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How often does one need to change the anode rod in the hot water tank?

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[OP]
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Aug 8, 2018
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How often does one need to change the anode rod in the hot water tank?

Apologies if this is not the correct spot to post. I have a 8 year old water tank and I bought this house 6 months ago. Last week, I opened the drain valve trying to clear the sediments and the water that came out was absolutely clear other than very few white particles (implying that the water is not that hard in my area?).

This was a rental tank until now so I doubt previous owners have done any kind of maintenance on it. The tank still looks and works like brand new.

Now I have a few questions about the anode rod that I am considering replacing.
  1. Does the anode rod corrode for sure over time (even if the water is good)? Is there an easier way to check for it?
  2. How often does one need to change the anode rod?
  3. How hard is it to open it? I read some places that it is extremely tight and very hard to open.
  4. I don't have a lot of clearance on the top of the tank (40 inches give or take). How do I circumvent it? I couldn't find the folding anode rods anywhere.
  5. Since there was no maintenance done in the past 8 years, is it even worth it to try and change the anode rod?
Thanks,
33 replies
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
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If it's a tank rental, then why replace anything? Why not just wait until it's on a cheap buyout then replace it with a new one that you maintain properly?
[OP]
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Aug 8, 2018
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grumble wrote: If it's a tank rental, then why replace anything? Why not just wait until it's on a cheap buyout then replace it with a new one that you maintain properly?
Sorry I forgot to mention, I bought it out.
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Mar 22, 2017
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s09milligan wrote: Sorry I forgot to mention, I bought it out.
That's different!

The anode rod is the thing that breaks first - the actual tank will be in great shape until the rod is worn out, then the tank gets eaten. Anode rods typically last about six years, some more and some less depending on model, type of rod, number of rods, type of water, etc.

If you already have it opened and drained, why not just take the rod out and see its condition? If it's heavily eaten away, replace. If it's still got some material left on it, leave it alone. You might just be very lucky with use patterns and type of water.
Deal Guru
Feb 9, 2006
13017 posts
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Brampton
It really depends.
All on your water quality, if you have a softener, how much hot water you use, how hot you kept the tank.

I changed mine at year 3. It looked like it had at least another 2 years in it. So I set my next change at year 5.
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Sep 22, 2005
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At 5 years, my anode rod was barely corroded, so you can't tell its condition until you remove it. That reminds me that I have to check mine since it has been a few years since.
Deal Fanatic
Mar 21, 2002
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The rod has to be taken out and examined to determine its condition. Generally a rod (depending on thickness and length, size of tank and the quality of your water) should last 5+ years. If you don't have the ceiling clearance you can probably start bending it as you take it out but then you won't be able to reuse it and will need to replace it with a sectional rod (try Amazon).

The best way to replace the rod is to turn off the breaker, disconnect the electrical wires, disconnect the hot and cold connections and completely drain the tank. If you're strong and ideally have a helper you can unscrew the anode rod and tilt the tank enough so you can pull the rod straight out. Either then replace the rod or put a new one in and return the tank to an upright position. Tighten the rod, reconnect the hot/cold pipes and electrical connections. I installed 18" flexible hoses with sharkbite connectors so that I can easily remove the hot/cold water connections and then reconnect them.
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Jul 7, 2017
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Soft (and/or clean/low-sediment) water (and a tank's outer appearance) means nothing. I've lived (and am currently living) in areas with very, very soft water and the rods and hence/then tanks will corrode over time. Metals in the water also don't help. All the previous advice above is sound. Check if you can. An impact wrench or a long breaker will help get the rod loose and out.

I asked here about 2 years ago re: changing the rod (on a 14 y.o. tank). Tank leaked within 3 weeks of me asking. Changed it to a Rheem Marathon as the added cost would be less than having to change the tank again.
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Oct 12, 2007
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We have hard water but we also have a whole house filter system and a softener. I sent the water off to a lab and test it periodically for grains of hardness and calibrate the softener accordingly. Our original magnesium anode rod lasted almost 10 years. Switched it to an aluminum one some years back in a vain attempt to eliminate a mild sulfur odor. Went with an electrically-charged rod earlier this year (and that seems to have permanently solved the sulfur odor). Tank is a 14 y.o. Rheem unit.
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Oct 12, 2007
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s09milligan wrote: Apologies if this is not the correct spot to post. I have a 8 year old water tank and I bought this house 6 months ago. Last week, I opened the drain valve trying to clear the sediments and the water that came out was absolutely clear other than very few white particles (implying that the water is not that hard in my area?).

This was a rental tank until now so I doubt previous owners have done any kind of maintenance on it. The tank still looks and works like brand new.

Now I have a few questions about the anode rod that I am considering replacing.
  1. Does the anode rod corrode for sure over time (even if the water is good)? Is there an easier way to check for it?
  2. How often does one need to change the anode rod?
  3. How hard is it to open it? I read some places that it is extremely tight and very hard to open.
  4. I don't have a lot of clearance on the top of the tank (40 inches give or take). How do I circumvent it? I couldn't find the folding anode rods anywhere.
  5. Since there was no maintenance done in the past 8 years, is it even worth it to try and change the anode rod?
Thanks,
They are awful to get off - especially if they've been untouched for years. You'll need a breaker bar, probably a cheater bar (a strong metal pipe you put over the breaker bar handle to increase leverage), and a 1.0625" (1 1/16) socket.

Anode rods are why hardware stores carry a 1 1/16 socket. You will never use it for anything else. Store it in a visible location very close to your water tank.

People get all excited about using any kind of penetrating oil on the anode bar nut but if you have to, my go-to brand is PB Blaster. Just clean it off after you break the seal and before you open up the top of the socket hole so that you don't contaminate the water.
[OP]
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Aug 8, 2018
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CaptSmethwick wrote: They are awful to get off - especially if they've been untouched for years. You'll need a breaker bar, probably a cheater bar (a strong metal pipe you put over the breaker bar handle to increase leverage), and a 1.0625" (1 1/16) socket.

Anode rods are why hardware stores carry a 1 1/16 socket. You will never use it for anything else. Store it in a visible location very close to your water tank.

People get all excited about using any kind of penetrating oil on the anode bar nut but if you have to, my go-to brand is PB Blaster. Just clean it off after you break the seal and before you open up the top of the socket hole so that you don't contaminate the water.
Yeah I know its gonna be a tough job so I don't even know if its worth the effort to go through all the process.


I just had a look and took some pictures of the anode rod (I am hoping this is the anode rod)

WhatsApp Image 2020-07-20 at 5.15.16 PM.jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2020-07-20 at 5.15.16 PM (2).jpeg


Now I saw one video where the guy removes the rubber cap on top of the tank because there is not enough space for the socket to go in. I am not sure if I have the same issue or not. Do you or anyone else know if I need to remove the cap? I don't have the socket or anything yet so need to purchase new, if I am going to do this.

Furthermore, the cap is blocked by the blower assembly so its not even coming out. Now the question is do I need to go into the rabbit hole and open the power assembly as well just to replace a simple anode rod?
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 8, 2018
91 posts
110 upvotes
Centre of universe G…
grumble wrote: That's different!

The anode rod is the thing that breaks first - the actual tank will be in great shape until the rod is worn out, then the tank gets eaten. Anode rods typically last about six years, some more and some less depending on model, type of rod, number of rods, type of water, etc.

If you already have it opened and drained, why not just take the rod out and see its condition? If it's heavily eaten away, replace. If it's still got some material left on it, leave it alone. You might just be very lucky with use patterns and type of water.
I only opened the drain valve from the bottom. I haven't touched the anode rod as of yet.
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Oct 12, 2007
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s09milligan wrote: Yeah I know its gonna be a tough job so I don't even know if its worth the effort to go through all the process.


I just had a look and took some pictures of the anode rod (I am hoping this is the anode rod)


WhatsApp Image 2020-07-20 at 5.15.16 PM.jpeg
WhatsApp Image 2020-07-20 at 5.15.16 PM (2).jpeg



Now I saw one video where the guy removes the rubber cap on top of the tank because there is not enough space for the socket to go in. I am not sure if I have the same issue or not. Do you or anyone else know if I need to remove the cap? I don't have the socket or anything yet so need to purchase new, if I am going to do this.

Furthermore, the cap is blocked by the blower assembly so its not even coming out. Now the question is do I need to go into the rabbit hole and open the power assembly as well just to replace a simple anode rod?
As long as the socket fits inside the plastic sleeve atop the anode rod nut, you're okay. When I've done it, it's been a snug fit but it has always worked. Turn the power off to the tank, shut the water off to the tank, open up a nearby hot water faucet and then open the drain at the bottom toward a drain (caution, it will be hot). I have "gotten away" with draining out a few Litres before being able to pull out the anode rod and inserting the replacement.
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 8, 2018
91 posts
110 upvotes
Centre of universe G…
CaptSmethwick wrote: As long as the socket fits inside the plastic sleeve atop the anode rod nut, you're okay. When I've done it, it's been a snug fit but it has always worked. Turn the power off to the tank, shut the water off to the tank, open up a nearby hot water faucet and then open the drain at the bottom toward a drain (caution, it will be hot). I have "gotten away" with draining out a few Litres before being able to pull out the anode rod and inserting the replacement.
Got it. Thanks. I will give it a shot and provide an update.
Newbie
May 30, 2018
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I never inspect. If I already take it out, I'm replacing it. I do it every 5 years, and I replace the heating element and thermostats every 12 years, that's how my parent's last water heater survived 25 years with 0 issues or repairs (electric heater, not gas). I'm on city water, and when I take mine out, it seems like it has about 40% of its material left.

A sectional rod is only about $40 on Amazon. I prefer magnesium.

For 90% of the people, the one that comes with the tank is way too long. There are several ways to get it out. I'm not a fan of bending it, because you have to be careful not to damage the threads on the tank. I take it out as high as it goes, put locking pliers on the bottom, saw right above the pliers, then pull out the rest. it's pretty soft, you can cut it with almost any saw you'd like.
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Dec 6, 2017
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Recently changed our water tank and they offered a 10-year warranty for $99. I went that route to not worry about changing anything.
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Nov 17, 2012
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ShaneM88837 wrote: I never inspect. If I already take it out, I'm replacing it. I do it every 5 years, and I replace the heating element and thermostats every 12 years, that's how my parent's last water heater survived 25 years with 0 issues or repairs (electric heater, not gas). I'm on city water, and when I take mine out, it seems like it has about 40% of its material left.

A sectional rod is only about $40 on Amazon. I prefer magnesium.

For 90% of the people, the one that comes with the tank is way too long. There are several ways to get it out. I'm not a fan of bending it, because you have to be careful not to damage the threads on the tank. I take it out as high as it goes, put locking pliers on the bottom, saw right above the pliers, then pull out the rest. it's pretty soft, you can cut it with almost any saw you'd like.
Keeping a water heater around for 25 years is great, and fine if you have an unfinished basement and won't suffer any damage if the tank fails and leaks. Home insurance won't cover damage resulting from a 25 year old water heater, no matter how meticulous you are on maintenance. Most policies limit the age to around 12 if I'm correct.
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Feb 11, 2007
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TehRFDAnomaly wrote: Recently changed our water tank and they offered a 10-year warranty for $99. I went that route to not worry about changing anything.
Who offered the warranty? And does it cover labour and any leaks?
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Aug 28, 2010
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TehRFDAnomaly wrote: Recently changed our water tank and they offered a 10-year warranty for $99. I went that route to not worry about changing anything.
Typically warranties require some sort of maintenance to validate the warranty. Not sure if your warranty requires proof of maintenance per x schedule for them to honour repairs.
Best to double check the fine print.

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