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Maintenance of Hot water Tank -- Anode replacement

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Maintenance of Hot water Tank -- Anode replacement

Since the latest buzz is about Hot water tanks and buy outs its time to start a thread with the maintenance side of it. I bought mine out recently.

If you own the tank the following would be useful.

There is an anode rod inside the tank. In layman's terms this rusts and in the process helps the tank not rust. Think of it as rust taking the least path of resistance so to speak and attacks the Rod instead of the tank. Hence its known as a sacrificial anode. A detailed explanation is given here

The hardest part in my opinion is to find a place which stock these. HD, Rona and Loews don’t have it and the employees probably don’t even know about it. I emailed the manufacturer GSW and they responded by saying home hardware has them but since I got mine through a local plumbing store I didn’t bother.


They are all similar in size I’m told and come in magnesium or aluminum versions. Magnesium is better (reasons are given in the link above). if you have a newer tank pls read through the link above as its got a lot of info.
you ask the guy at the counter that you need a sacrificial anode and if asked whether you need mag or alu you say mag and he charges you something under $20 and you walk off.

Here is the installation part. Best to do it in the morning.

1. Turn off GAS at the base of the HWT.
2. Turn off Cold water cut off valve (located just above the tank)
3. Open hot any water tap and leave it open.
4. At the bottom of the HWT there is a valve that when opened water will drain out from. You need a flat tip screw driver to insert and turn it anti clock wise.

If you have a small hose connect it and leave the other end near a drain on the floor, if not use a bucket to remove the water (If you don’t have a hose its going to take a lot of time/effort to remove the water!!!)

5. While the water empties grab a 1-1/16" socket and loosen the anode. (There should be one or two small openings at the top of the tank. Go for the one closer to the middle. It will be covered in insulation so remove it slowly. Some tanks have two rods. Once loosened remove the rod completely.

6. Pour a couple of liters of vinegar through the hole and leave it to soak for 12 hrs!!!.(close the bottom drain valve) I was pressed for time so I only did a few hrs.
7. After soaking remove all the vinegar and maybe run a little cold water in and remove everything.

8. Reinsert the Anode you bought (make sure to use Teflon tape) , tighten it and start filling the tank. you will need to cut off the bottom if its longer than the rod that came out from the tank. The rod is about 3-4 ft.
The air in the tank will start to come out of the open tap (see point 3) and after a while you would see water come out.

9. Close the tap and start your pilot and reward yourself with a cold beer.

In an hr or so you should have hot water.

After 10 yrs there wasn’t any rust in my tank and the anode was only half used. see image between the new and old one. I cut the bottom part I would change anodes every 5 odd yrs IMHO.
Disclaimer- use these instructions at your own discretion. These are steps I learnt from my neighbour and reading though different articles so YMMV. Be extra careful when you light the pilot.
if you have any Qs feel free to ask but I am not an expert and I will try and answer it to the best of my ability.

[IMG]http://img20.imageshack.us/img20/737/img1289x.jpg[/IMG]
43 replies
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May 3, 2009
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[video]http://video.pbs.org/video/2157892996[/video]

^^I found this video from ask this old house that I saw a while back. Not sure if it's exactly how you did it....but it's good to be able to watch how Richard did it. I'll probably get a pro to do it though.
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Sep 22, 2008
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what about if you got them electrical hot water tanks and the bottom heating elements seems to burn way before the top one.

also with some stainless inner tubes and the newer fiberglass composite tubes what is the maintenance on those?
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ToCardinal wrote:
Mar 22nd, 2012 8:30 am
[video]http://video.pbs.org/video/2157892996[/video]

^^I found this video from ask this old house that I saw a while back. Not sure if it's exactly how you did it....but it's good to be able to watch how Richard did it. I'll probably get a pro to do it though.
great video. I pretty much did exactly what he did although it looks like i couldve used the teflon tape more liberally. ;) Most of the rental tanks i would imagine have only one anode (from the link it says if you have a 12 yr warranty on your tank then it would have the second anode. Its fairly easy to change. I have identified all the steps involved. Total cost to me was $30 and that included the socket. a pro will not hang around for the vinegar to work its magic.
packardbell wrote:
Mar 22nd, 2012 8:40 am
what about if you got them electrical hot water tanks and the bottom heating elements seems to burn way before the top one.

also with some stainless inner tubes and the newer fiberglass composite tubes what is the maintenance on those?
I dont have any specific info but I would think most water tanks have an anode rod. The tanks are also have a glass inner layer as described in the video.

My neighbour emailed GSW and the lady mentioned that water in BC was the best and Ontario being at the bottom (i.e rusts faster) for corrosion of tanks. She also mentioned that we should change the anode every 2-3 yrs but most dont since most rent it.
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Oct 19, 2003
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The one in my tank is integrated into the hot water outlet so it's a real pain, you basically have to re-do the plumbing to the tank to change it... I don't think it's worth it, maybe you'll get an extra couple of years out of the tank who knows. I think most tanks get to the point of needing to be replaced for other reasons before rust.
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Jan 10, 2007
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I have purchased heaters for my electrical tank at Home hardware and CT, don't know why you would have troubles finding them
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Is there a pilot on a power vented unit?
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redzone wrote:
Mar 23rd, 2012 11:54 am
Is there a pilot on a power vented unit?

I would say almost never? The point of a pilot is to keep a draft going and power vents make their own draft with a damn noisy fan. I want to mod my powervent with some Noctua fans, I hate when the thing kicks in even though it's in a finished enclosed space.
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I really wanted to replace mine, but I think it must be seized up. I went to town on it with an adjustable wrench and couldn't get it to budge.
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stevezed wrote:
Mar 23rd, 2012 4:32 pm
I really wanted to replace mine, but I think it must be seized up. I went to town on it with an adjustable wrench and couldn't get it to budge.

I seem to recall a TV episode from a long long time ago (might have been This Old House) where they were removing the anode from a tank and it had badly corroded. The guy took about a 3 foot pipe and added it to the end of the wrench to get the leverage he needed to turn the anode bolt. Even then it took a lot of effort. I'm not sure that I would ever want to do that.
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woof wrote:
Mar 23rd, 2012 5:33 pm
I seem to recall a TV episode from a long long time ago (might have been This Old House) where they were removing the anode from a tank and it had badly corroded. The guy took about a 3 foot pipe and added it to the end of the wrench to get the leverage he needed to turn the anode bolt. Even then it took a lot of effort. I'm not sure that I would ever want to do that.

What about an impact wrench? Wouldnt that make it easier?
it's me ramin.
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BinaryJay wrote:
Mar 23rd, 2012 2:57 pm
I would say almost never? The point of a pilot is to keep a draft going and power vents make their own draft with a damn noisy fan. I want to mod my powervent with some Noctua fans, I hate when the thing kicks in even though it's in a finished enclosed space.

isnt the pilot needed to ignite the burner or do these units have electronic ignition.
stevezed wrote:
Mar 23rd, 2012 4:32 pm
I really wanted to replace mine, but I think it must be seized up. I went to town on it with an adjustable wrench and couldn't get it to budge.
on mine the screw is a few cms below the surface, hence a wrench wouldnt cut it. I needed to buy a socket so that it would fit perfectly. Is yours above the surface as otherwise you probably need a socket.

Also since the HWT is not bolted to the ground (atleast mine isnt) its probably a good idea to have someone hold the tank when you attempt to free the screw the very first time.
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everylittlecent wrote:
Mar 24th, 2012 7:55 am
Also since the HWT is not bolted to the ground (atleast mine isnt) its probably a good idea to have someone hold the tank when you attempt to free the screw the very first time.

Water weighs over 8 lb per US gallon so a 40 US gallon tank would weigh 320 lb plus the weight of the tank itself, probably bringing the total to about 400 lb. On a rough basement floor if the tank is still full you probably don't have to worry about any movement.
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woof wrote:
Mar 24th, 2012 12:16 pm
Water weighs over 8 lb per US gallon so a 40 US gallon tank would weigh 320 lb plus the weight of the tank itself, probably bringing the total to about 400 lb. On a rough basement floor if the tank is still full you probably don't have to worry about any movement.

you will be surprised. The tank stands on 3 small metal feet and connected on top to the hot and cold water pipes. also keep in mind the height of the tank and the anode is screwed at the top and its fairly easy to cause movement.
mine was maybe 3/4 full (50 gallon) and the initial flex, i felt movement and thats why i had my neighbour hold it since I didnt want any movement that might cause the pipe to flex or break. Better safe than sorry i guess.

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