Electrolysis. You may have heard the word used to describe a certain type of hair removal treatment, although it also relates to chemistry. Electrolysis refers to a process where a chemical reaction is induced inside a fluid via electrical current. It is important to various fields of manufacturing, as it is used to electroplate metals. Electrolysis is also essential to extending the effective lifespan of your water heater!


Inside your water heater is an anode rod, which runs throughout the length of its tank. It protects the water heater against degradation by attracting harmful particles to its surface and trapping them there via electrolysis. In effect, the anode rod preserves the water heater’s sensitive components by minimizing their exposure to sediment and corrosive minerals. Better yet, your water heater’s anode rod also minimizes your exposure to substances you’re better off not ingesting.


What Is an Anode Rod Made Of?


Most anode rods are made of metal that corrodes more easily than the water heater tank’s liner. The type of metal the anode rod is made of bears heavily on its performance.


  • Aluminum – Optimal for households with hard water, as it withstands constant exposure to high concentrations of magnesium, calcium, and other minerals commonly found in soil.


  • Magnesium – Lasts longer than aluminum thanks to its superior resistance to iron exposure – but only when it is submerged in soft water. Hard water will heavily impact a magnesium anode rod’s efficiency and cause it to wear out faster than an aluminum alternative would have.


  • Zinc-Aluminum Alloy – Optimal for water that contains high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas (which is produced by sulfur bacteria that naturally occur in soil). Hydrogen sulfide gas creates a foul odor when it chemically reacts to magnesium or aluminum.


  • Powered – A powered anode rod may be made of titanium or some other similarly hard-wearing metal. It constantly emits waves of electricity into the water tank, thereby destroying the foul odor caused by sulfur bacteria, reducing limescale, and virtually eliminating corrosion of the tank’s liner. A powered anode rod expends about one-third of one cent worth of electricity daily, although it has the highest upfront installation cost of all the available anode rods.


How Long Does an Anode Rod Last?


An anode rod’s normal operation gradually destroys it. By eroding, the anode rod releases electrons into the water heater tank, which in turn attracts electrically charged sediment and corrosive ions to its surface. As such, an anode rod’s lifespan is nearly always shorter than that of the water heater it preserves.


Several factors determine an anode rod’s effective lifespan, including water quality, usage frequency, pH level, the type of metal the rod is made of, how well the water heater is maintained (annual or biannual flushing and draining of the water heater is especially effective at preserving its anode rod), and whether the household has a water softener (which removes calcium and magnesium from water before it reaches the water heater). Depending on those variables, an anode rod typically requires replacement every two to five years.


Leave Anode Rod Replacement to the Pros


You would ideally have your water heater inspected annually, during which time the plumber will confirm whether its anode rod has deteriorated to a condition in which it is no longer effective. If you have noticed that your tap water has a foul or otherwise unpleasant odor, that could indicate your anode rod is in immediate need of replacement.


Anode rod replacement is a job for professionals. Without specialized skills and tools, a DIYer could easily damage their water line while attempting to replace their water heater’s anode rod. Furthermore, if the water heater is damaged by amateur anode rod replacement, then its warranty will most likely become void.


If you have any reason to suspect your water heater’s anode rod is nearing the end of its effective lifespan, then we welcome you to contact Gilk Services today. We’ll test your water to ensure that your new anode rod is perfectly suited to your home’s needs, and install it without risk of damage to your water heater or water line. We serve residential and commercial property owners throughout St Cloud, Waite Park, Sartell, St Joe, Albany, Avon, St Martin, Greenwald, Richmond, Eden Valley, Paynesville, Hawick, New London, Cold Spring, Rockville, Lake Henry, Farming, Roscoe, Regal, Atwater, Grove City, Belgrade, Spring Hill, Watkins, Kimball, Marty, St Augusta.