Questions About Powered Anodes
Most of the FAQ pages I've seen were pretty worthless. They usually had answers to questions, but rarely MY questions. But we've been asked these so many times, it seemed about time to codify them. -- Randy Schuyler
Q: How long is the warranty on the powered anode?
A: The factory warranties it for seven years, but the makers say it should last decades. I'm the warranty rep. If the LED on the device goes out, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This doesn't happen often, but it's a possibility. You should remember to check the LED from time to time.
Q: How much power does it draw?
A: It draws in the milli-amps. We put a Kill-A-Watt meter on one and the meter read zero. The draw is very low.
Q: Does it get used up?
A: Impressed-current anodes -- that's the technical name -- are not "sacrificial", so they are not consumed during use. They feed a very small amount of electricity into the tank to replace that produced by sacrificial anodes. The electrode is made of titanium. Interestingly, while sacrificial anodes are consumed more rapidly in softened water, powered anodes actually work less hard because higher conductivity makes it easier for electricity to flow between anode and cathode (tank steel).
Q: Could I get electrocuted?
A: No. The amount of current produced is very small, and it stays in the tank.
Q: How do I know if it's working?
A: There is a green LED on top of the hex nut that will light when it is put into service. However, you can also test it with a multimeter. If you are concerned about it, we can send you the instructions on how to do that.
Q: How long is the power cord?
A: Six feet.
Q: I see you supply galvanized parts. Can I use brass instead?
A: No. When you put steel together with brass in water, the steel rusts. This is an anode, of course, and it is designed to throw some current up high to protect the bottom of the hex nut, but using brass will make it work much harder than intended and may affect its ability to protect the water heater.
Q: Do you guarantee that it will solve my odor problem?
A: No, but it probably will. Its success rate, with about 4000 sold at this time (3/25/16) is two units shy of 100 percent. Here is the reason I won't make that guarantee: I used to, and then a guy said the odor came back after three months; he was one of those two units. I asked him to help me figure out the cause. He wouldn't and demanded his money back. I gave it and then removed any language about guarantees. The reason: if there IS a situation where the device won't work, I want to know about it and steer people away from buying one in those conditions. A sale is pointless unless the problem is solved. This way, you'll have to work with me to figure out a solution, if there is one. Since then, there have been two or three cases where other things were causing the odor, such as bacteria in a shower drain. If there had been a guarantee, I would not have been able to help the customer resolve his problem. There was also a case where someone let the tank stagnate for six months. The link to "The Peroxide Fix" was the result of that. That was the other of the two cases.
All that said, if you are using a water softener, a powered anode is good to have, odor or not, because sacrificial anodes can be rapidly consumed, and then you're replacing the water heater instead of an anode. Since the powered anode doesn't wear out, it's superior in this situation.
Finally, I should add that these powered anodes are meant to be used in residential-type, glass-lined, steel water heaters up to about 80 gallons. They are self-adjusting in that range. If you have a bigger tank than that, say so. The unit can be adjusted upward, but I want to guide you in that. People occasionally are tempted to use them in other applications. By that, I mean that this device is meant for glass-lined steel water heaters that have anodes that installed in the top and hanging straight down. If you have something different, the factory and I can't be sure what will happen, so we discourage such uses, and they may void the warranty. If in doubt, ask.
For now, specifically, I warn you off using this in stainless steel tanks, Vertexes, and multi-anode indirect-fired heaters. The powered anode is set to protect a small amount of exposed steel in a glass-lined water heater, not the vast expanse of a stainless tank. The latter two have complicated internal architectures that may prevent a powered anode from protecting all parts of the tank.
Q: Will it void the warranty of my water heater?
A: Probably, but it's not as simple as that. The policy of the manufacturers is that any equipment they have not tested and approved for use voids their warranty. Actually, that makes perfect sense, as they don't want increased warranty expenses because somebody used a product that caused a problem. I have much the same feeling toward employing the powered anode outside of its intended uses.
My goal is to serve everyone and harm no one. The powered anode works very well to protect a heater in softened water and without causing odor. People who have odor in that environment have limited choices. One is to remove the factory anode, but that must shorten the life of the heater. This is commonly recommended by people who service softeners without regard for the heater's warranty.
People without odor but who use a softener often see their heaters rust out every couple of years. One recent case was three 75-gallon heaters in seven years. Employing a powered anode solves both issues and in a way that actually helps the manufacturers by cutting their warranty costs. When someone wants to use it in a way that I think may harm a water heater, I warn them off, as in the examples at the end of the previous question.
If you ask your manufacturer and they tell you it voids the warranty, you've closed off an important option to solving your problem. They would not otherwise know. The powered anode manufacturer is always improving their product and when the next version is complete, I hope to have it tested and approved for use by at least one manufacturer. However, the engineers are much occupied with their core business, so that's going slowly.
If your heater is past warranty, there is clearly no problem installing a powered anode, but from what I've seen, people with odor problems are not worrying too much about warranty. Still, it would be nice if they didn't have to worry about it at all.
Note: We've had two cases over the past eight years, among thousands of anodes sold, of the device causing AM radio interference. If you encounter this, putting the power supply in a Faraday Cage may solve the problem.
-- Randy Schuyler