Smelly Water – One of 10 Signs Your Water Heater Anode Rod Could Need Changing

Do you have a tank style water heater? The tank itself is made of metal. Minerals in water degrade the metal and sometimes that down right stinks!

A water heater sacrificial anode rod is a metal rod and is generally screwed into the top of the tank. It’s job is to attract corrosive elements in your potable water. Over time the rods get “sacrificed” for the healthy survival of the heater’s tank and the result can lead to smelly water.

Magnesium rods work better than aluminum/zinc anode rods but they generally don’t last as long. The rod is an essential component for protecting the tank from what is called galvanic corrosion – an electrochemical process in which one metal corrodes preferentially when it is in electrical contact with another, in the presence of an electrolyte. Learn More Here

Photo of deteriorated anode rod.

The rods can deteriorate in as short a period as 3 to 5 years, depending on many factors that include the hardness or softness of your drinking water.

Without a working anode rod, the water heater tank will be vulnerable to rust, corrosion, and other damaging effects of chemicals and minerals in the water supply.

Home Maintenance Tasks That Don’t Require Tools

Here are my 10 signs you should replace your water heater anode rod.

Number 1 – Having a healthy rod installed in the tank will extend the lifespan of your tank. It costs a lot less to replace an anode rod than an entire water heater. Inspect it often to save money buying a new appliance.

Number 2 – Do you have water softeners? They can accelerate anode rod corrosion. You’ll want to check the rod more frequently if you have a water softener (about once a year). Ask your plumber about non-sacrificial, electrical anode replacements as an alternative to sacrificial anodes and help reduce limescale.

Number 3 – Acidic water can accelerate anode rod corrosion. If you have acidic water, check your anode rod more frequently (about once a year).

Number 4 – The water heater makes loud or multiple popping noises when heating up – signaling potential corrosion and hardened mineral sediment.

Number 5 – Your water heater is more than 5 years old. You can check the label on the side of your water heater to discover its age. Sometimes, the water heater’s age is hidden in an alphanumeric code. Check the water heater manufacturer’s website for instructions on reading the serial number.

Here’s my A-Z look-up site! I often use this website to find the age of any water heater.

Gary Smith – SafeHome Inspections

Number 6 – Your faucet aerators appear to clog more frequently or you notice a slimy gel substance when cleaning the faucet aerator. The aerator is the screen on the end of the sink spout.

This is the worst case of black slime I’ve encountered. An older model water heater TPR valve drain line (green color is copper patina) discharging into a worn pan.

Number 7 – Your hot water starts emitting a “rotten egg” odor. This unpleasant odor is caused by high levels of sulfur bacteria (Hydrogen Sulfide). The smell is often accompanied by brown or black (dark) water.

Number 8 – Water is colder or not as hot as usual. The cause can be a failing heating element (in electric water heaters), broken down parts, or excessive sediment at the bottom of your unit. The sediment settles down near the burner (on a gas model) and the burner’s heat simply won’t reach the water.

Check out this video (of an electric tank) from Matt Risinger showing the effects of sediment build up. Sediment will prevent your water heater from doing its job – making hot water.

Older water heaters can have excessive sediment at the bottom of the tank.

Number 9 – When your sacrificial anode rod is nearing the end of its life, corrosion can begin to occur in your water heater tank. If you notice rusty-looking water, a corroding water heater unit can be the cause. Contact a plumber immediately before cracks and leaks start to develop.

Number 10 – One obvious sign of a problem with your water heater is simple – – you see a leak or cracks/corrosion. This can show up as a rusted pan, rust spots on the floor or signs of brown or rust colored runs and stains near the heater.

If you see water around your water heater, contact a professional plumber ASAP. You don’t want to wait until the tank bursts to seek professional help!

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Cover photo by RVgeeks

Home Inspector – Home Builder and Building Consultant/Coach

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