July 1, 2015

How to replace an electric water heater anode rod

By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace an electric water heater anode rod

This DIY repair guide explains how to replace the anode rod in an electric water heater. The anode rod helps prevent tank corrosion. Natural micro-organisms and sulfates that exist in some water can react to the aluminum or magnesium anode rods in the hot water tank, creating a rotten egg smell. If your hot water begins to smell bad, replace the anode rod with a less reactive zinc-aluminum rod to help combat the smell.

Use these steps to replace the anode rod in Kenmore, State, A. O. Smith, Rheem, Reliance and Whirlpool water heaters.

Quick links
Tools required
Work gloves
1-1/16-inch deep well socket
Ratchet
Needle nose pliers
Pipe thread sealing tape
Repair difficulty
Time required
15 minutes or less
Repair difficulty
Time required
15 minutes or less
How to replace a water heater anode rod repair guide video.

Replacing a water heater anode rod video.

Instructions

  1. 01.

    Shut off the electricity

    Switch the two house circuit breakers dedicated for the water heater to OFF.

    Wear work gloves to protect your hands.

    PHOTO: Switch the water heater circuit breakers off.

    PHOTO: Switch the water heater circuit breakers off.

  2. 02.

    Drain the water heater

    Turn off the cold water supply to the water heater.

    Attach a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the unit and run the garden hose outside.

    Open a hot water faucet in the house or flip the relief valve open on the water heater.

    Open the drain valve and allow the tank to drain about 5 gallons of water and then close the drain valve and remove the garden hose.

    PHOTO: Turn off the cold water supply.

    PHOTO: Turn off the cold water supply.

    PHOTO: Attach the garden hose the water heater heater drain valve.

    PHOTO: Attach the garden hose the water heater heater drain valve.

    PHOTO: Flip the pressure relief valve to the open position.

    PHOTO: Flip the pressure relief valve to the open position.

    PHOTO: Open the drain valve.

    PHOTO: Open the drain valve.

    PHOTO: Close the drain valve.

    PHOTO: Close the drain valve.

    PHOTO: Remove the garden hose.

    PHOTO: Remove the garden hose.

  3. 03.

    Remove the anode rod

    Pry the plastic cap off from the top of the water heater covering the anode rod.

    Remove the foam insulation covering the anode rod.

    Unthread the anode rod and pull it up and out from the tank.

    PHOTO: Pry off the anode rod cap.

    PHOTO: Pry off the anode rod cap.

    PHOTO: Unthread the anode rod.

    PHOTO: Unthread the anode rod.

    PHOTO: Remove the anode rod.

    PHOTO: Remove the anode rod.

  4. 04.

    Install the new anode rod

    Wrap pipe thread-sealing tape around the threads of the new anode rod.

    Thread the new anode rod into the tank and tighten firmly.

    Reinsert the plastic cap.

    PHOTO: Apply thread sealing tape to the anode rod threads.

    PHOTO: Apply thread sealing tape to the anode rod threads.

    PHOTO: Install the new anode rod.

    PHOTO: Install the new anode rod.

    PHOTO: Reinstall the anode rod cap.

    PHOTO: Reinstall the anode rod cap.

  5. 05.

    Fill the tank with water

    Turn the cold water supply on to the water heater and allow the tank to fill with water.

    When water begins to flow from the open hot water faucet, turn the hot water faucet off.

    PHOTO: Turn on the cold water supply.

    PHOTO: Turn on the cold water supply.

  6. 06.

    Restore power

    Flip the house circuit breakers to the ON position.

    PHOTO: Flip the circuit breakers to the On position.

    PHOTO: Flip the circuit breakers to the On position.

Warning: Undertaking repairs or maintenance to appliances or power equipment can be hazardous. Should you choose to undertake repairs or maintenance, you are assuming the risk of injury to your person or property. In an effort to reduce the risk, use the proper tools and safety equipment noted in the applicable guide and follow all instructions. Do not proceed until you are confident that you understand all of the steps and are capable of completing the repair. Some repairs or maintenance, however, should only be performed by a qualified technician.

Symptoms common to all water heaters

Choose a symptom to see related water heater repairs.

Main causes: lack of power, no gas supply, thermostat limit switch tripped, bad element, bad thermostat, gas valve failure, bad thermocouple
Main causes: water supply needs chlorine treatment, anode rod too reactive
Main causes: thermostats need adjustment, water heater capacity too low, bad heating element, thermostat failure, excessive tank sediment
Main causes: thermostat temperature set too high, thermostats need adjustment, faulty thermostat, shorted heating element
Main causes: faulty pressure relief valve, water is overheating
Main causes: broken heating element, thermostat failure, excessive tank sediment, tank size too small, burner valve assembly failure
Main causes: loose water pipe fittings, leaky drain valve, bad temperature-pressure relief valve, leaky heating element, cracked tank

Repair guides for electric water heaters

How to replace an electric water heater thermostat

If the water temperature fluctuates or you don't get enough hot water, follow these instructions to replace your water heater's thermostat.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
How to replace an electric water heater heating element

If your water heater runs out of hot water quickly and one of the two heating elements has failed, replace the element following these step-by-step instructions.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
How to replace a water heater temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve

Replace a broken temperature/pressure (T&P) relief valve on an electric water heater using these instructions.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less

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