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 Posted: Thu Aug 26th, 2010 11:24 am
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another_bob
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Yeah, I'm one of those annoying engineers.  I'm fighting smelly water.  Using a zinc anode but considering a powered anode.  Not gonna pay $250 for something that costs $40.  Wall wart - $10.  20 feet of titanium wire, $20.  Insulated coupling, $10.  Some commercial units are fairly sophisticated with voltage monitoring and etc, but the simple little ones for home use are constant current.  Dead simple.  Why are people charging outrageous prices? I'd pay $75 or maybe even $100 but not $250.  Guess I need to build my own?

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 Posted: Thu Aug 26th, 2010 04:07 pm
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elenano
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Well, seeing as how I don't MAKE them, I don't know why they cost so much, but I can say that from being in the business of selling esoteric parts, that part of what dictates the price of something is how much it takes to make it worth the trouble of offering it at all.

They say the first cell phones cost about $10,000 because they cost a lot to develop and make, and there wasn't much market. Now that everybody has one, they're down to a hundred bucks.

The only market for sacrificial and powered anodes is what I create here by informing people of what they do and convincing people they are worth replacing, or installing. Go to Home Depot or Lowe's or Orchard and ask for anodes. All you'll get is blank stares.

I've provided a ton of free information gleaned over years in the field, and a free bulletin board. I provide excellent customer service and rapid response to questions.

Everybody wants something for nothing, but everybody wants to be paid well for their own work. I'll bet you don't work for free.

At the price you are willing to pay, it is simply not worth the trouble to stay in business. So don't pay it. Don't buy one. Or build your own. Maybe by the time you have one that works well you'll understand this issue a little better.

And, if you come back some day and can't find waterheaterrescue.com, it might just be because there were too many other people out there just like you.

Randy Schuyler

Last edited on Thu Aug 26th, 2010 04:19 pm by elenano

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 Posted: Thu Aug 26th, 2010 04:29 pm
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another_bob
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Yes, development isn't cheap but active anodic protection has been used for decades in many areas.  That cost is paid.  Large tanks, pipelines, marine, bridges, etc.  It's mature technology.  I don't begrudge people a reasonable profit, but between manufacturing and the consumer looks like a lot to me.

I don't see why powered anodes are not required at this point.  Look at the waste of resources.  The steel in a tank can be recycled.  The millions of pounds of aluminum and magnesium and zinc used for sacrificial anodes is not recoverable.  People should be aware that they're flushing a lot of metal down the drain and it's ecologically unsound.  You go to the trouble of recycling (and it's required in may places) you should be using active anodes.

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 Posted: Thu Aug 26th, 2010 07:39 pm
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elenano
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You still don't get it. There is not a big market for powered anodes in water heaters, no matter how widely the technology might be used elsewhere. A lot of this is, perhaps, ignorance, but it's still a fact.

People should as routinely check and replace their anodes as they do check and change the oil in their cars, but they don't because they don't know to even do it.

Anybody with smelly water should probably have a powered anode, but in many cases, they simply don't know such a thing exists, so they suffer, or perhaps remove the sacrificial anode and buy water heaters more often.

Again, the price isn't just a question of development. Let me give another analogy. Down the coast from here, there is a famous restaurant named Nepenthe. It charges about $15 for a hamburger and a salad.

Why is it so much more expensive than McDonald's? Well, aside from the cost of carting the ingredients farther, there is the little fact that every winter there are landslides on the highway, and once in awhile, the highway is closed for weeks or months. Nepenthe has to charge enough for its food to survive not just the tourist season, but the rest of the time.

So for a powered anode, the equation is, how many can I sell? What will warranty cost? What do the parts cost? Would I make more money making and selling something else? It's not just a question of $40 in parts plus $40 markup equals $80, your "just price." One hundred percent may be too much in some cases and not nearly enough in others if there is no way to sell enough at that price to make enough money to survive.

Randy Schuyler

Last edited on Fri Aug 27th, 2010 04:25 am by elenano

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 Posted: Thu Aug 26th, 2010 08:34 pm
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another_bob
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I understand it perfectly.  You're selling at a price point that doesn't induce me to buy.  Your business model is smaller quantity at a higher price.  That often doesn't make a ton of money.  You're unhappy I mentioned the subject.  The other way is large volume at lower price.  There's a bigger upside there.  It takes more than a website to get there.  You want to sell 10,000 units to Home Depot.  You send free units to them, to This Old House, to Mother Earth News, to all the chain hardware stores.  You do a press release that tells how we're dumping millions of pounds of toxic metal into our water supply and for a mere $100 you can do your part to stop it. Write letters to the EPA describing how they can stop this source of pollution.  It takes a bigger investment and more effort to do the marketing but you make a lot more.  I'm not trying to be overly argumentative or critical.  But, if somebody else takes the idea and runs with it you have a problem.  I've been there.  You have a good product.  It's actually something I can use.  But, it costs almost as much as my water heater.

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 Posted: Thu Aug 26th, 2010 09:14 pm
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elenano
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No, actually it doesn't bother me at all that you brought it up because it does come up occasionally, and I think my arguments are valid.

The quantity theory only works if it's a product everybody is familiar with. If it's not, it just means I make less money and starve.

All the things you suggest cost loads of money to implement. Once you've done all that and made everybody aware there is an issue -- and a market, then somebody comes along and undercuts your price and you find yourself selling more, making less and working much harder for the same amount.

But in the end, all I'm really hearing is that it doesn't really matter what the issues are; you still want it at a bargain price.

As to the cost relative to your water heater, that's not the issue. The issue is what are the other remedies for smelly water and what do THEY cost? Those are Marathon electric plastic-lined heaters, which are a quality item, but much more expensive than a plain water heater plus powered anode; tankless, also much more expensive than either, or a chlorine injection system for wells -- still worse.

Relative to those, the powered anode is a bargain. AND, it protects the water heater from rusting just about forever.

One final thing: I probably wouldn't sell one to you even if you wanted to buy one. My experience is that if people come to me neutral, they go away happy, but if they come already unhappy about something, there is no way that is going to get any better, and I'm going to end up being unhappy, too.

Randy Schuyler

Last edited on Fri Aug 27th, 2010 04:24 am by elenano

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 Posted: Sat Aug 28th, 2010 07:18 am
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eleent
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Hello:  This is an interesting discussion.  The main point I'd like to comment on is the question of why powered anodes are not required.  Heaters would fail from rusting far less often with powered anodes.  Replacement heaters make up roughly 80% of the heater manufacturer's business... of about nine million heaters yearly.  If heaters only lasted twice as long with powered anodes, we'd save half of that 80%, or 3.6 million heaters yearly.  Planned obsolescence invades many areas of our lives and has negative effect, as does lack of information on alternatives.  This site is all about changing the status quo for those people who take the time to visit.

I'll venture that cost of an anode compared to cost of a heater is an apples to oranges debate.  Cost of an anode versus a spouse who has to shower in smelly water is closer to the mark :cool:

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Fri Sep 3rd, 2010 07:28 am
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jmbontrager
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Real problem is the heater manufacturers and probably more appropriately the big box stores have trained us all to swap out our heaters when the warranty is up instead of maintaining it.  I love this resource because I am realtively handy and shall we say painfully frugal.  I would love to avoid changing tanks and actually had a friend that was a plummer (abeit still just short of his journeymans card at the time) tell me that the tanks have to be replaced regularly, he should have recommended the appropriate care in my opinion.  Every one wants to get on the green bandwagon but nobody really understands the whole issue.   Most new cars have cleaner emissions than the air they take in, Electrics and hybrids have dangerous chemicals in the batteries that are an environmental nightmare when they are in and accident or if the batteries are not properly disposed of (that never happens right?)  Flourescent lights are cheap to run, but contain mercury and are also an environmental nightmare not to mention the hidden dangers to your health from flickering lights.  I would chalk Anode technology to the same bin, power ones would solve the problem of water contamination and tank longevity, but the tank manufacturers don't want that and the stores want low cost, so power anodes are a low volume product!  (BTW the 'magnets' that I have seen for the water lines induce the current into the water lines, there is science there similar to the power anode, but they aren't cheap either!)  Sure would be nice if manufacturers would produce and stores promote more expensive 'power anode' models, with a little education I would probably spring for $200 on initial investment for the power model!  I really hate govt intervention, but there should be more push to have these installed, but then again if you look at what the Gov't allows to pass for food there is no real concern actual health there either! 

Bottom line, power anodes seem to be the answer, my familys health is worth it and the potential to have less smelly water is very enticing!  And I really hate replacing water heaters!:dude:

 

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 Posted: Fri Sep 3rd, 2010 05:50 pm
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elenano
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Powered anodes are really good if you have rotten egg smell or if you're softening, but if you look, I'm not recommending them for all situations.

In particular, I have real concerns that, if used in hard water without a softener, the electrode will be buried in sediment and burn out. Of course, people can buy a flush kit to keep sediment under control, but they have to remember to actually use it once in awhile.

A sacrificial anode has an advantage in such situations because sediment mostly doesn't affect its operation.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Sat Sep 4th, 2010 07:52 pm
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sky_tech
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I am an engineer who has been involved in product development for many years. While it is true that a powered anode device *could* be manufactured at low cost, there are many valid reasons why it may not be possible to retail it for below about $200 and make enough of a profit to be worth the time and expense involved in selling it.

You are correct that it could be sold for dramatically less IF it was sold in large volumes through distribution or big-box retailers. To do so, though, would require someone to take a big financial risk and the rewards would only come if they were successful at developing a large enough market. I suspect that the first to try will NOT be successful due to a number of factors, including reluctance of the buying public to invest in protecting their water heaters.

There are numerous other issues as well, but suffice to say, it is not reasonable to expect the operators of the Waterheaterrescue site to take on the burden of developing a market and investing enormous sums of money on a product whose chance of financial success is poor at best.

However, the fact that the product is probably not a candidate for hi-volume low-cost distribution, does not mean that it is not useful to a much smaller audience, where the potential value warrants a higher price. If I had stinky water I would happily pay $250 or more for a solution.

It is simply wrong-headed to resent a product's current price just because it would be *possible* to manufacture it for a lot less in volume. If it is currently a low-volume product (which this one is), then the relevant question is "Does it address a need that warrants the price?". 

Looking at the powered anode from the "value-pricing" perspective, for stinky water, at $230, it is an extremely attractive solution. For extending the life of a heater fed by a water-softener, where sacrificial anodes might need replacing every two years, it's also a cost-effective labor saving solution (that's the case that interests me).

If you look at it from a "fair-markup" perspective, it still makes sense. When determining a fair markup at low volumes, the seller has to consider every minute of time they spend on the product, including answering questions, etc. In this case I expect the sales volumes are exceedingly low, yet the time spent is still non-trivial.  If the time investment currently works out to a couple hours per unit, that adds greatly to the price.

When you talk about building one yourself you are failing to put a value on your time. You cannot ask someone running a business to do the same. If you placed a value of just $50/hr on your time, how much will your device cost you?

I suggest that Waterheaterresscue is providing all of us a great (and very fairly priced) service.

Thanks for reading my long-winded treatise.

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 Posted: Sun Sep 5th, 2010 04:23 pm
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eleent
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Hello:  It's a fair minded and reasonable wind :cool:  This site is the result of years of effort on Randy's part.  Doing the right thing is harder than doing the easy or profitable thing.  So, thanks, sky tech for breezily weighing in.

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Sun Mar 6th, 2011 12:57 pm
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mbrasi
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Another engineer here,

I just wanted to agree with skytech.  You have to put a value on your time and quality of life.  Will it take you more than 4 hours to think about the design, gather materials, contruct a rod that works, and install the rod?  I would rather spend those 4 hours with my kid. 

I plan on purchasing one today simply because I have smelly softened water and peroxide treatments only work for about 6 weeks.  I'm tired of stinky water and think building my own rod is a pain in the butt.  If I can extend the life of my current heater and future heaters by re-installing the anode, it's well worth the upfront investment.  If by the time the anode dies, if I save the cost of buying just one new heater, the anode has paid for itself (and that's not counting the value placed on a happy wife).

Thanks for the informative site.  I feel the price is fair since the demand for these products are low due to an uneducated public.  People need to understand that water heaters aren't disposable and can be maintained.  This will raise the demand for your products. 

Keep doing what your doing


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 Posted: Tue Mar 15th, 2011 05:01 pm
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ponemahjohn
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I agree with others here.  I am an Electrical Engineer.  I have researched this patent just to see how it works.  I am not investing that amount of time tracking down components and spending hours to build one when I can purchase one right here.  Keep building them, people who want one will purchase one.  People who want something for nothing will continue to whine.  This person is probably the same kind of person who goes out and spends $5 on a coffee but complains about the price of milk and gas.

Great work on this sight!!

Thank you!

John

Last edited on Tue Mar 15th, 2011 05:01 pm by ponemahjohn

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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2011 06:05 pm
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cookevacuum
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Ok, now we know why limited production items can be expensive, but what I'm concerned with is what's actually in this product. Looking at recent patents, there is seeming evidence that a simple dc current source isn't going to be a decent solution for variable conditions, and never is in commercial applications - either too much or not enough, and that a hands-off solution would involve quite a bit of control electronics. Are we talking about a dc wall-wart plus nothing, or actual controls? Anybody know?

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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2011 06:27 pm
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ponemahjohn
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For commercial applications the powered anode system consists of two main components, potentiostat and titanium anode probe.

The potentiostat measures conditions in the tank. Based on this information, the control calculates the precise current required to meet the reference potential. This exact amount of current is then fed to the titanium anode located in the tank in order to achieve the optimum protection level. These measurements and supply cycles alternate at millisecond intervals. Over time (or as water conditions change), the amount of power needed to protect the tank is adjusted.

For this, I'm not sure if there are controls related, or if your water conditions are changing that much where it is needed.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2011 07:44 pm
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cookevacuum
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I've asked the question since it does appear that the item sold on this site is not described in enough detail to tell if it has any control elements at all, and therefore could actually do more harm than good. A simple current source would only be usable if all tanks, all electrically exposed parts of tanks, and all water conditions were identical, and even then, remaining so permanently. Of course, there might be some actual measurements one could reference, although these might be expensive to produce.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 29th, 2011 11:59 pm
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elenano
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I have found the comments here interesting, as I know little of the technical details of the device. I know that it works and have discovered some problems with it through direct experience.

There ARE sockets on the top of the hex nut. The factory uses them to adjust the settings of the device. I don't know how to adjust them, and I wouldn't want anyone else to try.

I do know it can be reset to serve a light commercial water heater because that was its original intended use. Hope that helps.

Randy Schuyler

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 Posted: Thu Aug 30th, 2012 09:51 pm
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Mikey
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Sorry for the late reply, but I just got interested in powered anodes today.

After a smattering of research, it looks like the power required at the anode is between 1 and 2 VDC, at a current of low double digit milliamperes. In "smart" controlled-current situations, the power supply is often a PWM (pulse width modulated) device. These are almost identical to specs for an LED dimmer, which I recently saw on Amazon for $0.96. Changing the dimmer control from a knob to a circuit monitoring the tank parameters is another story, but doesn't look too hard if you know a lot more than I do about it.

My situation is a little more complicated, since I would like to power the thing with a solar PVC array. I'm a retired EE, but haven't the detailed knowledge, time and equipment to build my own, although it would be immensely satisfying.

It'll be easier to write the check, or (these days) to click on the PayPal button...

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 Posted: Fri Aug 31st, 2012 03:52 am
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eleent
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Hello:  I suspect you could power it with photo-voltaics, but would need battery storage as well so that the protection was continuous, even at night.  Sizing the PV and battery would need to be based on current draw and expected maximum length of time with no sun.  Bring out the calculator :)

Yours,  Larry

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