Is your water heater failing and producing a stinky rotten egg smell or leaks due to corrosion?
This article compares aluminum vs. magnesium anode rods so you can see the benefits and drawbacks of both when searching for one.
We will help you make an informed decision, so you can buy and install a high-quality anode that can successfully solve your hot water problems without affecting your comfort and wallet.
Anode rods are essential parts of all water heaters that use metal tanks. They protect metal components from corrosion while some also help reduce bacteria development as the main culprit of the stinky hot water.
Customers have a few options when shopping for an anode rod:
The first three types are sacrificial as they "sacrifice" themselves to protect a water tank.
A powered anode is non-sacrificial and uses electricity to deal with the problems.
All anode rods provide corrosion protection and prolong the life of your tank-type water heater. So, the question is whether to buy a magnesium or aluminum anode.
Here are some important things to consider:
Aluminum anode rods are cheap, lightweight, and soft, making them easy to manufacture, bend, and install. The rod is installed inside the threaded port at the top of the unit. It looks like the head of a bolt.
Homeowners can also buy rods with a combination of aluminum and zinc for greater benefits in some cases.
It is recommended to replace anodes every 5 years, but it depends on the quality, water chemistry, and level of erosion. As per manufacturers, when the inner rod becomes quite exposed (consumed by more than 50%), it is time to replace it.
Be aware that water softeners and hard water can shorten the anode's life span.
Since aluminum anode rods are the most common type, their price is also lower - from $15 to $40.
Magnesium anode rods are probably the most used ones for tank protection in residential water heaters. Due to their ability to release electrons easier, they would protect metal tanks better. That is why magnesium anodes will deteriorate faster in softer water and water with lower PH levels.
These anodes are very sensitive to corrosive elements, so they can work well in soft water, which contains many corrosive particles. On the other hand, they would last less if exposed to water with a lot of minerals (hard water).
As the aluminum type, magnesium anodes can also last 5 or more years, depending on several factors, as mentioned before.
It is recommended for homeowners to check the tank lining so as the anode rod for corrosion. Magnesium anodes and corroded tanks can trigger an electro-chemical reaction and cause hydrogen gas to react with sulfur and bacteria, causing an odor and water leaks.
According to some studies, magnesium anodes can also provide some health benefits to the users.
Magnesium rods cost more than aluminum types, and you can get one for $30-$40.
As we can see from comparing aluminum vs. magnesium anode rods, both types are affordable and available in any hardware store. The kind you want to install depends on the water quality in your area/home and whether you want to replace an anode often or rarely.
Aluminum anodes are better for hard water or water with a lot of dissolved minerals, while magnesium works best in softer water. And both are meant for corrosion protection.
But, if you have a problem with the rotten eggs smell (stinky hot water), get a non-sacrificial powered anode rod, or a cheaper zinc alloy rod (sacrificial).