We don’t typically get too technical in our blog posts. You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of your plumbing system, or all the lingo–that’s what we are here for! Still though, it is helpful to know some terms. If for any reason, to be aware of the importance of professional services, like water heater maintenance!
There is a very important component in your tank water heater that we check on during your maintenance appointment, and that’s the anode rod, which is sometimes referred to as the “sacrificial anode rod.” Read on to learn why it’s earned this nickname, and what you need to know about this component of your water heater.
What Is the Anode Rod’s Job?
The anode rod inside your tank water heater is comprised of magnesium or aluminum, encasing a core steel wire. The rod is connected to the top of the tank, and extends down into it. When two metals (like aluminum and steel) are present in water, one of the metals will begin corroding while the other one will not.
The less reactive metal, in this case, the steel lining of your water heater tank, won’t suffer from any corrosion, remaining intact as you need it to. Instead, the magnesium and aluminum of the anode rod will attract the ions that cause corrosion to begin.
So basically, the outer part of the anode rod “sacrifices” itself in order to protect the rest of the tank.
Why Is This Important to Know?
The average water heater, when well maintained, can give you a useful service life of 10-15 years, sometimes even two decades. But the average anode rod does not last this long. Rather, the anode rod breaks down much faster, requiring replacement 2-3 times during your water heater’s whole lifespan.
Essentially, once the magnesium or aluminum of the anode rod has fully corroded, the rod will no longer protect the inside of your water heater tank. This is why it’s so important to schedule annual maintenance for your water heater! The anode rod is one of many components that is checked during this service, and we’ll let you know if it needs to be swapped out for a new one.
If the anode rode is getting close to corroding to the core, our technicians will replace it so you’ll have continued protection for your water heater. It is worth noting that your water heater tank does have a second line of defense–a glass lining between the water and the steel lining of the tank. But just like the anode rod, this glass lining doesn’t last forever either. Small cracks and fissures occur, which can cause the water to seep through and reach the steel of the tank.
If you do ever discover visible corrosion on the outside of your water heater tank, this does mean that it’s time to replace or upgrade your water heater, otherwise you could be stuck with a flooded property due to leaks occurring.