With our house closing in on five years old, there are some home maintenance issues that are starting to crop up. Things like the HRV (air exchanger) motor giving out, window seals breaking, and a few more weeds in the grass. The most recent problem was a leaking hot water heater, so I called a popular boiler service company to come in and replace it. In my mind, it’s pretty ridiculous that a hot water tank can wear out after only 5 years of usage. According to the plumber, it’s pretty common for hot water tanks in NL to give out after 5 to 6 years. The plumber also added that he replaces six to seven tanks a day – business must be good!
While the plumber was replacing the tank, I asked him if there are any possible ways to extend the life of the hot water heater and I was surprised by his response. He recommended to replace the anode approximately every two years and it will help double the life of the water tank. Even better news is that the anode is not that difficult to replace even for a beginner like me.
An anode is a long metal rod that starts from the top of the hot water heater and almost runs the length of the tank. The science behind it is the anode is sacrificial metal that attracts contaminants in the water. Hot water heaters start to leak when the glass that lines the inside of the tank eventually cracks exposing the metal casing which eventually rusts through. The problem is that when the anode wears down after a couple of years, the contaminants are free to attack the metal tank.
Financially speaking, it can certainly make sense to replace the anode every couple of years. Lets assume that a typical water heater tank wears out after 5 years, and by replacing the anode every two years will double the life of the tank (ie. 10 years).
- Price of anodes: $60 each (plus tax) * 4 replacements = $240 (plus tax)
- Cost of hot water heater installed: $540 (plus tax)
- Savings: $300
How to Replace an Anode
Based on the description from the plumber, the process is pretty straight forward and anodes can be purchased from any hardware store.
- Turn off water supply to the tank (most have a valve at the top of the tank), and turn off the power supply by flipping the breaker;
- Drain about 12L-16L (or 3-4 gallons) of water out of the tank;
- Find and remove the anode at the top of the tank with a socket wrench; and,
- Replace the old anode with the new anode but make sure to use teflon tape around the threads of the new anode. Tighten with a socket wrench.
There you have it, four easy steps that can save you a few hundred dollars by extending the life of your hot water tank. This is something that I plan to add to the home maintenance schedule. Do you have any tips on extending the life of a hot water heater?