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Thread: Is it worth changing the water heater anode on older unit?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member golem's Avatar
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    Question Is it worth changing the water heater anode on older unit?

    I'm confident the correct solution for prevention would be to replace the water heater as a whole but have to ask...

    My current gas fired Kenmore PowerMiser 8 has a warranty expiration date of 2004 so pretty sure it's probably at least 12 years old and considered geriatric. I'm positive no maintenance has been performed on the unit in its lifetime therefore wondering if there is any worth in changing out the anode? Maybe even flush it while she's pressure relieved.

    Also out of curiosity -- Water heaters I've seen leaking do so in a pinhole type slow drip manner. What is the likelihood that a tank lets go catastrophically? I don't mean explode but more like a crack that allows for larger volumes of water to escape before becoming aware of the failure?

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    My wife and I have a gas-powered water heater my in-laws purchased used and had someone install a little over 20 years ago, and I have the same kinds of questions you are asking! I know it is a matter of when, not whether, and then how badly or even violently it might fail. I purchased a new anode rod for it about a year ago, but decided not to stress the heater with an impact wrench while removing the old one. So, I have a used electric heater with a new rod I can install at least temporarily if the gas unit stops working or begins leaking before we can afford a new heater, but I would not mess with the old one even if it was all we had.
    "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people." --Eleanor Roosevelt

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    In 60+ years I have "replaced" about 4 anode rods, but have removed many of them and substituted a brass plug. As for my own heaters, I have never replaced one of their anode rods.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    In the Trades Tom Sawyer's Avatar
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    I concur with HJ'S, and every time if tried to change one the damn thing was rusted so tight that I had to use an electric impact wrench to get it out. To worth the time and effort.
    [B]No, plumbing ain't rocket science. Unlike rocket science, plumbing requires a license[B]

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    DIY Junior Member golem's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies!

    My one concern (if I were to replace the anode) seems to be echoed by you gentlemen -- I was dreading the thought of corroded/encrusted threads making removal a PITA. Even using an impact is scary because I can just imagine the vibrations taking my leak fears to fruition. Anyhow, it's sounding like I should just leave well enough alone. When the pucker factor sets in a couple years from now I'll know it's time for replacement or install of a tankless.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    In theory, the anode rod is to "coat" any exposed steel that the glasslining did not cover. That being the case, by the time the anode rod is "depleted" all exposed steel should be coated.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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    DIY Junior Member golem's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    In theory, the anode rod is to "coat" any exposed steel that the glasslining did not cover. That being the case, by the time the anode rod is "depleted" all exposed steel should be coated.
    Not sure that is correct hj. Anodes are considered "sacrificial" due to the fact the alloy they're made of is more electrically conductive therefore attracting the always present and corrosive electrical reaction occurring when metal is submerged in water. The anode is designed to "sacrifice" itself. As soon as it is fully consumed the corrosion process will continue on to the next available candidate which in this case would be the tank and/or fittings. I've never heard anodes being described as similar to vapor coating.

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    DIY scratch-pad engineer leejosepho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by golem View Post
    Anodes are considered "sacrificial"...
    As soon as it is fully consumed the corrosion process will continue on to the next available candidate...
    That is how things work with sacrificial anodes on boat rudders and such.
    "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events and small minds discuss people." --Eleanor Roosevelt

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    DIY Senior Member asktom's Avatar
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    I agree anodes are sacrificial. I also agree about no changing them (except in special cases) - especially in a water heater almost a decade out of warranty.

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