Does a Water Softener Affect a Water Heater?

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Does a Water Softener Affect a Water Heater?

Wondering How a Water Softener Affects a Water Heater?

If you live in an area with hard water, you may be tempted to install a water softener. Hard water is basically water that has picked up extra minerals on its way to your tap and those extra minerals can lead to a number of problems.

Common Hard Water Issues

• Funny Tasting or Smelling Water
• Hard Water Stains
• Soap Scum Buildup
• Clogged Shower Heads and Pipes

These are the reasons many people in the Greater San Diego area have a water softener installed in their home. The hard water is prevalent throughout the area and it can be really bad depending on exactly where you live. However, what many people don’t know is that a water softener can have damaging effects on their water heater, which can cause them to have to replace their water heater sooner than expected.

Water Softener


The main reason that water softeners can shorten the life of your water heater has to do with the anode rod. While many people have never heard of the anode rod, it plays a major role in keeping a water heater up and running. The anode rod is typically made out of aluminum or even magnesium and, without it, your water heater would start leaking well before a water heater with its anode rod still in place. Without getting too technical, water heaters will eventually succumb to corrosion from the water itself. This happens because water and steel simply don’t get along. Corrosive minerals and the minor electrical current created inside a water heater all lead to the water heater eventually failing. The anode rod attracts the corrosive materials and lets them corrode it first. It sacrifices itself to extend the life of the water heater.

Anode Rods

So how does this relate to the water softener? Basically, the water softener operates by replacing minerals that make the water “hard” such as calcium and magnesium with sodium. This process increases the conductivity and corrosiveness of the water thus speeding up the corrosion of the anode rod. Once the anode rod is gone, the water will begin corroding the tank itself and that will eventually lead to tank failure. If would like a more detailed description of the anode rod and its function, you can click here.


None of this means that you shouldn’t install a water softener or consider getting rid of the one you have. There are people who have had a water softener for years without any issues. We would like to note that while many industry professionals recommend replacing the anode rod every few years, recent water heater models make it very difficult for the anode rod to be replaced. Each manufacturer can have different sized anode rods made out of different materials and they may be accessible from different areas on the water heaters. So if you do feel like you would like to replace the anode rod yourself, we suggest contacting the manufacturer, who will be able to give you the best information about your specific model.

As always, we hope this blog post has been helpful in giving you a better understanding of why your water heater may have failed sooner than expected and how that related to having a water softener. There may not be much you can do to prevent your water heater failing due to the use of a water softener; however, we do encourage you to keep up with your annual flushing of your water heater. This is good for your water heater whether you have a water softener or not. As always, if you have any questions, just give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-833-4571 and we’ll be happy to help.