How to Keep Your Water Heater Free From Rust

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Water Heater Maintenance Tips

If your water heater’s tank is like most others, it is made of steel, but there is also a layer of glass. If water seeps through that glass though, then rust will develop along the tank, causing a leak. The problem is, you probably can’t be aware that there is rust forming until the leak actually happens. And if a leak is coming from the tank itself, then you cannot fix your water heater; you will have to replace it altogether.

That being said, you can still take measures to prevent rust in your water heater. Actually, you have a rust-fighting element included in the water heater, and this is the cathodic anode (it could also be called the sacrificial anode). This anode can be three to five feet in length, and its diameter is a quarter-inch or so. A hex bolt fastens the anode in place at the tank’s top. It is imperative that this anode stays in optimal condition, otherwise, rust could creep in. And so could some nasty odors.

A minimum of two times each year, you need to ensure that this anode is in good working condition:

  • Switch off the power to the water heater
  • Cut off its water supply (at the inlet valve atop the heater)
  • Use a wrench to detach the anode
  • Examine it for any signs of breakdown

If the cathodic anode isn’t looking great, all you need is around $20 bucks and a half hour to spare for DIY maintenance. The tricky aspect could be finding the part that you need, as hardware stores don’t often carry these anodes. You can try a plumbing supplier instead. To find the right anode, you can tell them what make and model is listed on the water heater’s label.

Once you have the part in hand, here is how you install the new cathodic anode:

  • Switch off the power and cut off the water supply
  • Loosen the anode’s hex bolt and take out the rod: if it’s might be stumpy and rusty, this could mean you might just be in the nick of time with the replacement.
  • Put in the new anode and tighten the hex bolt. (Don’t forget to line the threaded fitting with Teflon tape)
  • Restore power and water to your heater.

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