Let’s step back in time, say, to January 2009. If you remember, we were talking about water heaters and how the safety of their operation is in your hands. Well, it is now August, and it’s time to start making some money from that water heater. Let’s look for where we can possibly save the equipment for the customer and have a source of income from it.
The obvious things, like leaks, rusting of the unit, smoke/odors and all the safety items, is also obvious to your customer, the person who owns the equipment. They need us for expertise, and this is where we can save them some money and make some at the same time.
We need to insure the T&P valve is working properly. We need to make sure it will release water under fault conditions. Since it should release if pressure builds, it must release to a safe location. That means it must have a pipe directing the released water (or steam) to an area where no one could get hurt by it. If you can tell this by looking at it, you are a better technician than I. I have to test it. I simply lift the lever on the valve to make sure it will release water and then stop dripping when the lever is released. If it does not pass this test, it needs to be replaced. Since it is a “wear and tear” item, the cost of the replacement bears on the customer. Remember, you are protecting them from their equipment—they will be thanking you for it.
We can also do our customers a favor and prolong the serviceable time of a water heater and make some money at the same time. Most people I know today would rather pay a little now and keep the water heater longer in the long run. If you haven’t guessed it yet, I am speaking about the hidden source of income inside the water heater or storage tank, the anode rod(s).
Anode rods are, in my opinion, the most overlooked item in the water heater/tank system! Most of us don’t even think about them when we do a service call, do we? Do we even know what they do? How do they work? Heck, some of us possibly don’t even know where they are located! If we can’t answer these questions, we are never going to be able to convince customers that replacing it (or them) is for their benefit.
What is an anode rod anyway? The anode rod is a sacrificial rod inside the water tank that protects the tank from corrosion. Depending on certain water conditions, it may need to be replaced every few years or even more frequently. It is designed to deteriorate instead of the tank, but when it’s eaten up and gone, the tank starts to deteriorate. If you own a boat, you know that you have zincs on the propeller shafts to protect them, and they get changed yearly, right? Same applies to the water tank except that you need to remove the anode rod to check it. Since you will be charging the customer for the labor to check it, why not put in new at this time? It will be saving the life of the tank, saving your customer money and you will be making money. Water heaters usually last 10 to 15 years, but with proper maintenance, seeing a unit last 20 years or more is not uncommon.
The anode rod is located in the tank usually screwed in from the top. Look for a stamping on the jacket, if in doubt; it may have the word “anode” stamped in or on it. Don’t be fooled if you can’t find it, some manufacturers of tanks incorporate the anode rod in the cold water inlet tapping. They may be hard to find, but they are there. Caution if you are working on “high end” equipment. They may have an electronic anode system. You need to be well-versed in this equipment if you plan to work on this type of equipment.
Now that you have checked the T&P valve and the discharge location and you have replaced the anode rod(s), you can sleep well at night knowing you have saved you customer some money in the long run and you have a few bucks in the bank for your being a professional. But wait, you haven’t told your customer what he needs to do, have you.
One of the most important jobs he has in protecting his equipment is to flush contaminants from the tank monthly. This can significantly extend its life. You should show him how to do this or ask him if he wants to have you do this for him on a monthly basis. Either way you have done quality service for your customer worthy of a quality fee.