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Thread: Water heater anode school please

  1. #1
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    Water heater anode school please

    My house is fairly chaotic this week as the boiler and the water heater are getting replaced, which requires moving the washer and dryer across the garage during the ordeal.

    Our old water heater, for which we could not find a replacement anode, finally rusted through and was leaking through pinholes at the bottom of the tank. When the boiler guy and I pushed the old boiler out of my truck into a dumpster we noticed calcium deposits on the bottom of the water jacket - on the outside- suggesting a pin hole leak in the boiler as well. So we got our money's worth out of those two items.

    I did manage to get the anode out of the old broken water heater tonight. Socket size is 17/16 inch (homestore brand). The hex head at the top of the anode is a bit too large to be managed by a NAPA brand 17/16 socket.

    To get the anode out of the old one, I had it (pic) laying on its side in the driveway. The PT 2x4 has two eyebolts (fender washers) in it 12 inches apart, the ratcheting tow strap was making the metal case creak, I just tightened it until the case was making noise. To break the anode loose I had a 1/2" drive breaker bar on the correct socket, with a 2 foot cheater pipe on the breaker bar. I stood on the 2x4, with the cheater bar on my shoulder and required 60-70% of all the effort I can generate to get this one loosened. I ramped up my applied torque fairly gently and was more than a little concerned the 2x4 might split, the wood was complaining but didn't let go.

    * With a water heater in service, is it currently possible to apply enough torque to a new anode to not have leakage at the threads, even using gobs and gobs of pipe dope?*

    My new water heater was $529. R&R for a new water heater, local, is another $500. Replacement anodes on Amazon are $35 bucks. I could buy a lot of replacement anodes for $1000, but I am not sure I can replace them with the water heater in service. Another option is to install the biggest fattest anode I can find while the new water heater is empty - I could tip it over and put my 2x4 and strap clamp on it both to break the factory anode loose and torque a new one back in. Owner's manual on the new water heater says to check the anode at 6 months to estimate how often it should be changed.

    I call the 2x4 and tow strap clamp an "Anita Clamp" after my mom, Anita. I had a boat trailer that was just too darn light for me to undo the lug nuts. I could get a wrench on the lug nuts just fine, but twisting the wrench just caused the tire and wheel to spin on the axle. It is the sort of problem she enjoys, I told her about it as a thing that was going on with me once upon a time and she came back - why not put a board on the ground under the tire, with some cup hooks on it, and some kind of rope you can tighten? Who knows if there is some other name for it, and she might have seen one in 1949, but my one is an Anita Clamp.

    Thanks


    20220519_230142[1].jpg

  2. #2
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    I should mention my boiler guy and I did try to break the anode in the new water heater loose earlier Thursday evening, no dice. Shipping weight on the item is 125#, it had 50 gallons of water in it at 8 pounds per gallon, so 400# of water plus 125# of item, 525# cylinder on my garage floor, minus three pounds of cardboard box. With my guy (180#) holding the wrench in place with one hand and hugging the cylinder, I was able to rotate the water heater and my boiler guy on the garage floor without the hex head on the anode budging. I wasn't working very hard to do that, maybe 20% of available effort.

  3. #3
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    Two words: impact wrench

    Six more words to meet the minimum…
    Jason

    "Don't get stuck on stupid." --Lt. Gen. Russel Honore


  4. #4
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    I can't imagine why you're not able to break the anode rod loose on the new tank. I've replaced lots of anode rods over the years with the tank in service. One house, I had to buy the jointed style rods to get enough ceiling clearance for install. I've always just used a socket and cheater bar.

  5. #5
    My Dad was a pipe fitter and pipe welder. He stressed impact over leverage for loosening things like that. I concur with Jason.

  6. #6
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    Not sure if this could be the problem, but sometimes an engineer will throw in a left hand thread just to mess with people.

    Or some idiot in production will use the wrong type of Locktite on a bolt.

    * With a water heater in service, is it currently possible to apply enough torque to a new anode to not have leakage at the threads, even using gobs and gobs of pipe dope?*
    Over tightening is likely to cause more problems down the road than tightening it to the proper torque.

    Socket size is 17/16 inch
    17/16" is an odd size for a socket wrench. Any chance this has a metric nut?

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  7. #7
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    An impact wrench has always worked for me. There's really no reason for it to be as tight as they often are. There is no more pressure on the joint than there is on any other joint in the hot water plumbing; I don't know why they install them so tight at the factory.

    I use rector seal *and* anti-seize compound when I reassemble, tightening them as I would any other pipe fitting, which is to say, not stupid tight. I've never had trouble with a leak or with being able to remove it down the road.

    My BIL did facilities equipment maintenance for the local Bell company for a zillion years; he taught me to use the pipe dope/ anti-seize combo on any threaded pipe joint that has to come apart without damage in the future.
    --Certainty is the refuge of a small mind--

  8. #8
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    I remember it is an odd size, not the same as any bolt head I know of, and did have to buy a socket. It's been so long ago that I forget what size it is, but it stays in a plumbing toolbox.

    3rd vote for impact driver. I used to use an air wrench, but the 18v one now actually has more removal torque. Let it rattle, and it will give up.

    I always break them loose on a new water heater, use a non-hardening pipe dope (forget which), tighten by hand on a ratchet with that socket, and have never had any trouble breaking one loose later. We have a couple of water heaters that are over 20 years old. I change them in years ending in 0 or 5. Thanksgiving weekend is when I do such scheduled maintenance (like cleaning gutters, too), just so I can remember to do it.

    When I haven't been able to buy a segmented one, I drain the tank, and lay it over.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post

    17/16" is an odd size for a socket wrench. Any chance this has a metric nut?

    jtk
    The manual for the water heater calls for 1 1/16" socket. I have no earthly idea why I have a 1 1/16" NAPA socket in my toolbox. None. No idea how it got there, but it was a titch too small. I also have a set of Kobalt brand 'large' half inch drive sockets, 1 to 1.25 inches in 1/16 increments. The Kobalt 17/16 fits good.

    If there is a metric size between NAPA 17/16 - unknown metric - Kobalt 17/16, then the metric one would be worth a try.

  10. #10
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    27 mm is just about .012" over 1-1/16.

  11. #11
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    I have learned that I was tightening pipe fittings too hard. For 3/4NPT and below a 18" wrench is plenty with maybe 30-40 pound of pull. I had been over tightening by almost one full turn. Hand tight and two more turns should seal.
    Bill D

  12. #12
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    I picked up a set of half inch drive impact sockets in metric at team orange today, about $60, would have been $90 with the craftsman label at team blue. The 21mm impact socket fits the lug nuts on my truck, the 27mm in the set (beware the $60 set at team blue that doesn't go up to 27mm) the 27mm socket fits the new water heater anode just a smidge looser than the Kobalt 17/16.

    Now I need to find a corded impact tool that can help me switch over my tires every six months, water heater anode every five years, and order up some anodes.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Dufour View Post
    I have learned that I was tightening pipe fittings too hard. For 3/4NPT and below a 18" wrench is plenty with maybe 30-40 pound of pull. I had been over tightening by almost one full turn. Hand tight and two more turns should seal.
    Bill D
    Thank you for this. The anode on my old water heater is the 17/16s to 27mm hex head, with 3/4NPT male threads below the hex. My boiler guy recognized the 3/4 NPT from a dozen feet away.

  14. #14
    Isn't 17/16 the same as 1 1/16"? It was when I went to school 60 years ago.. Changing anodes is easier done with tank full of water, and pressure relieved. I use my HF 25" breaker bar, or my Huskey 24" flex head ratchet to do mine. Put anti seize on the threads on new anodes. Beware of wrapping with teflon tape, as the threads of the anode need to be in electrical contact with the tank.

  15. #15
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    Beware of wrapping with teflon tape, as the threads of the anode need to be in electrical contact with the tank.
    Good point Bruce.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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