I would like to know how to tell if a water-heater is approaching its
useful life and needs to be replaced soon. I don't want to wait for
its water tank to crack open and flood the basement before I take
I was planning to examine the anode rod in my 4-years old water-heater
with the hope of replacing it periodically in order to extend its
service life. But my basement doesn't have enough head room to extract
the anode rod. Therefore, I am thinking of just waiting for it to die
before I replace the water-heater and all its connecting fittings to
flexible fittings (then I can disconnect them easily for periodic
checking the anode rod). How can I tell when I should replace the
Thanks in advance for any suggestion.
Gas water heater average life is ~10 years. Electric a little longer.
Life can depend on water quality.
They rarely split open like a melon; usually a small leak to begin with
(not a guarantee).
You can get a little comfort from an inexpensive flood alert device,
or from a drain pan under the heater (on the next one), or even
a more intricate device which shuts off the water supply when a
leak is detected. You decide how much it's worth...
Thanks for the good suggestion. My waterheater is near a finished area
of my basement. Therefore, I don't want any flooding in my basement
that may ruin the many days of hardwork that I spent on finishing the
basement. I am willing to spend the money. I will go to home center
after work to see if I can find anything like that.
If you can pull the anode rod up a few inches, you'll be able to see its
With just a little clearance, you can replace it. Pull it up, clamp the
base of it at the WH top surface with vice grips (so the rod doesn't
fall into the tank) and cut off the extending anode rod. Pull the
remainder up again, clamp again, and cut. And so on. If the anode rod
is shot, there won't be much material to cut through anyway.
The replacements fold up, and unfold as you insert them. Ingenious
little device made for crawl-space WH's.
Jay Chan wrote:
Thanks for the tip. But the threaded fitting of the anode rod is
totally rusted. I could not get it open with a large correctly-sized
wrench and gentle force. I didn't want to put too much force in case I
may jerk the whole waterheater and crack some other fittings. This is
a part of the reason why I chose not to examine the anode rod (the
other reason is lack of head room).
Now, _this_ is a useful piece of information. I thought I would have
to disconnect the waterheater, tilt it sideway before I could replace
the anode rod. Now that I know that I don't need to tilt the
waterheater to replace the anode rod, I think I can do the following
- Disconnect all the fittings.
- Use brutal force to unscrew the rusted anode rod, and examine it to
see how far it has gone after 4-years of use (this becomes the
- Replace the anode rod with a folding version.
- Cover 3/4 of the threaded area of the folding anode rod with teflon
tape. Hopefully, it will be unscrewed easier next time.
- Replace the rigid fittings with flexible fittings.
When I need to examine the anode rod periodically, I only need to do
- Unscrew the anode rod and take a look and then put it back.
I have one question though:
- What is the folding anode rod called?
- Do you know where I can order it? Our local plumbing supply stores
don't sell any anode rod any more (they want people to replace the
Thanks in advance for any additional info.
Before you do that, spray the fitting with a penetrating oil spray. You
can use WD-40 (which does work somewhat, but it is more of an all
purpose lubricant and water displacer, hence the original meaning of the
name WD). A pure penetrating oil like "Nuts Off", CD2, or any of a dozen
other brands sold in hardware stores will probably be more effective.
"flexible anode" or "articulated anode"
Also check the website of the manufacturer of your water heater for
replacment parts; some (e.g., A.O. Smith) sell flexible anodes.
Get/ borrow a 1/2" drive socket of the proper size (3/4"?) and a good
sized (long) breaker bar. We change these on a regular basis without
much trouble. If its tight, get a helper to hold heater while
applying force to wrench. Don't use teflon tape or pipe dope on
threads of replacement rod to insure good electrical connection. Look
at plumbing supply or Johnstone Supply for replacement rods. HD &
Lowes don't seem to carry them. Guess they would like you to buy a
new heater more often. Also be sure to flush unit well on a annual or
semi-annual basis. This is the key to getting long life from your
heater. If you hear popping and crackling on a gas unit then it needs
severe cleaning. We use muriatic acid diluted 4:1. Let it soak for a
few hours and then flush well through the bottom drain. We also
remove the hokey little boiler drain and replace with a brass nipple
and a ball valve so it can flush much better. Be sure to check
pressure/temp relief valve at least annually. A malfunctioning heater
can remove half your house in seconds. A real potential bomb under
the right conditions. Hope this helps.
On 20 Oct 2004 06:56:09 -0700, email@example.com (Jay Chan) wrote:
Actually, I have a suitable wrench that is good for that. I just don't
want to put too much force because all the connections are rigid
connection, not the flexible kind.
I will only wrap 3/4 of the threaded area, and leave 1/4 to have solid
metal to metal contact.
Thanks for the store name. I will check it out. I have checked
HomeDepot and they don't carry any anode rod. Other local plumbing
supply stores also don't carry any anode rod. The salesman claimed
that this is too difficult to check the anode rod (not enough headroom
in a typical basement); therefore, he claimed that most people simply
replace the whole waterheater. I don't believe this.
I doubt I will put acid into my waterheater. If I need to do this, I
will tilt it at 45-degree to drain the last bits of stuffs from the
bottom of the waterheater. Luckily, I don't need to do so.
The problem is that the old relief valve in my waterheater could open
but could not be close completely after it had been opened. This seems
to be a very common problem. My house inspector asked me not to touch
it; but I had to exercise it in order to check if it works or not.
Good thing this is relatively easy to replace the relief valve.
Thanks for the info.
This is a good tip.
Although I have decided to replace the anode rod (following the advice
from another newsgroup member), I may not want to do this right now
when cold winter is approaching. I don't want to screw up my
water-heater when I really need the hot water.
I will ask around to see how long other people waterheaters last. If
they last quite long, this means I don't need to replace the anode rod
right now, and I can wait until next summer. The flip-side is that if
their waterheaters last only 4 years, I will have to take action right
away to make sure our family will have hot water during the winter.
Thanks everyone who has replied to this thread. Based on the
suggestions here, I have formulate this plan:
I have asked my neighbors. Seem like the waterheaters around here last
a long time (something like 10 years). This means I don't need to be
in a hurry to check the anode rod. I can afford to wait until the
coming summer when we don't expect to use hot water that often.
Meanwhile, I will do these:
- Use a union-joint to extend the drip pipe from the relief valve to
no more than 6" above the floor. That union-joint can be taken down in
case I need to replace the relief valve.
- Add a flood-alarm near the bottom of the waterheater ... just in
case the waterheater cannot wait for the summer.
In the summer next year, I will do these:
- Replace the ball-valve in the cold water supply that cannot
completely shut off. Seem like the plumbler used too much heat when he
soldered the ball-valve to the copper pipe that melted the plastic
seal inside the ball valve. I will replace it with a ball-valve that
uses compression fitting.
- Replace the rigid connections at the water pipes and gas pipe with
- Examine the anode rod by pulling it out as much as the headroom
allows. I probably need to use WD-40 to loosen the rusted connection.
- Replace the anode rod with a flexible version if the anode rod is
almost a goner. Preferably a magnesium version. I will contact the
manufacturer of the waterheater to see if they sell it. Wrap 3/4 of
the threaded area of the anode rod with teflon tape to ease removing
it next time when I need to unscrew it.
Thanks again for helping me to come up with an action plan to deal
with my 4-years old waterheater.
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