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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 06:31 am
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PlumbLeco
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A house guest ran water into a seldom-used tub (which is back-to-back with a frequently-used shower in another room) for a bath.  The hot water was quite dark and sediment remained in the tub after the water was turned off.  He had to rinse the sediment out of the tub (with cold water I believe).  He tried a frequently used upstairs tub-shower combination, with the same result.  This has never happened before. 

To demonstrate it to me when I arrived home 2 hours later, he turned on the hot water in the tub, and there was clear water with only a tiny amount of sediment.  Same story upstairs. 
Fearing imminent catastrophic tank failure, I turned off the gas and cold water to the water heater and opened an upstairs hot tap to relieve pressure. 

1.5 days later, with cold to tank still off, I drained off about 3 gallons 3 times into a bucket.  Each time there was only a tiny swirl of sediment in the bucket.  I even turned the cold back on for one bucketful, but got no significant sediment. 

I pulled the replacement anode (see below).  Some areas are passivated, but mostly it is aggressively pitted.  The end is significantly reduced in size.  See the picture. 

Plumbing details: 

City water mostly from Hetch-Hetchy, quite soft naturally.

Low-flow sinks, showers and toilets.
Until 2010, water service was copper from the street to the house, then galvanized in the downstairs of the house, including to the water heater, and copper in the new upstairs.  In 2010, all galvanized was replaced so the entire house is copper.

GE (Rheem) 50 gallon 9-year natural gas water heater installed in 2002.  I have never opened the drain to remove sediment.  Hex anode (magnesium, I think) replaced in 2014 was uniformly pitted over entire surface.  Anode was thinner at the end but was at least .75” diameter over almost the entire length.  No core exposure except .5” at the end.  New anode was flexible magnesium, .75” diameter.  Old and new anodes both 44” long. 

Pictures of the combustion area are attached.
Questions: 1. Is my water heater tank about to fail?
2. If not about to fail, should I just buy another (larger) flexible anode and keep using it?
3. Any guess about how much life I might still expect?
Thanks!

Attachment: IMG_9680_small.JPG (Downloaded 16 times)

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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 07:19 am
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PlumbLeco
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Left side.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 07:21 am
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PlumbLeco
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Flue.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 07:21 am
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PlumbLeco
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Right side.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 07:22 am
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PlumbLeco
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Right side closeup.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 07:23 am
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PlumbLeco
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Burner and rust chips on the bottom.

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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 07:34 am
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PlumbLeco
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In the replacement anode picture above, the section of the flexible anode right under the hex is shiny because I sanded it with coarse sandpaper to prove to myself that there was some kind of non-metallic surface (possibly passivation) on the perfectly smooth sections of the anode.  When I sanded, I sanded through that surface to the metal below. 

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 Posted: Wed Feb 27th, 2019 11:13 pm
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eleent
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Hello,  The tank looks OK.  The light rust is probably from condensation on a cold start, like when a lot of hot water has been used.  The anodes look OK also, but were at a good time to replace.  So, if that was three years since replacement, I'd install new ones and check them in three years or whatever the time period really was. As to the rust in the tub, is there a recirculation line?  That could be a way for sediment to travel from the tank and most likely to happen under a heavy load like tub filling.

Yours,  Larry

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 Posted: Thu Feb 28th, 2019 05:13 pm
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PlumbLeco
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eleent wrote: Hello,  The tank looks OK.  The light rust is probably from condensation on a cold start, like when a lot of hot water has been used.  The anodes look OK also, but were at a good time to replace.  So, if that was three years since replacement, I'd install new ones and check them in three years or whatever the time period really was. As to the rust in the tub, is there a recirculation line?  That could be a way for sediment to travel from the tank and most likely to happen under a heavy load like tub filling.

Yours,  Larry

Thank you very much for your reply!!!  After reading on this site and taking the pictures, I thought that the tank might be ok, but wasn't sure until you said so. 

The flex anode pictured has been in place almost 5 years.  The water heater is 17 years old (with a 9 year warrantee).  Replacing anodes every 5 years is WAY easier and cheaper than replacing the water heater, which I priced out at $750 without installation

We have no recirculation line.  However, turning the tub on full blast might well have stirred up sediment, since I have never flushed the tank in its 17-year installation lifetime. 


I am placing an order for the flex hex head .9" diameter anode right now!

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