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Products > Rescuer Kit Buying Guide

A Water Heater Rescuer kit comprises a sacrificial anode, a curved dip tube, a ball-valve drain assembly, and a Water Heater Workbook. There are two ways to use one:

Prefit a new tank for maximum longevity, or retrofit an older tank to keep it from rusting out. Function and longevity are separate issues. Function is about whether the heating system works, such as when an electric element burns out, while longevity is about having a functioning anode in a tank and controlling sediment buildup.

I want to say, out loud, right now:
  • Bradford White heaters only have one anode and no room for a second one.
  • Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE tanks have a hex anode in its own port, but the only combo anode that will work with them is one sold by Rheem.

This is because people get the idea of "rescuing" a heater, but don't seem to get deep enough into my pages to get to this modest point about those two brands, and keep asking me about them. So all you can do with them is add a sediment flush kit, if you have hard water. If you are softening your water, you probably don't need that because softeners mostly eliminate mineral sediment.

Another important thing that applies to all Rescuer kits: you need to tell me the distance from the top to the drain valve because I custom-bend the curved dip tube to fit your tank.

If you go to the Rescuer kit product page, you'll notice there are a bunch of possibilities. Some come with hex anodes, some with combos. Some anodes are solid, some are flexible, some combos have a 4-inch pipe nipple, while others have a 6-inch. Most heaters have hex anodes.

If you're replacing an existing hex anode, get:

Water heaters that might fall into this category are all those made by Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE; and many made by A.O.Smith, State, Kenmore, Reliance, American, Whirlpool and Maytag; and American Standard.

Before I go on, I should add that the dip tubes are quite bendable, but require about 20 inches of clearance.

Next, let's talk about kits with combo anodes. What are they about? First, I'll clarify what "hex" and "combo" refer to. The picture to the right is of two hex anodes. They go in a separate port on top of water heaters. The other kind, a combo, is shown below it, and those go into the hot port. They comprise an anode, plastic sleeve with an outlet for the hot water to flow through, and a pipe nipple.

As previously mentioned, Bradford Whites nearly always have combo rods, but some heaters by State and A.O. Smith employ this method, too. So a Rescuer kit with combo can be used to replace the factory combo on one of these heaters.

Combo anode rod

Another possibility is to buy a heater with a hex anode and add a kit with a combo to it. Since a lot of the heaters you can do that with come with aluminum anodes, you have to make a choice. Stick with aluminum and find an aluminum combo elsewhere (I don't sell them for reasons explained at the bottom of my Anodes page.) Or replace the factory hex anode with one of mine. By the way, usually, aluminum anodes have flat hex nuts and magnesium ones have a bump, as in the picture above. The exception is Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE, which have no bump but are actually magnesium.

One thing worth mentioning: there is no magic to having two anodes in the tank. If you can remember to check the factory anode from time to time, that's good enough. My own water heater has lasted 36 years with its one anode replaced from time to time. Trouble is, most people completely forget their water heaters unless something goes wrong, so having two anodes will double the period before you have to replace the heater. And who knows? Maybe you'll remember in time.

So, why 4-inch nipples and 6-inch nipples? The latter are for use with electric heaters made after April 2015 by A.O. Smith, State, Reliance, Kenmore, American, Whirlpool, Maytag or Lochinvar. Those have extra-thick insulation to comply with the current NAECA 3 energy efficiency regulations. Four-inch nipples are good enough for Bradford Whites and heaters made before April 2015.

So, to repeat: for electric heaters made after April 2015 by A.O. Smith, State, Reliance, Kenmore, American, Whirlpool, Maytag or Lochinvar, use:

And that just leaves SKU2 and SKU4. Those have solid and flex combo anodes, respectively, and need 48 inches or 12 inches of clearance. They can be added to all the gas heaters made by the above brands except for Rheem/Ruud/Richmond/GE

If you buy, say a gas A.O. Smith with an aluminum hex anode, think about replacing that anode with my SKU8 and adding an SKU2 kit to it. That gives you the equivalent of 21 years of rust protection. I sell the thickest anodes I can source. SKU8 is what they put in 12-year-warranty water heaters.

Let's talk a bit about the flush part of the Rescuer kit. There is more information about this on my Sediment page, but briefly, the minerals in hard water settle out when it's heated and build up in the tank bottom. That's bad in a number of ways, so it's good to control it. As I said before, softeners also do this. But if you're not doing that, then putting in a curved dip tube and ball-valve drain assembly is the easiest way to control it. You just need to hook up a hose once in awhile and let the water run under pressure.

The water swirls around the bottom of the heater, which incidentally, is domed, and expels the sediment. Because it's domed, draining the tank, as the manufacturer instructions advise, is pretty worthless. You may get sediment between the bottom of the dip tube and the valve and that's it. If the valve doesn't clog.

Water Heater Workbook

Most heaters today come with "self-flushing" dip tubes. We plain don't think they do anything. They are supposed to keep sediment stirred up so it will flow out with the hot water, but sediment is heavier than water.

Finally, the Rescuer kits come with Larry and Suzanne Weingarten's The Water Heater Workbook, which is a thing of beauty. How many technical manuals do anything but bore you to death? Among other things, there is a quote of some sort on almost every page, as well as cartoons. Larry said the best vacation he ever had was the week he spent on the couch while he went through about 50,000 quotes looking for just the right ones. -- Randy Schuyler

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