Do you have a plumbing repair kit in your home to make emergency repairs quickly? Having everything you need in one bucket or box can help you eliminate some of the stress that comes with plumbing emergencies. On this blog, you will find out what you should have in your kit and some basic tips about making these repairs to avoid further damage to your home. It is my hope that you will find more than enough information to keep your home dry, your drains draining, and a peace of mind and lack of stress to tackle these dreaded household occurrences.
Believe it or not, there's a lesson in chemistry and physics taking place inside of your water heater right now. If you use a standard tank heater, then a vital component known as an anode rod is playing an essential role in keeping your water rust free. Not only does this deceptively simple piece of equipment prevent your water from becoming cloudy and brown, but it also serves the vital function of defending the walls of your tank against rust. Understanding a bit about how this rod works will help you to ensure that your water heater remains reliable and long-lasting.
Water Heater Construction
Unsurprisingly, the most prominent feature of any tank heater is the tank itself. The construction of this large vessel consists of multiple layers of steel and an inner layer of rust-resistant material, such as plastic. Your water heater's tank must be capable of resisting both corrosion and heat over its decade (or longer!) lifespan. Although the inner portion of the tank is lined to resist rust, there are still steel portions of the tank with exposure to the water it contains. Without protection, these areas would eventually rust and wear away, leading to leaks and tank failure.
Enter The Anode
If you've ever learned about how batteries work, then you might be familiar with the term "anode." The purpose of the anode in your water heater is somewhat similar. When the iron in your tank's steel reacts with the oxygen in the water, a process known as oxidation occurs. For metals, this process is more commonly known as rust. As the iron is oxidized, the water "steals" electrons from it and creates rust. Your heater's anode (widely known as a sacrificial anode) is constructed from materials that are even more reactive, allowing the steel to take electrons from the anode. Ultimately, this is what prevents your tank from rusting.
Why You Can't Ignore Your Anode
Sacrificial anodes are, as the name implies, meant to be sacrificed. It is easier to replace a small metal rod than a large steel tank. A rod may last anywhere from 2-5 years, depending on several factors related to your water. It is crucial to routinely check the condition of your anode. Once it begins to wear away, it's time to replace it with a new one. For most water heaters, you can unscrew the anode rod from the top to check or replace it.
An anode that is wearing away rapidly can produce sediment on the bottom of your tank. If the problem is severe enough, the rod itself may break free. Even worse, your tank will begin to rust once the rod is no longer performing its job. An anode that has worn away completely can lead to your entire heater failing in relatively short order, so it is vital to check its condition and replace it as needed. If in doubt, contact a professional plumber to perform a check on your water heater at least every other year.