Corrosion in Your Water Heater: Here’s How to Prevent It

Posted On: July 07, 2014

Your water heater is a significant investment in your Metro-East home. Learn how to find and prevent corrosion to keep it working at peak performance.

Galvanic Corrosion

When two different metals are in contact, an electrochemical process called galvanic corrosion can take place. In galvanic corrosion, one of the metals corrodes much faster than the other. This type of corrosion can affect various parts of your water heater.

  • Heating elements. The water heater’s electrical heating elements consist of a steel interior with a copper sheath. To protect heating elements from galvanic corrosion, have galvanized unions with plastic nipples installed at the top of the water tank.
  • Anode rods. Anode rods prevent corrosion in your water heater by sacrificing their metal in place of the heater’s metal. Calcium carbonate can build up on the rod, preventing it from working. If new heating elements corrode inside a year, the rod needs replacement. You can also remove the rod and test it. If it bends easily, replace it.

Gas-Fired Water Heaters: What to Watch Out For

  • Combustion chambers. To check your combustion chambers, set the heater’s gas control to “pilot.” Take off the hatch cover and remove the draft diverter. Lift the baffle inside the flue pipe, then use a flashlight to inspect the chambers. If corrosion is visible, have the unit serviced immediately. This is probably a job for a professional unless you’re particularly handy.
  • Vent pipes. Corroded vent pipes are a safety hazard. Check your vent pipes for corrosion or holes, but don’t try and fix any problems yourself. Call in a professional.

Preventing Corrosion

You can protect your water heater by upgrading the pipe nipples to plastic-lined ones that prevent brass and copper pipes from touching the steel lining. If you’re using a water softener system, check the anode rod at least once a year, as water softeners can speed up corrosion and may inactivate the anode rod.

Ernst Heating & Cooling offers expert HVAC services throughout Southwest Illinois, including Staunton, Hamel, Glen Carbon, Collinsville, Greenville, Troy, Highland, Edwardsville, Alton, Maryville and Bethalto. Contact us for more advice on preventing corrosion in your water heater.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in Hamel, Alton, Glen Carbon, Highland, Greenville, Bethalto, Edwardsville, Collinsville, Maryville, Staunton and Troy, Illinois about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about water heaters and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.

Credit/Copyright Attribution: “Sebastian-Radu/Shutterstock”

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