Gone are the days of heating water on the stove — or heaven forbid over a fire. Today, a short walk to the faucet, a turn of the knob and there you have it … hot water. Most people do this many times a day never giving a thought to the how’s or why’s, other than knowing that the tall tubular appliance in their garage or closet keeps their hot water flowing. Keeping that in mind, you’ll want to be sure your hot water tank can continue providing hot water this winter.
One of the things that helps hot water tanks to do their job — while increasing their longevity — is a little thing that not many people are aware of until it stops doing its job: the sacrificial anode. This is a rod made of magnesium or aluminum that’s formed around a steal core wire and placed in the hot water tank through the top of the tank.
While its primary job is to maintain the life of your water tank, a powered anode can be used to help with odors as well as rust prevention. These rods are not designed to last the life of the tank, thus the name “sacrificial” anode. It will deteriorate in the process of doing its job. The amount of time that one will last depends on your water quality, amount of hot water used, water temperature, and the actual quality of your tank. Water that is softened with sodium will shorten the life of your anode rod.
Being aware of this small rod can have a big effect on the life of your hot water tank. That’s why checking the condition of the sacrificial anode on a regular basis is highly recommended. If you’re not monitoring it and only replacing your anode rod when it’s on its last leg, you can expect to replace your hot water tank more frequently, which results in a greater expense to you.
So put this on your “home maintenance” list to check every few years or so. If you’re not a handy do-it-yourself-er, have your plumber check it to see if it needs to be replaced. With accessible hot water being such a luxury and necessary part of life, homeowners want to keep hot water tanks as long as possible, both for the hot water and for their wallet.