How Your Water Heater Protects Itself from Rust

Any system that deals with large amounts of water, and also contains steel, will have to deal with rust at some point. Considering that your tank water heater is full of water for pretty much its entire life, it should be a rusted out husk only a couple of years after installation. Why, then, is your water heater able to last so much longer than that? The answer is a small part called the anode rod. Let’s take a look at the anode rod, how it works, and what you can do to make sure it keeps benefitting your water heater.


What is the Anode Rod?

An anode rod is a long metal rod formed around a steel wire, which is inserted into the storage tank of the water heater. The rod is usually formed of magnesium, aluminum, or zinc. While in contact with the water in the tank, the anode rod will start to degrade over time. This will attract the ions in the water that normally cause rust, a process called electrolysis. As long as the anode rod is in the tank, and degrading, it will prevent the lining of the tank from rusting. This protection does not last forever, however.


Sooner or later, the anode rod will degrade to the point where it needs to be replaced. If it is not, the protection over the tank lining will expire and it will start to rust. It normally takes a little over a year for the anode rod to degrade to the point where it is no longer useful. That’s part of the reason it’s so important to schedule a maintenance appointment for your water heater at least once a year.

Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Cooling offers water heater maintenance services throughout Hyattsville, MD. Call today to schedule an appointment.