Water Heaters

Any older plumber knows that heater tanks were once made of heavy gauge steel that took sometimes over 30 years to rust through. But boy they were heavy! Now you have coated thin sheet metal tanks with aluminum anodes that should be replaced every few years. Only trouble is that the dad-gummed things cost as much as an entire unit of years past. Anyone had any luck making such replacement anodes as far as them holding up? I'm a machinist, and the cost of such would be negligible. Also, by replacing the anode often, (say once every couple of years) would it be likely that the unit would last a multiple of its warranty years?
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