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Does Corrosion Mean the End of Your Tank Water Heater?

If your water heater develops a corrosion issue, this does not automatically mean that you’ll need to get a new water heater. In some cases, a total replacement is necessary, but in others, you only need to repair or replace a part. It all depends on where the corrosion has occurred.

Below, we’ll expand on this and explain how corrosion affects water heaters in more detail.

rusty water heater

Corrosion: A Basic Explanation

If you’ve ever seen rust on a piece of metal, you’ve seen the result of corrosion. Corrosion occurs when materials (such as metal) wear away due to chemical reactions. For instance, when iron interacts with oxygen or water, corrosion occurs, and you get a corrosion product: rust.

Anti-Corrosion Features in Tank Water Heaters

Water heaters are made of metal, and they contain water and oxygen in their tanks. Additionally, heat tends to speed up corrosion. When you consider all of this, you might wonder why water heaters don’t rust away within a couple of years.

Water heaters are manufactured with features to resist corrosion:

  • A glass lining on the tank’s interior

  • A pressure relief valve that helps prevent air from entering the tank

  • A sacrificial anode rod made of magnesium or aluminum that attracts all the minerals and gases in the water tank that would otherwise cause the tank walls to corrode

Water Heater Corrosion Issues: Repair vs. Replacement

Usually, if your water heater has a corrosion issue, it’s near the end of its lifespan, or the sacrificial anode rod has been “eaten away” and needs to be replaced. Though it is possible to replace the anode rod yourself, you may want to hire a water heater professional to save you time and trouble. Plus, it eliminates the risk of you buying the wrong type of rod.

It’s also possible for corrosion to affect a single part of your water heater, like the heat exchanger or the burner. If that’s the case, a professional can replace the parts for you, and your water heater should work just fine. However, if your water heater’s tank has rusted to the point of cracking and leaking, a repair will be futile. You’ll need to replace the entire unit or else risk a major leak.

At Michael's Plumbing Service, we pride ourselves on trustworthy water heater repairs and installations in Nashville, TN. Give us a call today at (615) 645-2322 or contact us online.

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