Many people are making the swap to powered anode rods. Many are attracted to the low maintenance or its ability to work in any water conditions. Others are desperate for a solution to get rid of their stinky water. Some might still be put off by the price, or even just by the fact that they are supposed to work in all conditions.
Yet, the price of these devices is often a sticking point for people. So, the big question hangs in the air—are powered anodes worth it? Or is it all marketing hype? Powered rods are capable of doing all that they are said to, but their “worth” will depend on what it is you value. Let’s directly compare certain aspects of powered and sacrificial anodes.
On average, users report powered anode rods to be worth the cost. They deliver on what they claim, i.e., optimal tank protection, long lifespan, low maintenance, and the ability to work in all water conditions. To avoid the most common issue—faulty manufacturing—go for a well-reputed and high-quality brand.
Anode Rod Design and Function
Powered Anode Rods
Powered anode rods are designed to last for a long time, much longer than a sacrificial anode. Ideally, a powered anode will be able to last for your water tank’s entire lifespan.
This is largely possible due to the fact that the portion of the rod that comes in contact with water is made with titanium, a conductive and highly corrosion-resistant material.
These rods make use of a minor electrical current to keep corrosion at bay and prevent the build-up of mineral deposits (limescale) on the anode and the tank. Powered anode rods are able to automatically adjust the current’s power to your home’s water conditions.
Sacrificial Anode Rods
Sacrificial anode rods are only meant to last a few years before replacement. They are made of metals that are more reactive than the material of your tank, keeping corrosion at bay by attracting corrosive elements to themselves instead.
“Zinc” anode rods also exist but are actually a predominantly aluminum alloy with a small amount of zinc. Zinc anodes are generally used for well water or water with an eggy smell.
Powered vs Sacrificial Anode Rods
Let’s start getting into the nitty-gritty. More specifically, let’s first take a closer look at the cost and maintenance differences between powered and sacrificial rods, as these are likely two of the most important factors in your decision.
Depending on what kind of rod you buy, the cost will vary greatly even among sacrificial rods.
- Aluminum anode rods are the cheapest and can be found for $15-25.
- Zinc anodes are slightly pricier at around $25-40.
- Magnesium rods are the most expensive at anywhere from $30-70.
Powered anode rods are much more expensive than any of these, usually found at around $150. They also do have a running cost, though this is allegedly less than $2 a year.
However, while powered anodes may have a higher upfront cost, they may actually be cheaper in the long run, depending on your situation.
If you replace your anode rods yourself and only need to replace them every 5 years, using aluminum or zinc rods will likely be cheaper than a powered rod over a 20-year period.
However, if you are replacing your rods any more frequently than that, a powered rod is actually an equivalent or cheaper option.
Furthermore, it’s important to take into account how much anode rod replacement costs if you do not do so yourself. While prices will vary, it is likely you will need to pay a plumber between $200 and $300 per anode replacement.
Powered anode rods, due to their long-term design, shouldn’t need any major maintenance unless something goes wrong and the rod fails.
On the other hand, sacrificial rods will need full-out replacement every 3-5 years, on average. Depending on the quality and content of the water in your home, however, replacement may be needed more frequently.
On top of this, sacrificial rods are designed to corrode and rust. This does create the potential for your anode to seize, or become stuck due to corrosion near the threads.
A seized anode will increase the time and effort needed to replace the rod. You may need to invest in equipment, like an impact wrench, so the cost could increase. The cost would also be higher if you are paying someone to remove the seized anode for you.
Powered Anode Rods Can Handle Any Water
Powered anode rods are able to handle any type of water, whereas sacrificial anode rods are not. That is to say, sacrificial anodes can be made of different materials each of which only performs well in certain types of water.
Magnesium, aluminum, and zinc are the three types of sacrificial rods available.
Magnesium anodes are great for taking care of homes with softened water because they are reactive enough to keep up with the high concentrations of sodium ions. On the other hand, aluminum rods are best suited to handle hard water as they are more durable in hard water conditions than magnesium.
Lastly, since zinc anodes are just aluminum rods with zinc added, they are also well suited to hard water. They are, in addition, the only type of sacrificial rod capable of dealing with smelly water because of the toxic effect that zinc has on the bacteria responsible for the sulfuric smell.
Powered anode rods are not only able to work in any type of water hardness, but they are also able to rid water of smells. They will automatically adjust to and work in any conditions.
If the type or source of your water supply ever changes, you will need to test it if you are using sacrificial rods to make sure you are keeping up with the change and using a compatible material. This is not a concern with powered rods due to their adaptability.
What Are Users Saying?
Powered anode rods sound great in theory, but it’s right to be skeptical about switching to a new type of device.
It does appear, however, that the overall consensus on powered anode rods is that they work great, just as advertised.
Many people report that their powered anodes have cured their smelly water. Others confirm that it has been several years since installation with no problems.
It appears that for the most part, those who have swapped over to powered anode rods are happy with their decision.
With that said, not everything will always be fine and dandy. Like with any product, some potential problems do exist.
Amongst those who have had issues with powered anode rods, the most common complaints seem to be centered around faulty manufacturing.
A handful of users have reported leaking from the top of the anode, faulty threading, and missing parts.
Additionally, while most users appear to be happy with their powered anode’s odor elimination abilities, a few have reported little to no change in their water’s smell.
Top 3 Powered Anode Rods Available
As of the moment, Corro-Protec Powered Anode Rods (amazon link) seem to be dominant in terms of popularity. The company claims to “fit any hot water tank on the market,” and their rods come with a 20-year warranty.
To meet their sizing claim, Corro-Protec offers anode rods in three different sizes, meant to handle tanks from anywhere between 10-120 gallons. Additionally, they offer a model designed to fit Bradford White water heaters, a heater brand that does not fit standard anodes.
Last on this list is the STOLTCO Water Heater Powered Anode Rod Kit (amazon link). While it comes in one size only, STOLTCO’s powered anode rod can automatically adjust to protect tanks with a capacity of anywhere from 20-150 gallons.