Eclectalife — April 12, 2011 at 1:43 pm

All I wanted was some hot water…


Something happened to us this past month that has me fuming, partly at myself.

In March of 2010, we got a new water heater, replacing one that had to have been pushing 50 years old. All told, the experience cost about $750, but it was time, so we pulled the trigger.

Late last fall, our water started smelling really foul, like rotten eggs. That sulfurous odor, it turns out, is a reaction of the sulfur and other components in our high-sulfur, high-iron well water with the magnesium anode rod in the tank. The anode rod is a sacrificial stick of metal that corrodes instead of the internal parts of the hot water heater.

I did some research online and found it was a simple matter if replacing the magnesium rod with a zinc rod. So, off I went to the hardware store, plunked down $40 for the new rod and set about replacing it just before Christmas.

That’s when things went awry. The old rod is screwed into the top of the water heater and is recessed making putting a wrench on it impossible. I went back to the hardware store, bought the right-sized socket and tried again. I couldn’t budge it. I got a handyman friend to come over to help but the thing wouldn’t move and we started worrying about stripping it.

After a bit of procrastinating, I eventually called in a plumber who used an air-driven socket and he couldn’t move it either and ended up stripping it.

After I procrastinated it for awhile more, my wife finally called the warranty company for the hot water heater and they told her that, despite what the manual says, it’s pretty much impossible to remove the anode rod after the heater is installed. They agreed to replace the heater but we’d have to cover installation, about $350 of the total cost.

We got that arranged and found out the installers would need to purchase a special piece of equipment so the total installation, including putting in my so-far-unused zinc rod would be about $400. So, we bit the bullet and had it done. The installer said if I had not procrastinated and had taken care of it three weeks earlier while the heater was under warranty, we wouldn’t have been charged anything.


It’s as if someone knocked on my door and said, “You need to give me $400. Oh, yeah, you also need to make a bunch of annoying phone calls, too.”

I’m obviously pissed at my procrastination but I’m mostly pissed because somebody along the way should have asked if we were on well water and suggested replacing the magnesium anode rod when we first had it installed one year and three weeks ago.! I mean, c’mon, how many Average Joes and Josephines know about this kind of thing??? I consider myself pretty educated but I certainly didn’t.

So, kids, here’s the moral of the story (two of them, actuall): if you replace a hot water heater and you have well water, replace the magnesium anode rod with a zinc one (not aluminum, that’s not sufficient) WHEN YOU HAVE THE NEW ONE INSTALLED. Also, don’t procrastinate when you are dealing with appliance issues. Warranty companies are not in the habit of extending the warranty period out of the goodness of their hearts.

Oh, and don’t come knocking on my door asking for $400. I already gave at the office.

I’m just sayin’…