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4 Signs It's Time to Replace Your Water Heater's Anode Rod

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Most tank water heaters have components made of stainless steel, steel and copper. When metals sit in water for a long period, they can experience galvanic corrosion. Therefore, to protect water heaters from corrosion, manufacturers place a sacrificial anode rod in the tank. The sacrificial metal oxidizes and corrodes more quickly than the water heater, thereby protecting the tank from damage.  

Over time, the anode rod corrodes completely and cannot protect the tank from galvanic corrosion. Therefore, it's imperative to replace the sacrificial metal to increase the system's lifespan. Below are four signs you need a new anode rod in your hot water tank.

Smelly hot water

Sacrificial metals comprise a steel core that's coated with aluminium, zinc, or magnesium. When corrosion occurs, it eats away the top coating, which is the sacrificial metal. If your water heater has a magnesium or aluminium anode rod, the reaction in the water may release sulphur, which causes a rotten egg smell in the water. If the water in your cold water plumbing doesn't have a pleasant odour, you likely have a bad anode rod. You need to replace the anode rod and flush the tank to restore water quality.

Worn and rusty metal anode

A new hot water tank has a shiny-looking anode rod. As the metal wears away over time, it may look rusty and chewed up. The top coating also wears away, exposing the steel core. You can visually inspect the water heater anode rod for signs of excessive corrosion. If the anode rod looks thin and worn, you need to replace it before the water tank corrodes as well. 

Floating metal pieces 

Look out for small floating metal pieces in your hot water tank. Once the anode rod starts to fall apart, the metal wears away. The parts that don't end up dissolving in the water float on top of the tank as residue. These metal pieces not only contaminate your hot water, but they can cause the tank to make rattling noises while in operation. Failure to replace the anode rod can cause extensive damage to the water heater.

Leaking hot water tank

Once galvanic corrosion eats away at the anode rod, your water tank will be the next culprit. The tank may corrode from the inside and start to leak. Leaking hot water tanks are hard to repair, and in severe cases, you have to replace the tank. An anode rod costs a few dollars, but its failure can cost you thousands of dollars in water heater replacement. Therefore, replace the metal on time to protect the water heater from irreversible damage.

Is your hot water exhibiting the above signs? Contact your plumber for anode rod replacement.