Your water heater has provided your home with clean, hot water for the past several years. However, you're now noticing that your hot water supply has become very hard. Your skin is dry and itchy after every shower, your faucets are developing hard water buildup, and your glasses and silverware are dull and hazy. When your hot water supply is hard, it typically means that your water heater's sacrificial anode rod needs replacement. Follow these steps to replace it in almost no time at all.
How Your Anode Rod Works
Your water heater's anode consists of a long rod made from a noble metal. When minerals enter your water tank, they'll be attracted to the noble metal in your anode rod. When the minerals come into contact with your anode, they'll corrode the rod and become neutralized. Although this sounds like a fatal design flaw, it's not—if your anode does not neutralize the minerals in your water supply, then the minerals will damage the lining of your tank instead.
However, after exposure to a high volume of minerals, your anode rod will deteriorate down to its core. When your anode rod is completely deteriorated, it will no longer neutralize the minerals in your water supply. Additionally, calcium bicarbonate can accumulate on your anode rod and prevent minerals from coming into contact with it. If your anode is deteriorated or coated in calcium deposits, then it must be replaced.
In most cases, anode rods require replacement every six years. However, if your water supply contains a high concentration of minerals, or if your household uses an excessive amount of hot water, then your anode will require replacement at a shorter interval.
Step 1 - Gather Your Equipment
Before you can begin servicing your water heater, you'll need a few pieces of equipment. Gather these items to make your job as easy as possible:
1 and 1/16th inch socket
Replacement anode rod
In addition to these items, you may need an extension bar for your breaker bar and socket and a screwdriver. However, you'll only need an extension bar if your anode bolt is seated deep below the lid of your water tank.
Step 2 - Inspect and Remove Your Deteriorated Anode Rod
Begin every water heater maintenance task by shutting off both the water and power supply (either gas or electricity) to your water heater.
Place your step ladder next to your water heater and locate the 1 and 1/16th inch bolt on top of your tank's lid. Attach your socket, breaker bar, and extension bar (if necessary) and break the bolt loose. If your bolt doesn't budge, then use a longer breaker bar to gain more leverage.
Once your anode bolt is loose, you can pull the bolt out of your tank to remove your anode rod. If your anode rod is worn thin, or if it's coated in calcium, then it needs to be replaced. However, if your water heater is still fairly thick, then place it back inside your water heater and wait a couple months before inspecting it once again and replacing it if necessary.
If you don't see a bolt on top of your tank's lid, then your manufacturer designed your water heater with the anode bolt underneath your lid. Remove your water heater's lid by removing the screws on the side of the lid. If your anode bolt isn't immediately visible, then you may have to remove the insulation from the top of your tank. However, if you still aren't able to locate your anode bolt at this point, then stop and leave the job to a professional plumber.
Step 3 - Install Your Replacement Anode
Place three to five wraps of plumber's tape around the threads of your new anode rod. Guide your replacement anode rod through the threading on the top of your water tank. Use your pipe wrench to thoroughly set your replacement anode into your tank's lid.
If you have trouble at any point throughout the replacement process, or if you simply don't have the time or tools to replace your anode rod by yourself, then contact a professional plumber or water heater service to perform the job for you. If you continue to let minerals enter your water tank, then the lining of your tank will sustain permanent damage and your water heater will require replacement.