Written on: April 22, 2021
You have to hand it to the people who design water heaters.
Knowing that steel and water don’t mix very well over time, they came up with an ingenious solution when they set out to create modern water heaters: the anode rod.
What does an anode rod do? Well, first keep in mind that conditions inside a water tank create a “perfect storm” for corrosion – not only does steel decay in water, but heat, the slight acidity of household water, and an environment of electrical conductivity all accelerate the process. Without some way to slow corrosion, a steel tank would rot in just a couple of years.
Enter the anode rod.
The anode rod is a thin tube – typically about 30 inches long – made of magnesium or aluminum. When placed in contact with water, the rod starts to corrode more quickly than other metals (to put it more technically – or chemically – the bonds between the molecules of magnesium and aluminum give up their electrons quicker than the bonds in steel or iron).
As a result, when you place a magnesium/aluminum anode rod into a steel tank filled with water, corrosive oxygen will be attracted to the anode rod rather than to the tank itself; the anode rod is often referred to as the “sacrificial rod” for this reason.
A typical anode rod will last about five years depending on the volume of water that circulates through the tank; if you use a water softener, that window shrinks considerably.
Did you know that Clyde S. Walton checks the anode rod as part of your routine water heater inspection? It’s true! If it’s been a while since you last had your water heater serviced by a professional, give us a call today to schedule water heater maintenance in Montgomery and Bucks County, PA!