Although water heaters might seem like fairly straightforward appliances, they are actually comprised of many complex components. From the flue pipe to the draft diverter to the dip tube, the many specialized parts of your water heater ensures it continues to function as it should. Sometimes, these components need to be replaced. One part that requires regular replacement is the anode rod. If you’re wondering, “What is an anode rod?”, then this handy reference guide is for you!

What Is an Anode Rod?

If you place a metal object in a bowl of water, it will eventually develop rust and corrosion. Your water heater is a large metal object that continually cycles water through the tank. So why doesn’t it fall apart from rust? The answer is the anode rod. It’s like the sacrificial lamb of the water heater. It attracts all the rust so that the water heater doesn’t develop severe corrosion.

The rod is a cylindrical object attached to the top of the water heater. On many water heaters, you can actually see the top of it. It’s a hexagonal head that will be located on the top of the water heater. A few models of water heaters have the rod located under the sheet metal top or right next to the hot water outlet.

How Does It Work?

Anode rods do their job thanks to the process of electrolysis. The materials present in the rod will attract the ions in the water. These ions are what causes the rust on steel, iron, and other metals. By attracting these ions to the rod, it essentially sacrifices itself for the sake of protecting the water heater tank. The rod will rust and corrode, but the water tank will not. The rod is critical for the longevity of a water tank. Without it, water heaters would not last nearly as long.

What Are the Different Types of Anode Rods?

An analysis of the question, “What is an anode rod?” would not be complete without a look at the different types of anode rods. Anode rods are all made from materials that are more reactive to the ions than steel. This is why they will corrode, but the water tank will not. The rods can be made from different materials.

  • Aluminum: If your home has a problem with hard water, an aluminum anode rod may work best for you. They do better withstanding hard water compared to other types of anode rods.
  • Magnesium: Anode rods most commonly contain magnesium. However, magnesium anode rods do not typically work well in places with hard water.
  • Zinc: Anode rods aren’t entirely made from zinc. A zinc anode rod is actually an aluminum anode rod with some zinc in it. Zinc anode rods are a good choice for homes that have problems with water smelling like sulfur or rotten eggs.

How Often Should I Get the Rod Checked?

Since anode rods are so critically important for the longevity of your water heater, it is important to get them checked periodically by a licensed plumber. Replacing the rod promptly when it gets worn out is a simple, inexpensive thing to do that will significantly extend the life of your water heater.

Here at Intelligent Design, we recommend checking the rod once per year. In fact, we offer an annual plumbing inspection that includes a check of the rod. We can also drain and flush the water heater to make sure your quality of water is as good as it can be. The plumbing inspection also includes a check of the faucets, toilets, and all other water appliances to make sure everything is operating smoothly. We believe that it’s best to make small repairs as promptly as possible so that the homeowner can avoid major, expensive repairs later down the road.

What Are the Signs That an Anode Rod Needs to Be Replaced?

The average anode rod can last about three to five years, depending on the quality of the water. While Intelligent Design plumbers can check yours every year, it’s also helpful for you to know the signs that an anode rod needs to be replaced. They include:

  • Water heater rusting
  • Rusty-colored water
  • Water heater tank leaks
  • Decrease in water temperature
  • Metallic-tasting water

Is your water not getting hot enough or is your water heater tank leaking? Intelligent Design offers 24/7 emergency plumbing services in the Tucson area. Give us a call at (520) 462-1538 and we’ll send one of our licensed, experienced plumbers out to your home right away. If your water heater is beyond repairs, we can do an estimate for a new installation free of charge! As the No. 1 rated HVAC and plumbing company in Southern Arizona, we prioritize our customer service and the professionalism of our employees. Do you have any questions? If so, then give us a call today! 

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