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.
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. They also kill the anaerobic bacteria which lead to that rotten egg smell you may have encountered in your hot water.
There are quite a few advantages to using powered anode rods. They don’t degrade, prevent smelly water, and protect your hot water heater from corrosive elements in the water. Some models, such as the CerAnode expandable rod, can be used to replace both your normal sacrificial anode rod and your hot water outlet rod. Others, such as the popular Corro-Protec will only work in your tank and are fixed length.
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 Rod||Normal Sacrificial Anode Rod|
|Usage||Scatters corrosive elements in tank||Attracts corrosive elements in tank|
|Lifespan||6+ years in most tanks||Generally 4-5 years, but may be 2-10 years under certain circumstances|
|Antibacteria Effectiveness||Excellent||Moderate/Excellent for zinc rods|
|Power||Requires an outlet, low consumption||No power needed|
|How it Works||Sends electrical pulses into water that have an ionization effect on particles||Exposed metal attracts corrosive particles, which consume the rod over time|
|Cost||High (usually $100 to $250)||Very Low (aluminum); Low (zinc composites); Low/Medium (magnesium)|
|Benefits||Removes sulfur smell, limits maintenance to flushing, greatly extends tank's lifespan||Sometimes controls sulfur smell, extends tank's lifespan; Magnesium rods provide some health benefits to the water|
|Downsides||High initial cost, requires electricity (minor operational cost)||Degrades over time, requiring replacement every 4-5 years on average|
|Additional Notes||Some models are adjustable and can fit multiple size tanks, as well as be used for both tank and hot water outlet||Some models are flexible to fit into tighter spaces; different models are needed for the tank and the hot water outlet|