked anode rods that have bends between links in the rod.)  If an inspection shows that the core wire is exposed, then changing out the anode rod will certainly lengthen the life span of the water heater enabling you to get the full value of this appliance that is working day and night to provide you with hot water. 

If you have a water softener system, we recommend that you inspect the anode rod annually and will likely change it out more frequently, possibly every two years.  Accelerating the timeline for changing out the anode rod is recommended, because the added minerals and chemicals from the soft water that runs through the water heater attacks this sacrificial rod quicker.  When the anode nod is deteriorated the corrosive elements attack the tank.  If the anode rod has already dissolved then it is too late  to change it out and your water heater is subject to the corrosive elements that will eventually cause the tank to leak. Therefore, to extend the life of your water heater forget draining the tank and take the time to inspect the anode rod and plan on changing it out after approximately five years.

We pulled a five-year-old anode rod recently posted the image on Next Door and Facebook.    The photo shows its deteriorating, which means it is doing its job.  Some of the rod is completely missing from the bottom exposing the core wire.  We changed this out right on time and by doing so expect that this will also extend the life of the water heater tank.  Need help or want to schedule an inspetion? Call us or ask us next time we are out to perform this for you.  It won't take long. 

 

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