Water heaters are fairly simple apparatuses. The number one cause of water heater failure is tank corrosion, and a water heater anode guards a tank against this corrosion.

To save yourself the time and money of replacing the whole water heater, you should think about the upkeep of the water heater anode.

What is a water heater anode?

The sacrificial anode in a water heater helps prevent the rusting of the interior of the water heater tank. The rod is made of magnesium or aluminum and is screwed into the top of the tank.

Anode rods attract the electrical current created when water is heated and “sacrifice themselves” to become the corroded metal (instead of your water heater tank). If the anode rode becomes completely corroded, the electrical current will seek another metal to corrode, in other words, your water tank.

Most residential tanks have just one anode, but commercial tanks will have more.

How often should I replace the water heater anode?

Many manufacturers recommend water heater anode replacement every two to four years depending on the hardness of the water that passes through the tank and the quality of the water heater lining.

An anode’s life depends on the quality of water, the amount of use the tank gets, the water temperature, and the quality of the tank. Obviously, when salt is added to the water, anodes corrode more quickly.

How do I know if my water heater anode needs to be replaced?

If there is rough, chewed-up metal all up and down the rod, that’s normal. It is doing what it is supposed to do. If the rod is perfectly intact, with no sign of corrosion, then most plumbers would suggest that you replace your rod as it appears not to be functioning properly. This is actually calcium buildup which causes the rod to be ineffective.

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What is the cost for water heater anode replacement and can I do it myself?

It is possible to carry out a water heater anode replacement yourself, but it may not be easy due to the fact that most water heater tanks are located in very compact spaces where it is difficult to maneuver.

A plumber may charge $200 to $300 depending on the location of the anode and difficulty of the removal. If the anode is very corroded, it offers two concerns: it may be brittle and break during the removal process and it may also be difficult to remove. The cost of the anode itself is relatively insignificant, only being $25 to $40.

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