What Does An Anode Rod Do?

Old anode rod from hot water heater that needs replacing and new rod

If you’ve been reading about hot water heater repair, you may have come across the term “anode rod.”

The anode rod plays a significant role in extending the life of your hot water heater, yet many consumers don’t know what one actually does.

Heat, pressure, and chemical compounds in your water supply make hot water tanks vulnerable to rust. Luckily, the anode rod is a critical component on the inside of your water heater that prevents it from rusting prematurely.

So how does an anode rod work and how can you use it to extend the life of your water heater? Read on to learn more about this important element of your water heater!

 

How does an anode rod work?

The anode rod essentially sacrifices itself for the life of your hot water heater’s tank.

The anode rod is made from a metal with a more active voltage and higher electrochemical potential than the metal of the tank, which is typically made from steel. This means the anode rod’s metal will give up electrons and corrode before the tougher steel metal of the tank will. As this lesser metal corrodes, electrons are distributed into the tank, creating a more favorable chemical environment that prevents the corrosion of the steel tank itself.

 

What are the different types of anode rods?

Anode rods typically come in three varieties, made up of three different types of metals: magnesium, aluminum, and zinc. The magnesium anode rod is the most common type of anode rod. The magnesium rods are best used in areas with soft water as they corrode easily. The second most common type is the aluminum anode rod. Unlike the magnesium rods, aluminum rods are great for areas with hard water like Upstate New York, as they hold up better to the minerals and sediments dissolved in the water. The last type of anode rod is a zinc and aluminum blend. These rods are aluminum-based and only contain 10 percent of zinc. The zinc is added to alleviate water with sulfurous odors, preventing that noxious rotten-egg smell.

 

How often should I replace the anode rod?

Anode rods are critical in extending the life of your water heater. Unfortunately, anode rods have life expectancies far shorter than their water heaters.

While your average hot water heater will last 10 years, anode rods only have a 5 year life expectancy. Chances are, if you have a water heater more than 5 years old, it’s time you get your anode rods replaced.

“For water heaters, people talk about a better warranty on a water heater. You don’t get a better water heater, you get a better anode rod.” says Tom Darling, Albany and Saratoga Area’s Hot Water Heater Expert. “To make the water heater last longer, a plumber is really removing the old anode rod, the original one, and putting in a new one that’s heavier, heavier duty and that’s really all you’re getting for your extended warranty.”

Tom Darling recommends to have your hot water heater checked by your plumber once a year. Your plumber will check your anode rod as part of your annual inspection and replace it if need be. This will insure that your water heater remains rust-free for years to come.

 

***Does your water heater’s anode rod need to be replaced? We offer 24/7 emergency service! Contact Empire State Plumbing online today or call us at (518) 213-9256 for a comprehensive consultation. We are the hot water heater experts in the Albany and Saratoga areas!