To paint a picture: I live in a home served by a well. Because we have sulfur in our water, we have an expensive water treatment system with softener.
My husband and I began to notice that our hot water was a little stinky... like rotten eggs. So, we immediately called our water treatment installer/servicer. They asked if it was just hot water. Well, I said, "Yes, now that I think about it, it is". I was told that it was not the treatment system, it was the water heater. Huh?
It turns out that there are sort of "sacrificial" anode rods in most conventional water heaters. Apparently, higher end units with long warranties even have 2. These rods take the hit from corrosive substances to protect your water heater from rusting. They essentially deteriorate instead of your water heater deteriorating. But, when the rod itself becomes so corroded that it can no longer do its job, the water heater tank will rust out, leak and need replacement. And, in some cases, the water starts to smell foul.
At the suggestion of our water treatment company (who does not replace anodes), we called a plumber. The plumber arrived, looked at the age of the water heater, and refused to do the replacement. He said there was significant risk that the anode would not come out, would strip out the threads, or the new would not go in and seal properly. Also, he said the water heater would need to be drained partialy to create space to put hydrogen peroxide in the tank to neutralize the smell in the water already in the tank. He wasn't confident that the drain valve would close back and seal properly either. So he left!
Not ones to settle for "no", and definitely not wanting a new water heater for lack of a $75 anode rod, my husband and I decided we'd try to replace it ourselves. We had nothing to lose. If we failed, we'd need a new water heater. But, this plumber was already telling us to just replace it now instead of even trying to replace the rod.
So, here's what we did;
1. I purchased a tri-metal replacement rod. My water treatment guys said this is the only kind I should use.
2. I turned OFF the circuit breaker to stop power to the water heater - CRITICAL STEP
3. I turned off the water supply to the water heater
4. The HARD part - Both my husband and I worked for about 20 minutes to get the old anode rod loose. This is really a challenge. It involved a socket wrench and an extension bar, rust release fluid, and a LOT of elbow grease. After working diligently, it finally loosened and we could unscrew it.
5. I screwed on a hose and opened the drain valve at the bottom of the tank to drain out some water. I drained a lot because our water heater is in the basement and we could let it all flow outside. Then, I closed the valve tightly.
6. I poured 4 quarts of hydrogen peroxide into the tank through the hole where the anode rod was.
7. I applied "pipe dope" or liquid teflon sealant to the threads of the new rod and then inserted the rod back into the water heater and tightened it back down.
8. I opened the water valve just for about 10 seconds to let some water in and stir up the tank. Then turned it right back off.
9. We let the tank "sit" for 4 hours with the peroxide and did not use any hot water at all for 4 hours.
10. I turned the power back on and opened the water valve, and then checked for leaks.
The water heater refilled fully. We opened all of our faucets in the house and turned on "hot"... they vented out gas and we let them run for about 2 minutes then shut all off.
Now, our water is back to normal! We hope this has "saved" our water heater and it will serve us many more years. My research, aka my "google" degree, tells me that replacing your anode road can double the life of your water heater. I hope so!
**Note; I am not a plumber and make no recommendations to others about trying this. I am just sharing my story! (photos below)
to expose anode