How To Replace an Anode Rod

Water heater next to breaker box
Last Updated: 9/16/2023 and reviewed by our team of HVAC experts

When was the last time you replaced your water heater anode? Not sure what a water heater anode is? You’re in the right spot! Read on to learn everything you need to know about water heater anode replacement from the experts at Aire Serv.

What Is an Anode Rod?

A water heater anode rod is a steel rod that is coated in a second type of metal—usually zinc, aluminum, or magnesium. The rod, screwed into the top of the tank, is used to reduce corrosion inside the tank. A water heater anode, also known as a sacrificial anode, is vital to the function of a water heater in that it protects the water-soaked walls of the tank from corrosion. The rod serves as a decoy for corrosive compounds—encouraging corrosion on the rod instead of on the interior of the tank.

How Often Should You Replace a Hot Water Heater Anode?

The frequency with which you should replace your water heater anode rod in your hot water heater can range, in the most extreme circumstances, anywhere from six months to six years depending on the composition of your water. If you have a water softener or particularly hard water, your anode will deteriorate more quickly. As a rule of thumb, we recommend homeowners anticipate replacing their water heater anode every two to four years.

New homeowners should inquire as to when the water heater was last serviced when they take possession of their home. Handy homeowners might want to carefully remove their water heater anode yearly or every other year to monitor its appearance to help gauge when to replace it.

How to Remove a Water Heater Anode Rod

Water heater anode replacement can be completed by homeowners. If you’d like to inspect or replace your water heater’s anode, follow these steps:

  • For electric water heaters: Turn off the water heater and cut power to the unit from the circuit breaker.
    • For gas water heaters: Set the water heater to “vacation mode” to avoid having to reignite the pilot light.
  • Turn off the water supply.
  • Drain the water heater using the water heater drain, a short hose, and a utility bucket.
  • Unscrew the anode rod from the top of the water heater tank with a socket wrench.
  • Carefully remove the anode rod by lifting it straight up from the tank. Be careful not to rattle the anode or bang it against the tank. This could break the rod or damage the interior of the tank.
  • Inspect the anode rod. If it is still looking newish, reinstall the rod.
  • If it is significantly corroded, reduced in size, or otherwise compromised, proceed with replacement. Insert the new water heater anode rod and screw it into the top of the tank.
  • Re-connect the tank’s water supply and electrical connections.

How to Remove a Stubborn Anode Rod

If you run into a stubborn anode rod, it may be tempting to use a lubricant or solvent to loosen the connection, but just say no! Penetrating oil products like WD-40 can contaminate the water tank and cause bigger, long-term problems. To remove a stubborn water heater anode by yourself, you may need to purchase or rent an electric impact wrench.

Your home’s water heater is a crucial, and expensive, part of your home’s infrastructure. Instead of purchasing new equipment or wasting time fighting with a stuck anode, call Aire Serv. Our technicians have the equipment and skills necessary to coax even the most stubborn of anodes from your water heater.

How to Tell If Your Anode Rod Is Bad

A water heater anode rod will corrode over time, exposing the tank’s steel to corrosion. As the anode rod deteriorates, it becomes less effective. The most surefire way to determine if it’s time to replace your water heater anode rod is to remove it using the steps listed above. But homeowners can be on the lookout for signs of anode rod deterioration, including:

  • An increase in your utility bill
  • Water accumulation in the water heater pan
  • Clogged faucet aerators
  • Loud noises coming from the water heater as it kicks on or heats up
  • Sandy, gritty or smelly water

Call Aire Serv for All Your Water Heater Maintenance Needs

Our name might be Aire Serv, but our technicians are dedicated to more than just the temperature and quality of your home’s air. We’re here to help you breathe easy with expert HVAC and water heater services. Schedule an appointment online or contact a technician near you to learn more about our water heater services.