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Anode Rods: How do They Work?

by Denver Plumbing, HVAC and Electrical

Water heaters deal with water on a constant basis, from the time they are installed to the time they are replaced. Being constantly exposed to water makes rust less of a possibility and more of an unavoidable reality. So, how does your water heater avoid becoming a rusted out husk within a couple years of installation? The answer is a small part called the anode rod. Read on to find out how the anode rod works, and why you need to have a professional check on it at least once a year.

The Anode Rod

An anode rod is a long metal rod, usually formed of magnesium or aluminum around a steel wire core. The rod is inserted into the water heater storage tank, where it slowly degrades. As long as the anode rod is degrading in the tank, the tank lining will be protected from rusting. This is accomplished through a process called electrolysis, by which the metals in the anode rod attract ions that normally cause rust in iron and steel. These ions are what cause the anode rod to degrade over time. Unfortunately, the protection the anode rod provides is not permanent.

Checking the Anode Rod

Eventually, the anode rod will degrade to the point where it can no longer attract the ions that cause rust. At that point, the rod will need to be replaced in order to maintain protection for the water heater tank. A water heater tank with an expended anode rod is no better off than one without an anode rod at all. This is why you need to schedule water heater maintenance at least once a year. Your water heater technician should check the anode rod, and replace it if necessary.

If you need to schedule a water heater maintenance appointment, call Bell Plumbing and Heating. We offer a full range of water heater services throughout Denver, CO.

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