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Michael leavittMost homeowners don’t realize that they can greatly increase the life of their water heaters IF they will replace their water heater’s anode rod. The anode rod is inside every tank style water heater and it is designed to attract the harmful portions of sacrifice itself, while preserving the metal tank. It is sized according to the warranty on the water heater. Water heaters with a 5 year warranty have an anode rod that will deteriorate in 4 ½ years so that the unit will fail just beyond the warranty period. This is all part of designed obsolesence by the manufacturers. They make money selling water heaters, and they lose money by selling anode rods. I find it funny that A.O. Smith shares this recommendation for anode rod replacement on their website, yet most homeowners are unaware of the advice.

In reality, the anode rods last longer than 4 ½ years and the typical life of a 5 year water heater is more like 8 to 10 years in my Northern Utah area. Please keep in mind that the chemical make-up of the water has a lot to do with the deterioration rate of the anode rod.

I recommend that you head down to a professional plumbing supplier (not the big-orange box) and ask them for advice on what type of anode rod is best suited for the water quality in your area. Yes, there are different types of anode rods.

WARNING: If the supplier can’t provide you with information, then you are at the wrong supplier. Here in Orem, Utah we have Bernie’s Plumbing and I have found them to be a welath of information. I am certain that you have a Bernie’s type supplier in your local area.

Below is a step-by-step instruction procedure from A.O. Smith that describes how to replace the anode rod.

How is the ANODE ROD removed on a standard, top plumbed, residential water heater?

Anode rod maintenance (periodic replacement) is very important in optimizing water heater life expectancy. 

To replace the anode rod on a standard, top plumbed, residential water heater, follow these steps:

  1. Shut the gas or electricity off to the water heater
  2. Shut off the water supply to the water heater
  3. Drain about 10 gallons of water out of the heater 
  4. Spray lubricant on the anode (like WD 40)
  5. Place a six point socket on the anode nut with a breaker bar (you may need to use a cheater bar).  OR, for outlet type anodes a pipe wrench is used to remove the hot water outlet nipple.  For outlet type anodes, the anode is attached to the outlet nipple.
  6. Remove anode rod while a second person is steadying the heater
  7. The anode when new is 3/4 inch in diameter and 2/3 the height of the heater. When used up it could be as small as 1/8 inch in diameter.

For low head clearance, order a flexible anode rod by calling 1-800-433-2545 (Parts Ordering)

Anode Rod
Anode Rod
NIPPLE ANODE ROD - This rod is connected to the hot water outlet nipple. There is no hex nut on the top of the unit for this type of rod. If you can’t find the hex head, then use a pipe wrench to remove the hot water nipple.
HEX HEAD ANODE ROD - This is the most popular anode rod style and is identifed by the large hex head found on the top of the water heater. You use a large cocket and breaker bar to unscrew the anode rod up and out of the unit.
You have probably heard about corrosion that occurs when two different metals touch. Take a look at the following chart and find any two metals.The higher metal will deteriorate while the lower metal will not experience any damage. In the case of water heaters, they will build the tanks out of a lower material and the anode rod out of the upper materials.
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Michael LeavittMichael Leavitt & CoMichael Leavitt & Co Inspections, Inc.
1378 N. Main Street
Orem, Utah 84057


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