How long can WH be without anode rod?

The Tank How long can WH be without anode rod?

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    We have just purchased a new home with an A.O. Smith GCV-50, 50 gallon natural gas water heater, and a whole house water softner by Culligan is in play with the water system. The hot water has a smell especially when taking a shower. When you dry yourself the towels have a smell also. Before finding this site I read an article on stating to remove the anode rod to stop the smell and that the water softner would protect the WH. I removed the anode rod and it was completely covered in a white cottage cheese looking crust, no pieces missing and installed a plug. I’m pretty sure it’s an aluminum anode rod. Well, after doing this and also bleaching the system the smell came back within 72 hrs.

    Last night I bypassed the water softner as a process of elimination and added 3 pints of hydrogen peroxide, this morning the smell was not present, the unit remains with no anode rod. I’m aware of the importance of the anode rod. How long can I operate the WH with no anode rod? I’m just trying to eliminate, opearte the WH and diagnose. The WH has been with no anode rod for approximately 72 hrs.

    Your powered anode rod might be the answer, and will enable the water softner to be back in-line. I have not found a thread on this forum of someone buying the powered anode rod, installing it, and reporting back if their smell problem was resolved. If there is such a thread please let me know. THANKS!!

    Randy Schuyler

    Actually, I see you ordered a powered anode. You’ll have that in four business days, maybe something like next Wednesday, although I’ll give you that and the tracking number when I make the order tomorrow.

    That said, your water heater won’t self-destruct in that amount of time, but you could put the anode back, with a bit more peroxide and probably not have odor before the powered unit arrives.

    I find it exceedingly interesting that you still had odor after removing the sacrificial anode. It makes me suspicious that you might have a 12-year-warranty heater with a secondary anode in the hot port.

    That is something you’ll want to check on. You’ll have to unscrew the nipple in the hot port to see if it just a nipple or a nipple/anode. If you put the powered anode in, but have another sacrificial anode in the tank, you’ll still have odor.

    If there is no anode there, say so here. I’d like to hear what the other Sages of Water Heating have to say about that.

    Randy Schuyler


    Water Heater Info:

    A.O. Smith ProMax GCV-50 200/201 Series, 6 yr. warranty, with one


    A. O. Smith’s exclusive aluminum anode has a stainless steel core,

    protects tank against corrosion longer versus ordinary anodes.

    I forgot to mention that before I removed the anode rod, plugged the hole, and bypassed the softner, I added 3/4 cup of chlorine bleach to the brine/salt tank of the water softner as instructed by another site. The smell went away for about 24/48 hrs. Then I proceeded to remove the anode rod, add chlorine bleach, plug the anode hole and left the softner operating. The smell returned after 48 hrs or so.

    Last night I added peroxide, anode hole still plugged, water softner bypassed; so far so good. I’ll follow your advice to reinstall original aluminum anode rod, add peroxide and leave softner bypassed at least until powered anode rod arrives.

    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: Years ago in my town there was a rash of smelly water in areas that never had experienced it before and didn’t really follow the usual rules we see in the making of smelly hot water. Going away on vacation is the biggest cause of smelly water I see. Turned out it was the softeners. They were being recharged in an area that had smelly water and it was contaminating plumbing systems all over town. If you only get odor when the softener is operating, it might be a clue 😎

    Yours, Larry


    My neighbors don’t have this problem, they also don’t have water softners. Even though I ordered the powered anode rod, in the meantime I’m going to evaluate this issue by eliminating/changing/bypassing etc.. and giving the system time to react.

    You guys are great, and I’ll be updating and posting results. It only helps everybody out.


    Report #1

    No Smell
    Water Softner Bypassed.
    No Anode Rod.
    Added 3 pints Hydrogen Peroxide (1/17/2011).

    Powered Anode Rod is expected to arrive today, will install, and will report.

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