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What is causing corrosion in hot water tank heater element?

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Posted by: from Winnipeg
9/8/2015 at 11:10:39 AM

My parents installed a copper hot water tank (approx. 40 gal) about 3 years ago and the 1500 watt heater element needs to be replaced about twice a year due to frequent and severe corrosion. At present the tank has minimal insulation. What could be causing this?

REPLIES (8)
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Date/Time9/8/2015 at 12:17:55 PM

Without looking at it in depth, it sounds like the sacrificial anode

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Date/Time9/8/2015 at 12:46:24 PM

What brand of tank is it?

What municipality is it located in?

Could be that elements are somehow in contact with dissimilar metals which is causing the corrosion.

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Date/Time9/8/2015 at 11:30:47 PM

Hi Brian,

Not a plumber but I was curious so I Googled.

"Hot water tank element corrosion" and the top 3 answers were anode gone, hard water scaling on the element, and sediments actually burying the element. The tank is probably too new for the anode to be shot but it is a relatively cheap part to replace so worth a look. If you are on a well then filters are the way to go to eliminate the sediment and if it is hard city water then a softener is the solution. I don't think the insulation has anything to do with it and a 3 year old tank should be fairly well insulated. I think you can still get exterior blankets at the box stores if you want to upgrade it.

Good luck with it.

Jim Kuzma

Kettleby Handyman

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Brian in Winnipeg
Date/Time9/9/2015 at 1:14:44 AM

Thanks for the replies. Although the tank was installed about 3 years ago it is actually a very old and plain copper tank with no insulation. There is also no anode rod.

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Date/Time9/9/2015 at 9:43:39 AM

Hi Brian,

I have to ask the obvious question - why would they install an old water heater? If it is visible in the corner of a room and meant to be a conversation piece, then you just have to put up with it! If it is in a closet or basement, then get it replaced with a new one! It is probably trying to heat water 24 / 7 as the copper is just radiating the heat away. That is costing you huge amounts of power (and repair costs) and a new one would probably pay for itself in a year or 18 months. The box stores could probably install one for you for around $1000.00.

Hope this helps a bit.

Good luck with it.

Jim Kuzma

Kettleby Handyman

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Brian in Winnipeg
Date/Time9/10/2015 at 10:23:02 PM

A good question. Installing this old tank has to do with independent, elderly parents, raised in the depression era, and not wanting to get rid of what they have on hand. I did install an new heater element and installed an insulation cover on the tank so the latter should reduce the heat loss significantly if as suggested it is working 24/7. I suggested buying a new tank!

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Date/Time9/11/2015 at 12:22:09 AM

Hi Brian,

I know exactly what you mean! My Polish dad used to drive my Lithuania mom nuts when he darned his socks for the tenth time instead of opening one of the million new pairs he had in his drawers. I'm guessing in Winnipeg you have the Ukrainian equivalent.

In any case, back to the tank. That's probably the best you could do under the circumstances. If you could get another blanket over it it would probably help noticeably.

Good luck with them!

Jim Kuzma

Kettleby Handyman

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Brian in Winnipeg
Date/Time9/11/2015 at 12:48:59 PM

Hi Jim,

Thanks. That's very funny about the socks. Yes, we have quite a diverse ethnic population here. My parents are Ukrainian and Polish and I'm sure they've passed on some of these traits to me... which reminds me...I have some socks to patch up...

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