Is There Rust in Your Water Heater? Prevention Tips

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How to Prevent Rust in Your Water Heater – Tips From The Pros

The last thing you want to have is rust in your water heater.  Rust in itself is not the issue but the corrosion that it produces will eventually lead to a leak.  So if you have rust in your water heater you can count on a leak developing.  Most water-heater tanks are made of glass-lined steel but if water gets through imperfections in the glass, then you can count on rust and eventually a leak. The tricky part is that water heater tanks have no inspection ports, it’s hard to inspect for rust. Due to this tank rust usually isn’t discovered until after a leak occurs — and then it’s too late.

A special rod called a cathodic anode (or sacrificial anode) is built in to the water-heater tank assembly to prevent rust. As long as the rod is in good condition, deterioration of the tank is drastically reduced.

Unfortunately, you can’t determine the condition of the anode by just looking at your water heater. You have to turn off the power and the water and remove the anode with a wrench. Check the anode for deterioration annueally; this will give you an idea of how long the anode will last. Its also a smart idea to include anode replacement in your water heater maintenance schedule.

Its very cheap to replace an anode and it can save you tons of money in the long run.  A littl prevention on this component can save your water heater and a bunch of cash. To prevent damage to the tank, simply replace the cathodic anode, a $15 item that takes about 30 minutes to install. Cathodic anodes are not readily available in hardware stores so you’ll probably have to buy one from a plumbing-supply company. Be prepared with the make and model info of your water heater so that you get the right one – because anodes come in all shapes and sizes you will need to supply this info that can be found on a label on the water-heater housing.

To replace the cathodic anode, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater and the cold-water inlet valve at the top of the water heater.

  2. Unscrew the hex bolt holding the cathodic anode in place and remove the rod — or what remains of it. The cathodic anode is about 3 to 5 feet long, about 3/4 inch in diameter, and has a hex bolt welded onto one end. The hex bolt screws into the top of the tank, holding the rod in place inside the tank, and, when tightened down, the nut also makes a watertight seal at the same time.

  3. Install the new anode.  Insert the new anode in the reverse order that the previous one was removed. Be sure to use Teflon tape on the threaded fitting to prevent a leak.

  4. Turn the water and power to the water heater back on.

Most factory-installed anodes are magnesium, which can produce a sulfite-reducing bacteria that makes your water smell like rotten eggs. Using a replacement anode made of zinc or aluminum will prevent this problem so keep this in mind when determining what type of anode to purchase.

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