The Air Doctors Guide to Hot Water Heaters

The Air Doctors Guide to Hot Water Heaters

Water Heater

Outside of your heating and cooling system, your water heater ranks high in importance to your and your family’s comfort and safety. From personal hygiene care, cooking, and cleaning, having hot water is an absolute must. This article will discuss the differences in technology, as well as how Hot Water Heaters should be maintained.

Styles of Water Heaters

There are several manufacturers and styles of water heaters on the market. From a whole-house perspective, there are three key types of water heaters. The most common is the atmospheric storage hot water heater. Considered the workhorse of the industry, this specific style of hot water heater works by using electricity by means of a heater to heat the water or by burning a fuel, i.e., natural gas or propane. Natural gas is far more popular than propane or electric hot water heaters. Natural gas water heaters are also considered to be the cheapest of the available fuels for hot water heaters.

a water heater Belleville MI

The storage type hot water heater is considered a standby heater. It works to keep the water within the tank at a predetermined temperature. The tank has a thermostat and senses the water temperature. The heater will automatically bring on its heat source to keep the water at the desired setpoint. If a demand or load is placed on the heater and hot water is used, the domestic water feed to the home will automatically replenish the used hot water with cooler supply (municipal) water. The heat source will now work to bring the “newer” freshwater up to the desired temperature.

What makes this heater atmospheric is that it uses air from home for combustion and has a natural drafting chimney. For the exhaust gases to leave the dwelling in an appropriate manner, the chimney must be sized and installed to the appropriate mechanical codes.

To achieve a higher efficiency rating, a version of the storage tank exists where instead of having and naturally drafting chimney, the exhaust gases are pushed by a fan. This heater is called a power venting hot water heater. This technology is exclusive to fuel-burning applications. This type of heater is considered to be more efficient because it uses more of the heat available inside of the exhaust gases to heat the water. Another distinct difference between a power vent hot water heater as compared to an atmospheric heater is that an atmospheric hot water heater uses a pilot (small flame that burns continuously) for burner ignition. This pilot flame is wasteful as it always burns natural gas, even when the heater is not in operation. The power vent hot water heater only operates the burner a call for hot water, and there is no wasted energy from a pilot. Despite the ignition style, power vented hot water heaters behave much like atmospheric hot water heaters. Power venting water heaters require an electrical circuit to be provided.

The last style of hot water heater mentioned here is the on-demand or “tankless” hot water heater. This hot water heater gets rid of the tank and has a larger burner. When a demand or load is recognized by the controller of the hot water heater, it fires its high-capacity burner to bring the temperature to the desired setting, and when the demand or load is satisfied, the burner shuts down. This process saves a significant amount of energy and therefore saves the energy user money. Many people also enjoy the smaller and more compact design. A disadvantage with this style of heater comes from what makes them more efficient, not having a tank. When you look at a traditional household demand for water, you find that the average residence may have a washer, dishwasher, multiple sinks, and possibly multiple lavatories. Maybe you have just gotten into a shower and noticed that the hot water is not the temperature you wanted, or it was cooler altogether. Storage hot water heaters can handle a larger load placed on the heater at one time. The same kind of load will push the tankless water heater to its limit in short order. This situation is even more drastic when the ground temperature is a lot cooler during the winter months. The second drawback with tankless water heaters is that there are a higher installation and service cost of ownership. For an installation project, they typically require a new electrical circuit and upgraded sizing on the fuel piping. The average installation can be 2-3 times the costs of the traditional storage hot water heater. Repairs for this type of hot water heater are generally more expensive as well.

Maintenance Considerations

Despite the original of the water supply feeding the home, the water has minerals that are damaging to any steel-based appliance like hot water heaters. To help reduce the reaction of the water and the steel tank or heat exchangers, manufacturers line the steel tank with a glass lining. Additionally, these tanks are equipped with an Anode Rod, which is a component threaded inside of the hot water heater. It is generally made from magnesium, aluminum, or zinc. These elements will succumb to corrosion much sooner than the steel tank will from the materials in the water. The Anode Rod is consumable, so once its material is depleted, there is nothing preventing the minerals in the water from attacking the tank. When the tank is compromised, a vessel leak will occur, which is not repairable. A vessel leak causes significant water damage if it is not noticed right away.

Maintenance Recommendations:

  • Combustion Analysis: This test should be performed annually. This test allows us to see “how” efficient the combustion gases are being converted into heat (efficiency). It also allows us to verify if this unit is producing unacceptable amounts of carbon monoxide.
  • Draft Testing: This test should be performed annually to determine if there are any exhaust restrictions.
  • Carbon Monoxide Check: This test should be performed annually to help determine if the exhaust gases are being exhausted into the home.
  • Water Heater Flushing: Flushing should be performed every two months. The materials and debris flow to the bottom of the tank and can cause operation issues in the future, i.e., lack of heat transfer or the tank cannot be drained for repairs.
  • Anode Rod Replacement: The anode rod should be replaced every two years or per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Water Heater Insulation: If you have an older tank, you should consider insulating it. Standby water heaters can have up to 25% standby losses. Tank insulation can help to reduce its energy loss..
  • Recirculating pump installation: Stagnant water in piping can also increase energy consumption. A recirculation pump will help to move the water and help to reduce water being wasted because it is not at the proper temperature..
  • Water Pipe Insulation: Bare pipes will allow the heat that you already paid for to leave the water piping. Installing pipe insulation will help reduce pipe losses due to heat radiation and help to save you money.

Contact Us

The Air Doctors Heating and Cooling, LLC are on standby 24/7/365 to resuscitate your Hot Water Heater. Even if your Hot Water Heater is in critical condition, we can replace it stat! Our top-notch craftsmanship is backed by the toughest name in tanks – Bradford White! Our service includes industry-leading 6-year parts and labor warranty.

Give your water heater an annual physical. Most water heaters have a recommended list of maintenance items that will give your hot water heater years of reliable service and help to prevent expensive repair/replacement costs.