Think of an anode rod as the Unsung Hero of your water heater: a good one enhances the performance of MVP (your water heater), and the whole system works better because of it. Read on to learn what that means for homeowners, why you should replace anode rods periodically and how to replace an anode rod (if you're interested in trying to do it yourself).
What’s an Anode Rod?
Most water heater tanks have two lines of defense against interior corrosion: glass lining and the anode rod. When the glass develops minuscule cracks, the anode rod picks up the slack. Coated in magnesium, aluminum, or an aluminum/zinc alloy, the steel core anode rod is designed to corrode before the rest of the tank. (Way to take one for the team, anode rod!) Note that plastic-lined tanks do not have anode rods.
Because they corrode faster, anode rods need to be replaced every 3 to 5 years; if you don’t replace them, the rust can get into the water and the rest of the steel tank will start corroding. Replacing them extends the life of your water heater tank.
Replacing Anode Rods
Replacing an anode rod, which you can buy at a hardware store or home improvement center, involves a number of steps:
- Close the shutoff valve (you know what that is because you read our blog post on plumbing terms). Turn on a hot water faucet to relieve pressure and turn off power to the water heater.
- Close the cold-water valve near the top. Open the drain valve (bottom of the tank) and drain out several gallons of very hot water. Check the water for rusty flakes—orange water can come from pipes or well water, so flakes are the marker.
- Remove the rod. Look for the hex head near the top of the tank. The anode rod will likely be so corroded that it’s stuck to the side of the tank. To loosen it, use a 1 1/16-inch socket wrench if the hex head is below the top of the heater and any wrench if it’s above. You may also need an air compressor or WD-40.
- Put pipe sealant (not tape!) on the new anode rod and screw it in place.
- Drain another gallon or so of water out of the tank, then open the valves you’ve shut, turn off the hot water faucet elsewhere, and restore power to the water heater tank.
Need an Anode Rod Replacement?
Although anode rod replacement can be a DIY project, many people opt to skip the hassle and hire a plumber. We’re here to help! We serve Charlotte and the surrounding 25-mile radius and are available 365 days a year. We can replace anode rods as well as perform other water heater maintenance and repair. Call us at (704) 846-5371 or use our contact form to schedule an anode rod replacement.
Quick question & answer: How do I replace an anode rod?
Replace an anode rod by closing the shut off valve, turning on hot water, and turning off power to the water heater. Then, close cold-water valve, open drain valve, and drain several gallons of steaming hot water. Remove rod and put pipe sealant on new anode rod. Drain water, open valves again, and restore power to the water heater tank.