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What Does The Anode Rod Do In My Water Heater?

Posted: June 3, 2020

anode rod rhode island

Looking at the big aluminum-can tank in your basement, you wouldn’t guess that there’s a whole lot of technology and thinking that goes into the design of an oil-fired water heater – but looks can be deceiving.

Take anode rods, for example. These simple devices are installed inside your water heater’s storage tank, where the ideal conditions for corrosion exist: not only does steel decay in water, but heat, the slight acidity of household water, and an environment containing ionized water all accelerate the process. Without some way to slow corrosion, a steel-walled water storage tank would rot in just a few years.

But it won’t, thanks to that trusty little anode rod.

The Purpose Of An Anode Rod

An anode rod – a steel core wire surrounded with either aluminum, magnesium or zinc that sits inside the storage tank – is designed to draw the corrosion process to itself rather than the tank lining, “taking one for the team” to preserve 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 and the hardness of your household water (that is, how much mineral content your municipal or well water has). If you use a water softener, an anode rod will last about half as long.

Once your anode rod is depleted, tank corrosion accelerates – and since replacing an anode rod is a lot cheaper than replacing your tank, it’s best to stay on top of the problem with routine water heater maintenance.

Stay on top of water heater maintenance with expert water heater service from Vaughn Oil. Contact our pros today to learn more about maintenance for your oil-fired water heater, or water heater service and installations in Rhode Island!