The basics about water heaters: types, parts and how they work

Water heaters are essential appliances in our homes, providing hot water for various daily tasks like bathing, cooking, and cleaning. Despite their importance, many homeowners may not fully understand the basics of how water heaters function, the different types available, and their essential parts. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of water heaters, covering everything from their types to their inner workings.

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Family-owned and operated Chas Roberts is the largest HVAC company in Arizona and has been in business for over 75 years. Contact our Metro Phoenix office at 602.386.2732.

Are you in our service area? Chas Roberts services numerous Arizona locations, including Gilbert, Glendale, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley, Cave Creek, Scottsdale, Sun City, and more. Plumbing services not available in Tucson.

What are the different types of water heaters?

  1. Conventional Storage Water Heaters:
    • Conventional storage water heaters are the most common type found in households. They consist of a tank where water is heated and stored until needed.
    • These water heaters are available in gas, electric, and hybrid models, offering options suitable for different energy sources and efficiency preferences.
    • Key features include a thermostat to control water temperature and a pressure relief valve for safety.
  2. Tankless (On-Demand) Water Heaters:
    • Tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand water heaters, heat water directly without the need for a storage tank.
    • These units are more energy-efficient than conventional storage heaters since they only heat water when needed, eliminating standby heat loss.
    • Tankless water heaters are available in gas or electric models and are known for their space-saving design and endless hot water supply.
  3. Heat Pump Water Heaters:
    • Heat pump water heaters use electricity to transfer heat from the air or ground to the water, making them highly energy efficient.
    • These systems work well in moderate to warm climates and can significantly reduce energy costs compared to traditional electric water heaters.
    • Heat pump water heaters may have higher upfront costs but offer long-term savings and environmental benefits.

What are the different parts of a water heater?

  1. Tank (Storage Water Heaters):
    • The tank is the central component of conventional storage water heaters, where cold water is heated and stored until needed.
    • Tanks are typically made of steel or glass-lined steel to prevent corrosion and extend the lifespan of the water heater.
  2. Heating Element or Burner:
    • Heating elements or burners are responsible for heating the water inside the tank.
    • In electric water heaters, heating elements are immersed in the water, while gas water heaters utilize a burner located at the bottom of the tank.
  3. Thermostat:
    • The thermostat controls the temperature of the water in the tank, ensuring it stays within a safe and comfortable range.
    • Users can adjust the thermostat settings based on their hot water needs and preferences.
  4. Pressure Relief Valve:
    • The pressure relief valve is a crucial safety feature that releases excess pressure inside the tank to prevent it from bursting.
    • It is designed to open automatically if the pressure or temperature inside the tank exceeds safe levels.
  5. Anode Rod:
    • Anode rods are sacrificial components made of aluminum, magnesium, or zinc that help prevent corrosion inside the tank.
    • Over time, anode rods deteriorate as they protect the tank, so they may need to be replaced periodically to maintain the water heater’s efficiency.

How do water heaters work?

  1. Conventional Storage Water Heaters:
    • Cold water enters the tank through a dip tube, where it is heated by the heating element or burner.
    • As the water heats up, it rises to the top of the tank, ready to be drawn through the hot water outlet when needed.
    • Meanwhile, the thermostat monitors the water temperature, activating the heating element or burner as necessary to maintain the set temperature.
  2. Tankless (On-Demand) Water Heaters:
    • When hot water is requested at a faucet or appliance, cold water travels through a heat exchanger inside the tankless unit.
    • The heat exchanger rapidly heats the water as it passes through, delivering hot water on demand.
    • Since tankless water heaters don’t store hot water, they eliminate standby heat loss, resulting in higher energy efficiency.
  3. Heat Pump Water Heaters:
    • Heat pump water heaters use a heat pump to extract heat from the surrounding air or ground and transfer it to the water in the tank.
    • This process requires less energy than heating water directly, making heat pump water heaters highly efficient.
    • During periods of high demand or colder temperatures, backup heating elements may engage to ensure a consistent supply of hot water.

How can Chas Roberts help?

Chas Roberts can help by providing expert guidance and top-quality products for your water heating needs. With decades of experience in the HVAC industry, Chas Roberts offers service on various water heaters, including conventional storage heaters, tankless models, and heat pump systems. Our team of skilled technicians can assess your requirements and recommend the most efficient and reliable solution for your hot water needs. Whether you need installation, maintenance, or repairs, you can trust Chas Roberts to deliver exceptional service and ensure your comfort all year round.

Early signs of water heater failure

Our water heater services at Chas Roberts can help you avoid emergencies by catching tell-tale signs of failure early. These signs may include:

  • Leaks
  • Corrosion
  • Low hot water supply
  • Water that is too hot
  • Complete loss of hot water supply
  • Buzzing noises
  • Burnt out pilot light

If the damage has already been done, we can help you clean up during an emergency and install a new water heater correctly. Our goal is your satisfaction.

Contact a Chas Roberts plumbing technician to ask a question, schedule a repair or maintenance, or receive help regarding a water heater plumbing emergency today.

Choose the right water heater with Chas Roberts

Understanding the basics of water heaters is essential for homeowners looking to make informed decisions about their hot water systems. Whether you opt for a conventional storage heater, a tankless model, or a heat pump system, knowing the different types, key components, and how they work can help you choose the right water heater for your home’s needs. Investing in an efficient and reliable water heater can help you enjoy a steady hot water supply while maximizing energy savings and minimizing environmental impact.

Family-owned and operated Chas Roberts is the largest HVAC company in Arizona and has been in business for over 75 years. Contact our Metro Phoenix office at 602.386.2732. Plumbing services not available in Tucson.