Introduction

a latex-gloved hand lifts an anode rod that is way overdue for replacement from a water heater
Photo: Ryan Benyi
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Q: Replacing my older water heater isn't in the budget right now. What can be done to make it run efficiently?
—David Tichy, Fairfield, Conn.

Lance Marques, HVAC contractor, Swezey Fuel Co., replies: There are several easy and inexpensive ways to increase a water heater's operating efficiency and longevity. Some things—adding insulation and setting the temperature—have to be done only once. Others, such as flushing the tank and checking the anode rod, should be done annually.

The benefits of caring for your water heater are clear. Adding insulation reduces heat loss by up to 45 percent and can shave as much as 9 percent off water-heating costs. Flushing sediment from the tank improves efficiency and longevity. And making sure a viable anode rod hangs in the tank will help prevent its inside from rusting out. A used-up rod is far cheaper to replace than a new heater.

Just follow these steps to make your hot water less expensive.

Pictured: This rusty wire is all that remains of what was once a ¾-inch anode rod made of aluminum or magnesium. Without the rod, hot water rapidly corrodes the inside of the tank, shortening its life.
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    Tools List

    • bucket with sponge
      Bucket
    • pipe wrench
      Pipe wrench
    • garden hose
      Garden hose
    • socket wrench
      Socket wrench with 1-1/16-inch head
    • flathead screwdriver
      Flathead screwdriver

    Shopping List

    1. Anode rod

    2. Teflon tape

    3. 3/8-inch-thick self-stick foam pipe insulation to hold heat in the pipes. Make sure you get the right diameter for your pipes 4. 1-inch-thick unfaced fiberglass pipe wrap to insulate pipes near the flue

    5. Water heater insulating blanket

    6. Foil tape to seal the insulating blanket