I was told that it is best to drain your hot water tank after each excursion, so I replaced the anode with a petcock. I now drain the water out but am curious as to the soundness of this plumbing exchange. Any advice would be appreciated. —Gary G.
As far as draining after each trip, a lot depends on how often your excursions actually take place. Personally, I would only drain the water heater in preparation for winter storage, a lengthy period of non-use, when servicing it, when chlorinating the fresh water system, or perhaps when you encounter some foul water during a trip.
Remember, the anode in the water heater is a necessity when the heater is in use, but only for Suburban and the older American Appliance brands of water heaters. Water passing through the tank creates an electrolysis that will literally attack the tank from the inside. The anode is the sacrificial component that prevents the tank itself from becoming damaged. If you still want to drain the tank, simply remove the anode/drain plug.
On the older American Appliance heaters, the anode had a separate connection on the rear of the heater, plus they were originally equipped with a drain cock anyway. I realize it is probably easier to drain with the valve, but it’s more important to have that anode in the tank. In the long term, it will be worth the extra time it may take to drain the heater between trips.
As a side note, I’ve seen some misinformation posted on online blogs and wish to clarify when to replace the anode. Suburban recommends replacing the anode annually or when the rod has about 25% of its original size left. Heavy travelers may need to replace the anode more than once per year but, typically, once per camping season usually suffices. If you are a full-timer or travel often, check the anode at six-month intervals and replace it when it’s 75% deteriorated.