Annodes and How long DOES a water heater last?

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Old 06-14-09, 08:51 AM
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Annodes and How long DOES a water heater last?

I have my new dip tube ready to install on my 1994 Rheem gas heater. I asked the Rheem people if there was anything else I should do besides draining it (and maybe a little flushing) given it's age. They suggested replacing the annode, which including shipping is another $40. I peeked at mine and it does look pretty eaten away, a little smaller than a pencil in diameter (about 1/4"). Is it worth it, given it's age, and does an annode determine how long a water heater is "timed" to last, i.e. the annode only lasts so long and then the tank corrodes out? Am I crazy to think that if I replace the annode, the tank may last at least another 5 years? I live in San Francisco and our water quality is pretty good.
 

Last edited by robs10; 06-14-09 at 11:05 AM.
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Old 06-14-09, 12:38 PM
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Fifteen years is an average life for an electric water heater but I personally know where there is a National (brand) electric water heater that has been going for at least 36 years and most likely several more years than that. I can pretty much guarantee this heater of which I am referring has never had any routine maintenance.

On the other hand I also saw quite a few Nationals that barely made it 15 years. All of these water heaters were using Seattle water.

So I guess what I am trying to state is that the life of a water heater is basically a crap shoot. You might replace that anode (only one "n") and have the water heater tank develop a leak in the next month or you might be able to go for another ten years as it is without problem. Best I can offer is to start saving your money for an entire replacement water heater. Water heaters rarely die catastrophically but instead either burn out elements or develop slow leaks.
 
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Old 06-15-09, 07:37 AM
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Originally Posted by furd View Post
Fifteen years is an average life for an electric water heater
Any difference for gas, which is what I've got? Is it usually the tank that goes?

So I guess what I am trying to state is that the life of a water heater is basically a crap shoot. You might replace that anode (only one "n") and have the water heater tank develop a leak in the next month or you might be able to go for another ten years as it is without problem. Best I can offer is to start saving your money for an entire replacement water heater. Water heaters rarely die catastrophically but instead either burn out elements or develop slow leaks.
Understood. But if anode is about shot (BTW, how big in diameter is a new one?) is there a good chance the tank will go after the old anode disintegrates? Is $40 for a new anode worth it, or you think no one knows?
 
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Old 06-15-09, 08:17 AM
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Eight to ten years is the average lifespan for a gas-fired water heater but like anything a particular heater could leak in its second year or last well past fifteen years. A lot depends on the quality of the water and routine maintenance.

My gas-fired water heater is into its tenth year and I am facing the same dilemma, do I proactively replace it while it is functioning normally or do I wait until there is a problem and then have to scramble. So far I have been doing nothing but I know that sooner rather than later I will have a problem.

The anodes I have seen are between 5/8 and 7/8 inch in diameter when new. Using a sacrificial anode to protect steel from corrosion is a very old technology but one that works surprisingly well even in our high-tech world of today. What you need to remember is that the anode will not completely protect the the steel from corrosion but only reduce the corrosion rate over time. Installing a new anode may give you another five years of life but doing nothing at all may give you five years of life. Your water heater tank may be almost to the point of leaking right now and just the act of replacing the anode could be enough to start it leaking. Anodes are installed at the factory with an impact wrench and they are often next to impossible to remove in the field. As I previously wrote, it's a crap shoot.

At fifteen years of age you have definitely gotten your money's worth from this heater. If it is located in an area that would suffer harm from a leak then I would replace it sooner rather than later. If it were in an area where a minor leak would be more of an inconvenience that a serious problem I would probably wait. Another factor is to remember that a large leak will leave you no choice but to turn off the water supply to the heater and you will have no hot water until the unit is replaced. If you have a family this time lag may be completely indefensible.
 
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Old 06-15-09, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by furd View Post
Eight to ten years is the average lifespan for a gas-fired water heater but like anything a particular heater could leak in its second year or last well past fifteen years. A lot depends on the quality of the water and routine maintenance.
Guess like everything, they don't make 'em like they used to! The one my current one replaced had 1967 written on it!


The anodes I have seen are between 5/8 and 7/8 inch in diameter when new.
Mine is about gone then.
Your water heater tank may be almost to the point of leaking right now and just the act of replacing the anode could be enough to start it leaking.
Exactly what I was worried about. When my plumber put in the copper pipes, he said the act of taking the waterheater out and putting it back often spells the end of an older heater. I did get 2 more years though.
Anodes are installed at the factory with an impact wrench and they are often next to impossible to remove in the field.
Yeah, it was tight alright! I did get it out with a breaker bar, but glad there was rigid pipe instead of flex lines for the water supply!
At fifteen years of age you have definitely gotten your money's worth from this heater. If it is located in an area that would suffer harm from a leak then I would replace it sooner rather than later. If it were in an area where a minor leak would be more of an inconvenience that a serious problem I would probably wait. Another factor is to remember that a large leak will leave you no choice but to turn off the water supply to the heater and you will have no hot water until the unit is replaced. If you have a family this time lag may be completely indefensible.
It's just one more thing I have to do. I need a new toilet, fridge, pickup truck, and computer. I didn't want to have to add Waterheater to the list, but point well taken on the inconvenience. If it were in my attic, I wouldn't think twice, but it's on a cement garage floor, so I would see it begin to leak and nothing would get damaged as there is a drain 10 feet away. But the pain in the neck of dealing with it on its time table instead of mine would make my wife and kid frown!
 
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