Why are anode rods installed so tight?

The Tank Why are anode rods installed so tight?

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  • #19475
    ChetS
    Participant

    On This Old House they showed how to replace the anode on a new water heater tank and had a hard time removing it just like everyone else has experiences. They said they are installed very tightly at the factory but didn’t address why. Should the new one be installed just as tight? Does it need to be this tight to insure that there is some bare contact metal to metal?

    #19476
    Larry Weingarten
    Participant

    Hello: I’ve heard air tools are used at the factory to install anodes and it would be easy to make things too tight. Also, as it ages, the anode can rust in place, making it harder to break loose. All that’s needed is a watertight connection and “really tight” is not beneficial. I’ve tested the conductivity of the tank/anode connection and never found a problem when installed using normal force, even when plenty of teflon is used.

    You might want to remove the anode on a new heater, before installation, wrap it with teflon and reinstall it. This will insure it’s easy to deal with later on 😉

    Yours, Larry

    #19478
    ChetS
    Participant

    Thanks, was just wondering. I plan to install a new one today.

    #19479
    Kevin_in_Denver
    Participant

    Through experience, I’ve found that using a high torque impact wrench is not as effective as a long breaker bar. And it’s easy to make a long breaker bar even longer with a piece of pipe.

    Then you get into the problem of twisting the whole tank and its pipe connections.

    Do you guys know of a video that shows how to use a second bar between the pipe nipples to counteract the torque of removal?

    #19480
    Larry Weingarten
    Participant

    Hello: Kevin, it sounds like you’re setting me up! I go over different anode removal methods in the DVD sold on this site… including the one using pipes on top of the heater for bracing. 😎

    Yours, Larry

    #19529
    tlcnate
    Participant

    From all the reading I’ve done it sounds like removing the anode rods is a big hassle for everyone. We manage a small apartment complex and we have started replacing anode rods as each apartment goes vacant as part of our maintenance program. We are three down and a few more to go. Here are a few things we learned that I hope will be helpful:
    1- Water heaters are usually inside small enclosed spaces that provide little, if any, elbow room. This makes it more difficult to loosen the anode rod in the confined space. We’ve found the extra ten or fifteen minutes that are needed to disconnect all the lines (water and gas) to take the heater out of the enclosure are well worth the additional working room so our practice is to disconnect and after draining some water moving the heater to a wider space
    2- We worry about using the cold and hot nipples for any sort of leverage. A tank that may have started to corrode might easily break a nipple turning a maintenance issue into a replacement issue with added costs.
    3- Since we are taking the tank out we have free access to it. If the anode is as stuck as the majority seem to be, one problem is that the smooth cylindrical shape of the heaters does not provide any hand-holds. When using a breaker bar with an extension you can apply a lot of torque but the tank turns in place. Our solution is to take two, one-inch tie down straps (typically used to tie cargo down) and tighten then around the heater with the ratchet ends on opposite sides of the tank. This provides a solid hand-hold that may be enough to keep the tank in place while using the breaker bar (we use the handle from a pipe bender for added leverage).
    4- The tie-down straps tend to scratch the surface. This is cosmetic and we don’t worry much about it but next time we are going to use a small square of carpet under the buckle to minimize this type of damage.
    5- On particularly difficult tanks we use four straps so two people can hold the tank while a third turns the socket wrench.
    6- We avoid using the on/off pilot control housing for leverage. Again, if there is corrosion it is likely you’ll damage the attachment points and may have to replace the entire heater.

    I hope this helps. These things are a bear to deal with but an anode replacement costs under $75 and a new heater is $400+ in our area so if we can extend the life by five years it is well worth the effort.

    #19530
    Randy Schuyler
    Keymaster

    You don’t have to worry about the nipples collapsing when used as leverage unless you used plain galvanized steel. Those do rust from the inside, weaken, and can snap off. And what happens with the nipple has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening with the water heater.

    The water heater anode does nothing to protect nipples. That said, a lot else of what you say is true. However, there are solutions. For people with a lot of anodes to change, the expensive extractor Larry Weingarten invented is worth having. Not so much if you only have a few.

    If you go to the Troubleshooting section of my site, click on Tanklets, then Strategies for Removing Stubborn Anodes, you can find ways to get an anode out that are easier than what you’ve been doing. Also be aware that I sell anodes, so you might want to check my prices, if you haven’t already.

    Randy Schuyler

    #19531
    tlcnate
    Participant

    I think I did not express myself clearly. I was not concerned about the nipples themselves but thought if the heater tank was starting to corrode then the attachment point of the nipples to the tank would be weak and subject to failure.

    #19532
    Randy Schuyler
    Keymaster

    Well, that also is not correct. If the heater is far enough gone, though, you’ll sometimes start seeing water seeping through the anode port, hot and cold ports that were snug before. But you’re not going to make them leak by bracing against them. More likely is to see water damage in the combustion chamber of gas heaters and the element ports of electrics.

    Randy Schuyler

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