How Water Heaters Work

Have you ever wondered how water heaters work?

Of course, there are a number of types of water heaters available these days. It takes fuel to heat the water, and that fuel may be electricity, LP or natural gas, even heating oil. Most likely your water heater is fueled by the same source you use for home heating.

The systems on each of these heaters is slightly different. Electric models have a power cable that connects the heater to your electric service panel, and are wired to a 220-volt circuit. When current passes through the electrical-resistance heating elements located at both the bottom and middle of the tank, the water becomes heated. Fuel-fired water heaters created exhaust gases, and these are carried away by a vent pipe at the top of the heater.

Tank? Tankless? How to Decide

Fuel-fired water heaters always have tanks. But electric water heaters can be tank or tankless. How do you decide to use in your home?

First of all, you need to understand how the water heaters work. A traditional tank-type heater heats the water and keeps the contained water in the tank warm between heating cycles. We recommend installing a fiberglass insulation jacket on the exterior of the tank, which helps reduce heat loss of the water inside.

Now, the water heater is always on, keeping the water ready for immediate use. This means, of course, that no matter what, your heater is running and using fuel. It's running when you sleep, when you are at work, when you go away for vacation. Depending on the cost of fuel in your area, that can add quite a bit to your utility bill. But perhaps you prefer to have hot water ready for immediate use. In that case, the traditional tank heater is a better choice for you.

One last point about tank heaters: it's important for a homeowner to know where the water supply shutoff is. If you have a gas-heated water heater, then also become acquainted with where the the gas line shutoff is. Because if you have problems with your water heater, you may well need to turn everything off until a plumber comes to repair the unit. And ask your plumber how your pilot light ignites, and what to do if it goes out.

Tankless Heaters

Tankless heaters, on the other hand, heat the water only on demand with high-powered burners that quickly heat water. Still, you may need to wait a few minutes for hot water to begin running through your pipes. This type of heater has a cold water supply line that brings in the cold water and is controlled by a shutoff valve. Once the system has heated your water, it emerges through the hot water line to all your appliances and fixtures when you need.

They do cost a lot more to purchase and install, but they are more cost efficient than traditional tank systems. Unfortunately, in homes with a high water demand, tankless heaters may not provide enough hot water quickly enough. Have a big family? Typically run a large number of laundry loads at one time? Then a tankless water heater may not be your best choice.

What You Need to Know is Your FHR Rating

When choosing a new water heater, he best water heater for your home can be judged by the FHR rating ( First-Hour Rating) for the system. The FRH indicates how much hot water the unit will reliably deliver in a set amount of time.

Generally speaking, a household of three to four people can use an 80-gallon water heater, but not all heaters that size crank out the same amount of hot water per hour.

If your family of four gets ready school and work between 7 and 8 am, and uses only 20 gallons of water, an 80 gallon tank is fine. But if you use 40 gallons of water in that same time period, and your 80-gallon water heater has an FHR of 30 gallons, the last person in the tub is going to take a very cold shower.

We're Here to Help

When you need a new water heater, give us a call. We can help you decide what type and size of heater will work best for your home. We install and service tank and tankless water heaters in Windsor, Greeley, and the surrounding area. We also do water heater repair in Windsor, CO,  Greeley and local communities.

Remember, installing or repairing a water heater is one of those jobs best left to a professional. Improper installation can mean poor performance and high energy costs, and potential dangers the homeowner may not be aware of.

Water heater leaking or in need of maintenance?  We have  years of plumbing and heating repair experience. We'll solve your problem quickly and safely.

Contact us by email anytime, or call during business hours: 970-381-7379. 



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