How To Maintain Your Water Heater (Pt 2) - Replacing Your Anode Rod

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Following on from our guide on how you can reduce bills, cut energy wastage and prolong the life of your water heater through draining and flushing your water tank, we are letting you know about the all-important anode rod and how to check and replace it.

The anode rod works to divert corrosion away from the tank walls; this is the reason that they are known as sacrificial anode rods. Water in different areas reacts in different ways, so there are several different kinds of rod that will react differently in certain regions.

Knowing the kind of water you have in your area will help to determine which anode rod will suit your situation best and let you know how long you can expect your replacement to last.

As always we recommend that you refer to your user manual, be aware of any power supplies, and speak to an expert if you are unsure of anything.

To carry out this task you will need a closed end wrench, socket wrench, and a ratchet or breaker bar. You will also require a standard garden hose and PTFE thread sealing tape or quality thread sealing compound.

You can usually locate the anode on the top of the tank although on occasion it may be found on the side. On most it will look like a hexagonal plug screwed into the heater. Some heaters have the anode attached to the hot water outlet. These will be connected to the pipe leading away from the heater.

You will then need to turn off the power supply to the heater whether it is electric or gas powered and turn off the water supply.

To drain the tank you should attach the garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of your heater. Keeping the hose lower than the water level to drain, you will need to take care as the water will still be hot. It is advised to locate a tap close to the heater and turn on the hot side which will relieve the pressure in the tank, breaking the vacuum and allowing the water to drain more easily. This will make it safer when loosening the anode too.

Removing the anode may prove to be quite difficult as they will have been in the heater for several years. Using a ratchet or breaker bar may help. It may be useful to get someone to keep the tank steady but never resort to banging the anode or using chemicals as this could damage or contaminate the heater.

After loosening you will then be able to remove the anode or check to see if there is still enough anode material left for it to still be of use.

If the anode does not need to be replaced you can reinsert it. When the anode does need to be replaced wrap the threads of the new anode rod with PTFE thread sealing tape, in a clockwise direction, around five or six wraps will be sufficient. Your other option here is to use a quality thread sealing compound.

You are now ready to insert the new anode rod, if space is limited and you can consider using a flexible anode as most are difficult to bend.

Use your closed end wrench or socket wrench and ratchet to tighten the new anode. Make sure your heater is secure and will not move about during this process as this could lead to damage to the pipe connections.

You will then be ready to open the cold water supply to the water tank and you should continue to have the tap previously mentioned open. When the water runs freely without any air coming out your tank should then be full and free from air. This is also a good opportunity to stay vigilant for any leakages that may have come about from the work.

You will then be ready to turn on the power supply and adjust your temperature settings back to normal if you have altered them.
On occasion you will come across a water heater that has a hot water outlet anode which needs to be replaced, usually at the same time. There are some slight differences in this process as they will be connected to the outgoing plumbing.

On occasion the plumbing may be connected directly to the anodes nipple. This could mean that the pipe will need to be cut to release the anode and then replaced. In this case you may want to consider bringing in some professional help before making any attempt to carry out the work yourself. Most often there will be a flexible connection making the process a lot simpler and you will be able to follow the steps above after loosening the connection between the flex line and nipple.

Remember to never attempt a job that is too big for you as this could lead to your costs spiralling if you need anything fixed. We also recommend that you refer to your user manual and ensure that your safety is always at the forefront of everything you do. If you are unsure always seek expert advice before continuing.

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