Why Is My Water Gritty?

Is your water gritty?  Do you notice a feeling sand-like feel to your water while washing dishes or taking a shower?

You don’t usually think that calling a plumber can be a bargain, but often it is.  But that sand-like feel in your water could mean that the anode rod needs to be replaced. The replacement is much cheaper than the cost of a brand-new water heater.

The anode rod is a simple, but important, element in how clean water is delivered throughout your house.

In a fully functional water tank, the aluminum anode rod gives the impurities in your water something to go after.  They are attracted to the rod and gnaw away at it. This keeps the acidity and impurities from attacking the rest of your system including pipes, faucets and water heater.

Turn Off Gas or Electricity

The first step the plumber will take to replace the anode rod is to turn off the gas for a gas-heated water tank or throw the shut-off switch to the supply of electricity if the water heater is heated by electricity.

Next, he will shut off the water supply, then drain off a few gallons of water through a valve at the bottom of the heater. Once that is finished, he is ready to examine the anode rod.

If you have ever changed the tire on your car, this next part of the procedure will make sense. Just like the lug nuts on a tire that have been tightly secured and resist being turned, an anode rod that has been in the water heater for years will not easily be removed.  Often the plumber will pop the plastic plug off the top of the water heater only to discover that the anode rod is resistant. Usually, he will employ a “breaker bar” or an extension on his socket wrench to provide the needed leverage.

More Power?

As a customer of Linthicum Plumbing you have seen the difference a profressional plumber can make for your home. The DIY person might at this juncture simply grit his teeth, put his back into the effort and pull harder.  In the words of Tim “the Toolman” Taylor from the long-running TV comedy “Home Improvement” - “More Power!” As was often the case with Tim Taylor, more power often resulted in a disaster of epic proportions.

When changing a tire, if you exert more power, the tire often will spin around and you will have accomplished nothing.  If you simply exert more power to remove the anode rod, the water heater may rotate in the direction you are turning the wrench and shake loose the pipes carrying the hot and cold water. 

Once the anode rod is twisted free from the fittings, the plumber can pull it out. The rod is often in ghastly condition, corroded, grotesque and stinky. The rod has done its job, acting as the magnet to water impurities.

Out with the Old in with the New

Now the plumber will replace the anode rod with a new one. The new rod, often made of aluminum (sometimes magnesium) is relatively flexible, so the plumber can bend it if necessary to fit into the water heater.  Water heaters are frequently put into such tight spaces that a plumber is unable to insert a non-flexible rod through the hole at the top of the heater.

The plumber will make sure that the rod is tightly sealed into the heater, so he often will wind a few inches of Teflon tape around the threads at the top of the rod.  Next, he will insert the rod and hand tighten at first to insure a snug fit. At this point, he will use his socket wrench (often with a 1 1/16-inch socket) to tighten the rod into place. The last few turns will mean a snug fit; but not so tight as to make it impossible to remove when replacement time comes again.

Water Ready for Use

With the rod successfully inserted, the plumber will turn on the water and flip the switch to the gas or electric so the water can once again be heated for household use. A careful plumber will then inspect the system for leaks around valves and seams in the water heater to make sure no other problem areas need to be addressed.

Residents of the home should see the gritty feel and slight odors eliminated. If the odors persist it could be sewer smells. Refer to the blog entitled Sewer Gas? A Venting Problem?

Relying on a trusted plumber can save money. In this case, the problem was solved through the installation of a new anode rod instead of purchasing a new water heater. It also can save the discomfort of using gritty water or enduring unacceptable smells.