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What is an “Anode Rod” and What Should I Do With It?

If you’ve looked into water heater maintenance at all, you’ve probably heard of checking and changing the anode rod. However, most of these explanations don’t tell you what this is or why you should care so much about it. Since the anode rod plays an important part in keeping your water heater running well, you should understand what it is and how to work with it. 

Reducing Corrosion Inside Your Water Heater

Most water heaters have steel tanks covered in porcelain lining. However, it’s not possible to cover the entire tank with this lining. This makes your water heater vulnerable to corrosion.

Corrosion happens when particles in your water make it slightly electrically conductive. Note that these products are not bad for you and will not harm you if you’re exposed to them. Water goes through an electrical process called electrolysis. Over time, this can damage the steel in your water heater tank. Since electrolysis speeds up as water heats, it’s particularly important to protect the metal in your water heater.

This is where your anode rod comes in. It is a rod of exposed steel designed to act as a lightning rod for the corrosive process. It draws the electrolytic process away from the tanks and onto itself by offering itself up to be corroded. This helps ensure that the corrosion stays far away from the tanks themselves. 

Where is the Anode Rod?

The anode rod is usually attached to the hot water heater outlet of the water heater. If you stand and look at the front of your water heater (where all of the labels and warnings are), this outlet is normally on the left side. You may need to unscrew a cap to pull it out.

If you can’t find your anode rod, give us a call. We’ll come out, locate it, and show you how you can do so in the future.

Maintaining Your Water Heater by Changing the Anode Rod

If your anode rod gets eaten up by corrosion, it won’t be able to protect your water heater tanks anymore. That’s why it’s important to check this rod each year. Many water heaters have the rod attached to a cap so you can simply unscrew and pull. Other heaters make it harder to check this rod. 

Corroded rods will change colors from the original metal and may even have pieces that have disintegrated. At that point, you need to get a new anode rod for your water heater or the electrolytic process will go to work on your tanks next. You can usually get a new anode rod at your local hardware store. You can also give us a call and we’ll come out and replace it for you. 

We always check the anode rod as part of our water heater maintenance visits. If you don’t want to do this yourself, just let us know and we’ll come to look over your entire water heater. Give us a call today!

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