Powered Anode Rod – Get Rid of Smelly Water

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When your water gets a sulfur smell, it often involves the anode rod in your hot water heater. This rod is designed to attract corrosive elements, extending the life of your heater. You need to periodically replace these rods, and have the option of getting the same type of rod or a different one, such as a powered anode rod.

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What is a Powered Anode Rod?

Powered anode rods are non-sacrificial rods (meaning they don’t degrade like a normal anode rod) which use electrical pulses to deal with corrosive elements in your water. These pulses scatter the harmful electrons, preventing them from accumulating along the lining of your tank.

Overall, there are quite a few advantages to using powered anode rods. They don’t degrade, prevent smelly water (by killing anaerobic bacteria that leads to that rotten egg smell), and protect your hot water heater from corrosive elements in the water.

Probably the best powered anode rod today is made by Corro-Protec. Their powered anode rod comes in 3 different sizes to perfectly match up with the size of your water heater tank.

best powered anode rod

Other models, such as the more expensive CerAnode expandable rod, can be used to replace both your normal sacrificial anode rod and your hot water outlet rod.

Because of the long lifespan, you can use a powered anode rod to preserve a tank well past its warranty, without any signs of corrosion to the lining or anode itself. They tend to be quite a bit more expensive than sacrificial rods, so they may not be the best choice for every home.

However, if you are worried about a rotten egg smell accumulating in your hot water or would rather perform minimal maintenance on your heater, then this is the perfect solution.

Powered vs Sacrificial Anode Rod – Which is Better?

As mentioned, powered anode rods are well worth the cost, but may not be ideal in every situation. Additionally, you may not wish to replace a rod which is still good just to gain the benefits of a powered one. So how do you know which is best for your situation? This side-by-side comparison should help.

Anode Rod Comparison

 Powered Anode RodNormal Sacrificial Anode Rod
UsageScatters corrosive elements in tankAttracts corrosive elements in tank
Lifespan6+ years in most tanksGenerally 4-5 years, but may be 2-10 years under certain circumstances
Antibacteria EffectivenessExcellentModerate/Excellent for zinc rods
PowerRequires an outlet, low consumptionNo power needed
How it WorksSends electrical pulses into water that have an ionization effect on particlesExposed metal attracts corrosive particles, which consume the rod over time
CostHigh (usually $100 to $250)Very Low (aluminum); Low (zinc composites); Low/Medium (magnesium)
BenefitsRemoves sulfur smell, limits maintenance to flushing, greatly extends tank's lifespanSometimes controls sulfur smell, extends tank's lifespan; Magnesium rods provide some health benefits to the water
DownsidesHigh initial cost, requires electricity (minor operational cost)Degrades over time, requiring replacement every 4-5 years on average
Additional NotesSome models are adjustable and can fit multiple size tanks, as well as be used for both tank and hot water outletSome models are flexible to fit into tighter spaces; different models are needed for the tank and the hot water outlet

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Comments

  1. One bit of information provided here flies in the face of what others say. Other professionals offer that the powered anode rod does NOT eliminate the rotten egg smell, or control bacteria, it merely prevents the chemical reaction that happens with the magnesium rods.

    Reply
    • That chemical reaction produces by magnesium (or aluminum), sulfur, and bacteria is what produces that rotten egg smell. Since powered anode rods don’t use magnesium or aluminum and use electrical pulses to kill the bacteria, this chemical reaction doesn’t occur. So with one, you’re preventing the hydrogen sulfide smell from being created in the first place.

      Reply
  2. Anodes do not attract corrosive elements. They degrade in place of the material of the tank. They are called Sacrificial anodes and are used for all manner of corrosion prevention. You will find Zinc anodes on the outboard section of your boat engine/propulsion system. You find galvanizing on steel and iron and so on. Look up
    the galvanic series of metals.
    http://www.designbyinitiative.com/files/8514/2711/8760/Galvanic_Table.pdf

    As for why some anode contribute to the iron eating bacteria growth I have no idea….

    Timmie

    Reply
    • I’m trying to understand why that statement would be untrue. It all comes down to the materials involved as you mentioned. Because the anode is made of a more reactive material (ie: aluminum, magnesium) than the tank (steel), the corrosive elements in the water attack the anode instead of the tank. Once the anode is used up (sacrificed), the steel tank is then the most reactive and will corrode instead.

      Reply
  3. What happens to the powered anode rod if the water heater is turned off. At our cottage we turn the heater off when we leave, back on when we return. Should the rod be left on? We also turn off the water pump.

    Reply
    • Yes, you’ll want to leave the anode rod on as long as there is water in the tank. It uses so little electricity it really won’t cost anything to do so.

      Reply
    • Absolutely keep the rod on (if it is off, the protection is gone!). Also be advised that the dissolved oxygen in the water is almost double at cooler temperatures than at 130-degrees+, and therefore the rate of corrosion will be nearly double as well.

      Reply
  4. Can I turn off the water heater and the anode and drain the tank?
    We have softened well water and leave the house unoccupied for months at a time. We turn off the breaker. I have to drain and refill the tank several times to get rid of the smell and funky water

    Reply
  5. Sharon; I would recommend you leave the water tank full of water and use the standard anode rod while you are gone. Draining the tank will expose the internal tank to corrosion since it will be moist and never dry out (closed environment) If your desires are to use an ICCP system, simply install the ICCP system during the spring-fall months.

    Matt. waterodor.com

    Reply
    • No because any material simply settles at the bottom of the tank. Hot water is taken from near the top of the tank so you are safe.

      Reply
    • They are wrong about the powered anode scattering corrosive material. Powered anode rods don’t even really erode. The MMO coating mostly simply becomes less effective at conducting electricity. If anything, the build up of debris from the deteriorating sacrificial rods causes extra corrosion. Though typically the corrosion that kills the tank is at a break in tank liners, or in weld zones (due to impurities and lack of homogeneity of the steel at the weld).

      Reply
  6. What is the easiest way to determine if it is your anode causing the problem? I have a year old water heater and a new well. I didn’t have a problem with the rotten egg smell until a renter moved out and water was not used for about 3 months.

    Reply
  7. Wouldn’t it be easier to leave water in the tank to replace the anode rod? Usually the anode rod is very hard to remove and having the water in the tank with the added weight should help keep the heater steady and avoid loosening gas and water line connections.

    Reply
    • Technically yes, if you have a top-mounted anode rod, it would be easier to remove it with the extra weight in the tank. For safety reasons (very hot water), many will recommend to drain the tank first. A good middle ground is to drain some of the water (about 10%) then let it sit for a bit to cool down once the electricity or gas is turned off. With a side mounted anode, you will need to drain more water.

      Reply

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