To understand how a metal rod can save your water heater, let’s begin with a simple overview of how metal corrodes. Corrosion is a natural electrochemical process in which metals are oxidized, resulting in their deterioration. This happens when electrons flow away from the metals by way of an electrolyte, causing actual metal loss — that’s why when rust gets out of control, it can eat a hole straight through the side of a hot water heater’s tank.
This process is always occurring, but the anode has a way to fight back. Anode rods are made from more active metals than the metals they’re designed to protect. So when the anode is connected to the at-risk metal by a volume of water, the electron loss of the anode is far greater than that of the less active steel water heater.
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