Like many appliances in your home, you may not realize how much you rely upon your water heater until it stops working. Problems with your water heater range from very minor and easy to fix, to costly repairs or replacement. In some cases, you may encounter the risk of explosion. When you have no idea what is going on with your water heater, you cannot easily determine possible causes. That makes small issues likely to slip under the radar, and costs you more in repairs when you hire a plumber. By understanding the various components and functions of your water heater, you can prolong its lifespan, improve its efficiency and save yourself a lot of money.
Water Heater Components:
- Hot Water Outlet: Your hot water heater tank heats your water, but it must have a way to deliver the hot water to other parts of your home. Your home’s plumbing attaches to your hot water heater’s outlet, drawing the heated water out of the tank.
- Cold Water Inlet: In order for the hot water heater to be able to heat the water, there must be a source of water from your plumbing. This is the cold water inlet, which provides a ready supply of cold water for your water heater to heat whenever the tank starts to deplete.
- Temperature/Pressure Relief Valve: As water leaves your water heater, there is a change of pressure and temperature. Without the ability to relieve the pressure, the water heater could become unstable. The temperature/pressure relief valve is designed to monitor and release pressure if it reaches unstable levels.
- Drain Clock: Periodically, you or a qualified plumber should drain your water heater and clean the collecting sediment there. The drain clock sits at the bottom of the tank and allows you to connect a hose to drain the tank.
- Dip Tubes: The heating component of a gas-fired water heater is located at the bottom, so the cold water must be delivered there first. The dip tube sends cold water to the bottom of the tank for quick and efficient heating.
- 220-Volt Power Supply (Electric): Electric water heaters rely on a power source to generate heat. The power supply is connected to your electrical system. Often, your power supply wires are hooked to the upper thermostat of the water heater.
- Vent (Gas-Fired): The production of heat through natural gas creates exhaust that could be poisonous for humans to breathe. The water heater vent or flue draws the exhaust safely from the tank and out of the home.
- Thermostat (Electric): All water heaters have thermostats, but many electric water heaters have two. In an electric water heater, each thermostat is connected to a heating element. The upper thermostat heats the water in the upper third of the tank, and then the lower thermostat heats the rest of the water.
- Magnesium Anode (Electric): The minerals in water can corrode the tank over time. The anode rod is designed to attract the minerals first, so that the rod will corrode before the tank does. As a result, the anode rod must be replaced regularly.
- Flue Baffle (Gas-Fired): Inside the flue or vent for a gas-fired water heater is a component called a “flue baffle.” This baffle promotes efficiency in the system by directing heat into the tank instead of the vent.
- Glass-Lined Tank (Gas-Fired): The hot water heater tank is lined with a protective material designed to minimize corrosion and leaking. The material may be made of glass, stainless steel or even cement.
- Insulation (Gas-Fired): Heat transfer is the process by which heat leaves a specific area, your water heater in this case. Insulation in the water heater reduces heat loss, but it can lose efficiency after several years of use.
- Control Valve (Gas-Fired): Your water heater is connected to your natural gas supply through a control valve. This valve directs fuel to various components of the water heater, allowing you to light the pilot and heat the water. It must always be turned off before you do any maintenance or repairs on the water heater.
- Gas Supply (Gas-Fired): Without the gas supply, your hot water heater cannot run. The gas supply connects to the control valve and creates a ready supply of fuel for the water heater. For proper water heater function, the supply must always be connected.
- Gas Burner (Gas-Fired): Natural gas water heaters generate heat through burning. The natural gas is sent to the burner at the bottom of the tank, which produces heat for the water and exhaust that goes through the vent.
Using a hot water heater seems like a simple task, but you should know how it works. With knowledge of a water heater’s inner components, you can identify problems before they become disasters, save money on your utility bills, and keep your family safe.
Getting Advice About Your Water Heater
If you are in need of a new water heater, your best bet is to consult a professional. Hot water is a daily need. It requires equipment that runs reliably and efficiently. Your water heater can cost you a great deal of money each and every year if you make the wrong choice. Talk to someone who knows what they are doing. Getting equipment and installation assistance from a reputable source can save money and headaches later on.
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