If you have a storage water heater, as most people do, you may have wondered how your water heater can hold up so well. After all, storage water heaters are running almost constantly from the time they are installed to keep a supply of hot water heated. That leads to a lot of wear and tear on the system, and with that much exposure to water it should include rust as well. While some water heaters do eventually rust, there are plenty of water heaters that go through their whole lives without ever experiencing it. How does that happen? How can an appliance that spends its whole life in contact with water not rust away? Read on to find out.
The Sacrificial Anode Rod
The sacrificial anode rod, anode rod for short, is a part that is inserted into the water heater tank to prevent it from rusting. It is a long, metal rod comprised of either aluminum or magnesium forged around a steel wire core. As long as the rod is in contact with the water in the water heater tank, it will degrade instead of the tank itself. This happens due to a process called “electrolysis,” where the ions that would normally oxidize the steel of the tank lining are attracted to the anode rod instead. However, this protection is not permanent.
After a long enough period of time, the anode rod will become so degraded that it can’t shield the water heater any more. At that point, the rod must be replaced or the tank will start to rust. This is why it is so important that you have your water heater professionally checked at least once a year.
If you haven’t scheduled a water heater maintenance appointment in at least a year, call Roadrunner Air Conditioning, Heating, & Refrigeration. We provide water heater maintenance throughout Santa Fe, NM.