Monday, March 11, 2013

A Bit of Maintenance (Changing the Water Heater Anode Rod)

Montgomery, AL

To be very honest we haven't done much since arriving here on Saturday.  Decided to wake up late and take it easy for a few days.

Maintenance is always important, but even more so now that our rig is our home. Yesterday I decided to check out the condition of the anode rod in our water heater.  We have a Suburban water heater and these have either magnesium or aluminum rods.  The purpose of an anode rod is to act as a sacrificial metal to protect the tank.  Depending upon the type and quantity of minerals in your water, the anode may have a longer or shorter life.  That's the main reason for removing it for inspection.  Suburban states that these anodes should last approximately one year, but again that is dependent upon the water run through the unit.  This is a pretty easy maintenance item, but for anyone who has not done this before here's the basic procedure: (Please note that these instructions apply to the Suburban water heater only, and all work is done at the owner's risk.)

1. Turn off the electric and propane switches to the water heater.
2. Turn off the water supply and/or water pump.
3. Allow the water in the heater to cool for a period of time before draining.
4. Open the pressure relief valve.
5. Use a 1 1/16" socket to remove the anode rod and drain the tank.  (Stand clear of the opening as the water might still be hot and WILL exit quite forcibly.)

6. Examine the condition of the anode rod.  Suburban recommends replacement when 75% of the original anode has been used up.

  My rod was far less than this, but since I had used an aluminum rod last year I was concerned that the aluminum rod was not "sacrificing" itself enough.  I went with the magnesium rod this time in an attempt to get more sacrificial use out of the rod.

7. I use a long plastic piece of pre-made tubing with a water shut off to rinse out the deposits in the bottom of the tank.  (The deposits will look like white pieces of calcium and will probably resemble soft bath soap.)
8. After the tank has been thoroughly rinsed, wrap the threads of the new anode rod several times with teflon tape and screw the rod back into the drain hole.  Make sure the rod is tight, but DO NOT over tighten.
9. Turn on the water supply.
10. Close the pressure relief valve when water begins to exit from the valve. (This ensures that the tank is filled with water and that an air space has been created in the tank.)
11. Make sure the tank is filled again BEFORE turning on the electricity to the water heater or you run the risk of burning out the electric element inside the water heater.
12. Turn on the propane switch again to make sure that all is working properly.
13. Check the anode for leaks around the threads and tighten JUST A LITTLE if needed.

That's it!

Tomorrow I take a look at LED lights and dealing with the USPS for mail delivery.

Thanks for taking a look!


  1. Good post on an overlooked maintenance item by many folks. I have an Atwood water heater that doesn't have the sacrificial rod due to the tank construction, but I do flush it twice a year to get the crud out.

    If you don't flush it often enough, you can get a sulphur smell in the hot water. Marti is not fond of that, she says my socks are a bad enough smell... ;c)

  2. If you ever run out of maintenance chores, what are you going to do with yourselves?

    1. That's the thing about having a MH, you'll never run out of things to maintenance. :)

  3. You need something to do since you don't have to worry about yard work anymore!

  4. Mui replaced the anode rod in our water heater last March; checked it about a month ago, and it's in reasonable shape ... hmmm, perhaps it's not sacrificing itself as it should. A second look-see is in order, and what better place to do it than where there is scenery to make chores fun.

    1. That was my worry as well. That's why I changed back to a magnesium rod to force a bit more "sacrificing" on the part of the rod rather than my tank.

  5. We don't have an anode rod in our water heater, but it does need flushing. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. I'm trying to get to the point where I can get all of these routine maintenance items on some type of "schedule".

  6. Wow! Steve and Karen I love your blog. I have 6 months left. Then I will be on the road too! Hoping we can met up at some point. I will be spending the winter in Florida and anywhere else it is warm.

    Sandy Conlon

    1. Sandy that's great news! I think you'll love the lifestyle. We will probably be wintering in the southwest this year, but fulltimers have a way of crossing paths. Best of luck and should you have any questions feel free to drop us an email (box at the top left of the blog).

  7. Thanks for these instructions on how to check and install a new magnesium anode in your water heater. I especially liked your pictures of the used-up anodes. These should be very helpful to gauge against.

    Magnesium Anodes