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Is it ever not worth it to replace the anode?

T. J.
T. J. Member Posts: 47
I have searched and read posts here regarding the sometimes tough job to remove the anode on an old domestic hot water heater and I'm asking for some advice from the experts out there in the field...

I have a Lochinvar LTN040G 40 gallon gas-fired water heater that I had installed by a plumber after moving into our 1-1/2 bath house in 2006. I, unfortunately, had not learned of the regular replacement of the anode rod until recently (I'm kicking myself as I usually try to keep up with regular maintenance of mechanical items in the house like my hot water heating system). To add to the difficulty to the job on this older unit, the rod on my model is the type that's integral to the hot water nipple, therefore I'd have to undo the hard-pipped union and try to muscle the nipple/rod out. If I mess up, no hot water for the family and an emergency call to a plumber.

Is it worth it to try and get a 13 year old anode rod out of an otherwise fine and functioning water heater or am I asking for a lot of trouble and I should just let it be and replace the entire unit after it starts to eventually fail?

If information of hot water usage in my house helps, our low-flow shower head is used twice a day and the a bath, dishwasher and washing machine is used every other day and we are on the Detroit municipal water supply.

Thanks,
T. J.

Comments

  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,635
    I think you're more likely ti cause a leak in a weakened tank than preserve the tank at this point. The anode is likely long gone and the tank has been rusting away for years. There probably isn't much left to preserve. Save your effort for the new tank, put a good full port drain valve on the new tank and remove the anode while it is new and get some dope and teflon tape on it so it will come out easily when you swap it every 5 years or so.
    Intplm.JohnNY
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 3,793
    The tank is almost 14 years old. That horse has left the barn. Life expectancy is 12 to 15. Start proper maintenance on a new water heater. Keep an anode rod as a spare and check yearly. Periodically drain off the sediment at the bottom of the tank. An impact drill and socket makes anode rod removal a breeze.
    DZoroIntplm.
  • T. J.
    T. J. Member Posts: 47
    That's what I was afraid of.

    But, thanks for the advice. It might have saved me from making a costlier mistake.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,082
    Hi, I’ cause a little trouble and suggest that you have little to lose and much to gain by checking the anode. With any pipe that may be hard to unscrew, fit as big a steel bolt (or what ever you have) into the nipple, then you can use a wrench without risk of collapsing the nipple. Do make sure you can get your hands on an anode before taking things apart. The old anode is your best clue about the condition of the tank. If you pull out just a nipple with no anode left, or just a bare core wire, you know lots of damage has happened. If there is some sacrificial metal on the rod, that’s good and replacing the rod should give you more years. I’d check it again in one year to see how rapidly it’s being consumed. use magnesium rather than aluminum. Please do let us know your course B)

    Yours, Larry
    rick in Alaska
  • T. J.
    T. J. Member Posts: 47
    Thanks, Larry. Before I decide what to do, I do have a question on the collapsing (or egging, as I read in another post) of the nipple you had mentioned.

    Basically, are you saying that once I disconnect the outlet at the union connection, I should stick as big of a bolt down the nipple as I can so that the pipe doesn't collapse as I'm trying to loosen it with all my might? If that's true, is it done just so the current supply outlet pipe isn't ruined in case I have to reuse it?
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,635
    If it deforms there is a lot more chance bad things will happen. It may no longer be gripped by the socket, it might shear off more easily, it might wedge itself in more tightly.

    The wire in my old tank has a coating of i assume calcium almost as thick as the metal used to be.

    Aluminum rods are usually used to solve water quality problems with well water and bacteria producing sulfur.

  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,082
    Hi @T. J. , Apologies for this late response. I've found that if the nipple collapses, the likelihood of it tearing off where it screws into the tank and leaving a ring of steel pipe in the tank's threaded fitting is much greater. That ring can be hard to remove without damaging tank threads. I'd just assume the nipple you remove will be toast and as a new one comes with the anode, that's OK.

    Just to be clear, if you have odor problems with the water, than putting in a rod that has aluminum but also contains zinc can help control the odor. If odor isn't a problem, go with a magnesium anode as there is no health risk connected to it. If you look here: https://heatinghelp.com/heating-museum/new-resource-post-17/ you'll see why I'm not fond of aluminum anodes.

    Yours, Larry
  • T. J.
    T. J. Member Posts: 47
    Thanks, Larry.

    Here's a totally noob follow up question.....

    My tank is glass lined. How does a steel tank that is lined with a layer of glass rust? Or am I not getting what a glass lined tank means?
    ethicalpaul
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,282
    @T.J. At this point changing the rod will be a very big task. If the rod is intact, and I doubt that is. When you remove the thing it will be long, possibly as long as the tank. So you will need to lay the tank down to remove the old one and put the new one in. Unless you have high ceilings. Then you can keep the water heater up right.
    I wouldn't go to all of that trouble. (Combined with the other concerns expressed above.) ^^^^^ ...
    This can be a whole lot of work. With undesirable results.


    As to the glass lined tank question. Over time the tank could experience micro-cracks that will allow water to attack the metal on the tank. Also areas of the tank that have threaded tappings can deteriorate at a faster rate then the smoothest areas of a glass lined tank.

    Handling a glass lined tank to replace an anode rod . It's not worth it.
  • T. J.
    T. J. Member Posts: 47
    That answers that. Thanks for the info.

    The More You Know!
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,082
    edited November 2019
    Hi I’ll add that segmented anodes are made so you need only about a foot of clearance above the tank. o:)

    Yours, Larry
    psb75Intplm.
  • psb75
    psb75 Member Posts: 339
    The Bradford White website says that the "glass-lining" of a steel tank is an "imperfect" process i.e. not everything inside the tank that is exposed to water gets covered w/ glass lining. Hence, maybe pin-holes and as mentioned above, cracks developing, and threaded connections etc. not protected. THAT is why they put anode rods in--to be "sacrificial"--to take the initial "rust hit" instead of the steel tank, which is under the glass lining.
    Intplm.
  • HVACNUT
    HVACNUT Member Posts: 3,793
    > @Intplm. said:
    > @T.J. At this point changing the rod will be a very big task. If the rod is intact, and I doubt that is. When you remove the thing it will be long, possibly as long as the tank. So you will need to lay the tank down to remove the old one and put the new one in. Unless you have high ceilings. Then you can keep the water heater up right.
    > I wouldn't go to all of that trouble. (Combined with the other concerns expressed above.) ^^^^^ ...
    > This can be a whole lot of work. With undesirable results.
    >
    >
    > As to the glass lined tank question. Over time the tank could experience micro-cracks that will allow water to attack the metal on the tank. Also areas of the tank that have threaded tappings can deteriorate at a faster rate then the smoothest areas of a glass lined tank.
    >
    > Handling a glass lined tank to replace an anode rod . It's not worth it.

    NOT ENTIRELY TRUE.
    They do manufacture "sausage link" anode rods that work in tight locales.
    Intplm.
  • T. J.
    T. J. Member Posts: 47
    Yeah, I knew about the segmented sausage link anode rods, in fact, I had actually already purchased one for the tank (magnesium) before starting this post.

    I was about to attempt it (going so far as ripping off the insulated blanket) when I asked myself, "is this a good idea?". I then came here for advice.
    Intplm.
  • Intplm.
    Intplm. Member Posts: 1,282
    I know @HVACNUT but on the rare occasion that I would change a anode??? I did have a link type rod once, and it fell apart on me.
    I'm not a advocate of anode change outs as you can probably tell.
    By the time you change one you look at the water heater and say.
    "Nope, I should have changed the hole water heater."
    Thanks for the input though.
  • Larry Weingarten
    Larry Weingarten Member Posts: 2,082
    Hi, Anodes become a fairly simple task to remove with the right tool. I use a torque multiplier rated at 600 foot pounds.

    I have cracked ribs before getting the right tool. :#

    Yours, Larry
    HVACNUT
  • T. J.
    T. J. Member Posts: 47
    Well, this weekend I decided to drain the tank completely and give a few full pressure shots of water from the full port fill valve to see what stuff comes out the bottom and, yes, it's definitely begun the rusting process (and the anode is probably already gone). A few bucket-fulls of rusty water complete with some tiny particles. It took a while because the drain valve, though brass, isn't a ball valve.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 2,635
    Even when they are a ball valve, the ones that come with the tank or even most boiler drains aren't full port. If you are so inclined to do it for a water heater (the next one) you can make one out of a full port valve, a hose thread adapter, and some fittings to connect it to the tank, maybe a street ell and a nipple.
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