I ordered a new aluminum anode for my 8 year old A.O. Smith Powershot 50 100 and hoped to change it yesterday. I unscrewed the 4 screws on top attaching the blower unit to the heater, removed the two clamps on the rubber transition that connects the exhaust of the blower unit (2" diameter) to a 3" white PVC tube that goes up (see pic). Name:  IMG_20130217_174949.jpg
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After doing this, however, there was insufficient space to lift the blower unit over the top of the water heater because the PVC tube was fixed and in the way; it's cemented to an elbow which goes into the ceiling and there is no wiggle room. There is also a metal bracket on top of the hole in the heater. See second pic. Name:  IMG_20130217_175002.jpg
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A friend (not a plumber) suggested I temporarily remove a 3" cross-section of the PVC tube, which will free up some room. Then I would buy a 3" to 3" rubber seal to reconnect the PVC tube when I'm done.

Looking for the forum's suggestions on how else to proceed. Have you encountered this situation where there is no room to remove the blower? Thank you in advance.