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Powered Anode Rods: Do They Really Work?


Powered anode rods are effective protection for water heaters. They prevent tank corrosion by emitting a small current. In the process, they do not degrade, so they last as long or nearly as long as the water heater itself with little to no maintenance. They also stop water from smelling eggy.

Anode rods are an important component of water heaters. They protect the interior portion of water heater tanks from harmful elements in the water. Although sacrificial anode rods effectively protect your water heater tank against degradation, they are designed to corrode and require frequent replacement.

A powered anode rod is designed to prevent corrosion of the water heater tank without degrading like sacrificial anode rods. Powered anodes are supposed to last throughout the life span of a water heater and have a price tag to match this assertion. If you are still on the fence regarding the efficacy of powered anode rods then keep reading. 

How Powered Anode Rods Work

Most water heaters feature a sacrificial anode rod that protects the tank by attracting harmful elements that would otherwise cause damage to the water heater tank. 

technician repairs the water boiler with anode rod

Powered anode rods provide the same function as regular anode rods. However, they do so via a different mechanism, one that does not involve self-degradation. As such, they can be and are stronger in design while still maintaining effectiveness in protecting your water heater.

They are made of titanium, a high-strength metal that is durable and corrosion-resistant. This is connected to a current rectifier, which sends a small current into the water tank. This halts the corrosion of the water tank and prevents minerals from building up on it and causing limescale.

Their sturdy composition of powered anode rods means that they last longer, making them a great long-term solution especially if you would rather not deal with replacing an anode rod every couple of years.

What Do Consumers Say?

When I was looking for customer feedback on powered anode rods, I found very little to report in terms of the long-term effects of powered anode rods, i.e., their ability to control water heater corrosion and their longevity.

I put this down to the fact that neither of these things is instantaneously measurable, and no one is going to come back to a review in 10 years to update it.

One person did say that after a year there was absolutely no sign of corrosion. Another person indicated that their powered anode rod failed after a few years, however, they seem to put this down to the quality of the product and have purchased a new model, which they are very happy with.

Most people are satisfied with the long warranty that comes with powered anode rods, so they feel the cost is worth it even before the claims are verified.

By far the most praise that was afforded by customers to powered anode rods was their ability to eliminate smelly water.

Many users reported that the smell disappeared within 24 hours and did not return. For people struggling with smelly water, this seems almost magical and these people considered the products to be effective and worth the cost based on this point alone.

One major complaint customers have about powered anode rods is that they are not as easily accessible as regular anode rods. But this can be rectified by ordering from online vendors if you cannot find them at your local hardware or appliance parts store. 

Problems Solved by Powered Anodes

Less Regular Anode Rod Replacement

As mentioned previously, sacrificial anode rods degrade in place of your water heater. So, the primary issue with this type of anode rod is that it degrades between 3 and 5 years. This means that you could end up having to change the anode rod up to 4 times during the 8-15 years lifespan of your water heater.

Unfortunately replacing an anode isn’t always a walk in the park. The anode rod can break off or get stuck, making the process of removing the damaged anode rod difficult. So, it isn’t an easy project for an amateur DIYer.

echnician installing an anode in water heater

On the other hand, if you decide to hire a plumber, you’ll be looking to spend between $200 and $300 on top of the new anode cost.  

Powered anode rods can last 7-15 years on average. Some brands like Corro-Protec (amazon link) even offer a 20-Year warranty. This is a lot more than the 3-5 years lifespan of regular anode rods. 

A powered anode rod can easily last the entire lifespan of your water heater. This would save you maintenance costs and the hassle of having to deal with a damaged anode rod. 

But even if the powered anode rod gets damaged before the end of the water heater’s life, you would only have to replace the rod once or maybe twice.  

Initial Cost Pays Off

Powered anode rods cost a lot more than sacrificial anode rods. You could even spend five times the amount of regular anode rods to purchase a powered anode rod. This is probably the reason it is a lot more common in industrial applications. 

However, you’d be able to offset the high cost of purchasing a powered anode rod in the long run. This is due to the long lifespan of these devices.

While you would have to spend an extra $20-$50 to buy a replacement sacrificial anode rod every 3-5 years, with powered anode rods, you wouldn’t have this cost with a powered anode rod. Nor do you have the cost of purchasing equipment to free a seized anode rod (which could be an extra $100-$250) or the hiring fees of a plumber ($200-$300).

Even if the powered anode rod degrades before the end of the heater’s life, it wouldn’t require as many replacements as a sacrificial anode rod and you are very likely to get a replacement rod free of charge under warranty. 

No Egg Smell

The rotten egg smell otherwise referred to as the sulfur smell in hot water is usually due to the presence of sulfate-reducing bacteria in the hot water tank. 

Water heater flange with anode, temperature sensor and electric heating element. Closeup of an old water heater detail. Service and repair. Selective focus

Magnesium and aluminum sacrificial rods tend to react to the presence of these anaerobic bacteria in the water, causing them to release a foul-smelling odor (sulfuric gas). 

Powered anode rods prevent sulfur smell by killing the anaerobic bacteria present in the water, eliminating the chances of the bacteria releasing foul-smelling odors into your water. Thus, powered anode rods offer a permanent solution to foul-smelling water without compromising the performance of your water heater.

Sources

https://www.prattplumbing.net/how-a-water-softener-system-can-affect-your-water-heater/#:~:

https://www.corroprotec.com/blog/sulfur-smell-in-hot-water/

https://thorntonandgrooms.com/help-guides/why-does-my-water-heater-smell-like-rotten-eggs

https://www.nebraskyplumbing.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-a-water-heater-anode-rod/

https://www.mrrooter.com/about/blog/2020/august/water-heater-troubleshooting-guide-how-to-tell-i/

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