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Old 02-05-2016, 07:20 PM   #1
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Water heater annual maintenance?

So my friend with an SOB keeps insisting that I need to change out the anode on my water heater so it won't go out at an inconvenient time.
I pulled out the owners manual on my water heater and there is no mention about this. Just talk of flushing out sediment.

So is this something that needs to be done? If so what's the story?

Thanks in advance
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Old 02-05-2016, 07:37 PM   #2
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My 2˘ worth... First, check to ensure there is one. Some water heaters don't. Second, flush the tank with a tank wand, if you don't see a lot of junk coming out, it's probably ok. If there is one, pull it and check it if you're concerned.
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Old 02-05-2016, 07:45 PM   #3
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Our HW tank does not have an anode. Since we have similar aged units, I suspect your HW tank does not have an anode. Assuming that's the case, a periodic draining and flush as suggested above should be fine. If you travel extensively in areas known for hard water (i.e., the desert SW) you might want to do this a few times a year (we are basically full timers.) If you are a weekend warrior, once a year is probably fine.
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Old 02-05-2016, 08:15 PM   #4
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Thanks!
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Old 02-05-2016, 09:27 PM   #5
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Atwood water heaters used in Airstream trailers do not have an anode, and Atwood specifically recommends against using one. Their tanks are aluminum. Suburban water heaters use glass lined tanks and do use an anode and recommend their replacement periodically.
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Old 02-05-2016, 11:24 PM   #6
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Water heater annual maintenance?

Or you could bite the bullet and consider a tankless water heater where all the wetted parts are copper. Stand by for a large hit in the vicinity of the wallet. We like ours...


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Old 02-06-2016, 07:01 AM   #7
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rmkrum, nice idea.

Our philosophy is to use up before upgrade. So we are not planning to replace anything currently working, but will consider upgrades for anything that gets replaced down the line.

(except maybe lights to LED to save heat/energy)
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Old 02-06-2016, 11:44 AM   #8
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As a matter of routine maintenance, I flush my Atwood water heater (6 gal) twice each year.

I also have two anodes: "One to wash; one to wear." Anodes are rotated with each flush. Anode hasta be removed anyway in order to do the flush.

Once the old anode dries out, I "dust it off" with the wire when on my bench grinder. That way, it's ready for the next rotation.

BTW - I'm a live-aboard.

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Old 02-07-2016, 11:21 AM   #9
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Ditto idroba's comment. Anodes are for protecting steel in the glass lined tanks. Not needed on aluminum. Check the owners manual

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Old 02-07-2016, 11:26 AM   #10
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Tankless maintenance

Be aware that there is maintenance required on tankless water heaters also. Hard water deposits collect more quickly due to the high heat in the exchanger. Most home units require "flushing" with an "acidic" medium (vinegar water) and a pump system to remove the scale.

Units that can be vented through PVC pipe are now requiring a "drip tank" filled with marble or some such material to catch the highly corrosive condensate that collects on the inside of the flue.

Might not be totally related to mobil units but you might want to check the manufacturers recommendations before purchasing a tankless system, especially when full timing.

Rob
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Old 02-07-2016, 07:23 PM   #11
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It's not what it says in the owner's manual that matters, it's the alignment of elements in periodic table.

As predicted in the periodic table, magnesium (the sacrificial anode) corrodes at a faster rate than aluminum; where water chemistry, heat, pressure, and pH are all contributing factors of corrosion.

And if the aluminum tank is the anode as Atwood claims (in their manual), it'll be the aluminum that undergoes corrosion at a far greater rate than an aluminum tank with an anode installed.

In a different example, auto makers now recommend less frequent oil change then they did years ago. 90 days or 3,000 miles has become 4,500 miles or more (with the advent of blended and synthetic oil). At the same time, they also significantly reduced the size of oil filters. In a further example, 2000 Chevy Cavaliers boasted maintenance-free automatic transmissions. Their incentive?? The big auto makers are in business to sell cars. And similarly, Atwood is in business to sell water heaters. Right or wrong, Atwood's stance is not only a selling point, but it's corporate policy. Employees hafta wholeheartedly agree with it, or else!!

If nothing else, an anode is cheap insurance. But the real test is to examine the corrosion of your anode after six months. After it's dried out, "dust it off" with a wire wheel on your bench grinder. That's when corrosion of the anode really becomes apparent.

Tom
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Old 02-08-2016, 08:39 AM   #12
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As a Chem Eng so I'm familiar with the periodic table; Galvanic corrosion or protection doesn't require much voltage differential between elements (0.4 volts for zinc against steel). Aluminum tanks on RV's have been one of the standards for quite some time. "Normal" water has little or no effect on aluminum but some High Calcium or silicate waters may be just low enough in pH to pit the aluminum. Agreed that the nearly .75 V differential between Aluminum and Magnesium is sufficient to protect Aluminum, but against what. Just sayin'....
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Old 02-08-2016, 10:27 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JCWDCW View Post
Agreed that the nearly .75 V differential between Aluminum and Magnesium is sufficient to protect Aluminum, but against what. Just sayin'....
JCW
If I read this right, then you confirm that a magnesium anode would protect an aluminum tank against corrosion, if there were a corrosion threat, but you're not sure there is such a threat?
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Old 02-09-2016, 09:21 AM   #14
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Yes. But I question whether there is even a threat.
As far as galvanic action, Magnesium vs Aluminum will probably dissolve faster than Zinc vs Steel given the fairly large voltage difference. Hopefully the magnesium anode is mounted in a bronze fitting; otherwise the corrosion at magnesium threads will quickly lead to leaks.

I'm kind of amused by the Atwood statement that the Aluminum is the anode. I wonder what they really meant to say? I would think the aluminum tank is isolated from the steel frame in the trailer (at least in AS and most others have wood framing), so it will not even be subject to galvanic corrosion. (Caveat is whether the 110V electric element requires the tank to be grounded to the steel frame. I don't have any experience with that option). Most trailer water pipe is plastic and the tank is mounted on the trailer side wall and sitting on the wood floor.

Aluminum forms an oxide layer that protects it from corrosion unless there is a corrosive environment that dissolves the oxide. That's probably why we are not seeing failed aluminum tanks.

I do concede that the magnesium will provide protection...just not sure it is needed. based on the longevity of my 20 -25 year old aluminum hot-water tanks in my AS trailers.

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