What is a Water Heater?
A precise definition of a water heater is any device that uses a heat transfer process to raise the temperature of water in order to produce a continuous or a fixed supply of heated water for domestic, commercial, and industrial uses.
Well, that was pretty heavy verbose for a simple man. Simply, the water heater provides a warm water supply. So, you can use it at home or in your business place.
By design and working process, water heater uses several techniques for heating water, such as fuel combustion, electric resistance, electric pump, nuclear energy, solar energy, and earth’s natural heat in the form of geysers.
However, the general population only needs hot water for domestic and commercial uses. That’s why the majority of water heaters come only with fuel consumption operations and electric resistance operations.
Water heater appliances have several names, such as hot water heaters, hot water tanks, boilers, heat exchangers, geysers, and many more. Every country and location has its unique name for water heaters, and many brands name it differently. However, the basic taxonomical name is “Water Heater.”
In winter, when there is a dire need for hot water for basic life’s necessities, water heaters become indispensable. Without it, life becomes pretty hard. That’s why owning a water heater in cold or mild climates is the basic need. You may own one or looking to buy one. That’s why you are here, and you will know every detail about it. So, buckle up. It will be a great ride for you.
How Water Heater Works?
Vastly available water heaters work on two basic principles. Either to supply continuing running hot water in plumbing pipes or heat a specific amount of water and make it available for use in a limited supply.
First of all, the water heater is installed on the premises, such as a house, factory, workshop, and any place that requires hot water. The installation requires plumbing pipes attached to the water heater appliance. Generally, one pipe puts the water into the water heater, and the second pipe takes out hot water from it for use.
After the installation, the water heater uses a heat transfer process to warm the water at specific temperatures. Generally, every water heater appliance uses a thermostat to allow the user to fix the temperature at a specific point.
The heat transfer process always needs heat production, which is done by generally two methods: fossil fuel combustion or electric resistance. Mostly, fossil fuel is used because it is readily available and has a low-cost. Electric water heaters are also in use. But they work at a higher cost.
Fossil fuels, such as natural gas, petroleum, liquefied petroleum gas, liquefied natural gas, coal, and other hydrocarbon fuels, are combusted inside the water heater and heat is produced. Then, that heat raises the temperature of the water and gets the job done.
In electric water heaters, electricity is used to produce heat through a resistance metal that warms up the water. Next, the water is supplied for domestic, commercial, or industrial use.
Electric water heaters are mostly used in industries. The primary reason for it is safety and compatibility with other industrial machines. However, industries also use fossil fuel combustion water heaters and call them boilers. But for that, they have to build a special room for it along with excessive piping.
Other than fossil fuel and electric water heaters, solar water heaters are also in use. But they have limited options. It’s because the solar water heater can work only during day time and in areas where sunlight is very, very bright. In cold climates, the solar water heater does not work. However, the solar water heater is the most cost-effective method to get heated water.
Types of Water Heaters
The market has several types of water heaters available, and everyone will present you with unique features, specifications, and benefits. However, all types of water heaters can be summed up into 7 basic types as follows:
- Tank-less water heaters
- Traditional storage tank water heaters
- Condensing water heaters
- Heat pump water heaters
- Solar-powered water heaters
- Combined space water heating systems
- Combined space water heating systems with hydronic boilers
Let’s briefly look into each type.
Tank-less water heaters
It is the modern type of heater that can supply an endless amount of hot water on demand. In the appliance, there is no storage tank, but a system of ducts where water enters and come out as hot water.
Tank-less water heaters are compact and do not require a lot of fuel. Plus, they warm up the water in a very few amount of time. That’s why these heaters are quite popular. Another reason for the popularity is the low-cost of running and purchasing price.
Traditional storage tank water heaters
These heaters are built on rather old technology. The heat source heats the water and stores it in a storage tank. From there, you can use hot water. But you will never get an endless supply of hot water. When the storage tank runs out, you will have to wait for some time for the next supply of hot water.
This type of heater uses too much amount of fuel and requires special plumbing for it. That’s why modern users do not prefer it. However, these water heaters can provide a house with enough hot water for daily consumption. If you want a large amount of water, then you can always increase the size of the storage tank or use two tanks.
Industrial and commercial users prefer this type of heater due to its simple mechanism, low maintenance, and compatibility with other industrial mechanical systems.
Condensing water heaters
This is a special type of heater that works with other heating systems of a house. Generally, a house with a heating system has left-over heat. This heater uses that heat and stores it for heating the water. That’s why it is an energy-efficient heater and used by many people with heating systems in their house.
However, its installation and working are quite complex. If you experience any malfunctioning, then you will require an especially skilled person along with at least a day’s time to fix it. Many skyscraper buildings have this system installed, and it saves a lot of energy for owners.
Heat pump water heaters
These types of heaters work on a unique mechanism that allows them to gather heat from a non-combustible source and transfer it to the water. Generally, heat is obtained from the ground or air. However, electricity is required to operate heat pumps.
Heat pump water heater requires a minimum of 8 feet of space from ground to ceiling. Plus, you have to fix the heater close to the heat source.
Heat pump heaters are energy efficient and consume only 60% of the amount of energy as compared to traditional water heaters.
If you opt for this hybrid heating system, then you have to be very vigilant about maintenance. You will have to clean it every three months. If you miss any cleaning date, then you can experience serious malfunctioning.
However, the investment in this hybrid system is quite high. But you get coverage with low energy bills.
Solar water heaters
Solar-powered water heaters capture sunlight and warm up the water slowly. The heating process can take hours, and if sunlight is not strong enough, then you can even get mildly warm water that may not serve your purpose.
You have to install the whole system in your house. The solar panel will be placed on your roof, and it will be connected with water vessels that will bring water from the source and store it in the storage tank.
Generally, solar panel water heaters require high investment, and you cannot cover it soon. If you buy a solar water heater, then you can cover your expenses in at least 25 years. That’s why most house owners do not opt for this option.
However, you do not have to pay any recurring costs. That’s why you can get hot water with a solar water heater without any cost.
The maintenance is always an issue with solar water heaters. You have to clean the panels and the storage tank regularly. Otherwise, mineral deposits will decrease the performance of the water heater.
Combined space water heating system
This system is quite efficient for those houses that require low heat. It can heat up your house along with providing you with hot water.
Generally, a combined water heating system uses one source to produce hot air that circulates in your house and provides you with a warm temperature. Plus, that hot air also heats the water.
Many advantages are associated with this system. You do not have to do regular maintenance. Plus, your energy bills are less than other water heating systems. In fact, you get to warm up your house and water with the cost of warming up the water. That’s why most US dwellers opt for this option.
However, the initial installation cost is high, and you can only install it if you have heating vessels in your house.
Combines space water heating system with hydronic boiler
This system is similar to the above-mentioned heating system with just one difference. It uses a hydronic boiler that heats the water and it flows through the heating system inside the house. This hot water heats up the house maintains the temperature. Plus, a hydronic boiler provides the supply of hot water in the kitchen, bathrooms, and other outlets.
This heating system requires a lot of safety protection. It’s because the boiler can burst and cause damages. That’s why a double wall around the boiler is needed. However, if you regularly clean up minerals in the boiler, then the chances of boiler explosion are very low. Most of the time, sediment deposits cause the boiler to heat up beyond the safe level.
The cost of installing this system is higher than all other water heaters. But this system provides you with the best heating in your house along with an uninterrupted hot water supply.
Moreover, this system saves electricity and other energy bills, and you do not have to use extra appliances. The lifespan of this system is over 15 years, and you get the best value against your money.
Water heater cost
There are two types of costs associated with the installation of the water heater. First, you have to pay for the equipment, pipes, and other parts. Secondly, you have to pay for the labor that generally varies with respect to location and availability.
The cost of each type of water heater system is as follows:
Tank-less water heaters
The unit price for a tank-less water heater varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. But you can get a good heater between $250 to $2500. Plus, you may have to pay for the installation that can range from $400 to $1500 depending upon your location and availability of the skilled person.
Standard storage-tank water heater
The unit price for a storage-tank water heater along with plumbing pipes can range between $400 to $1600. If you require longer pipes, then you may have to pay an extra $100 for pipes. The installation cost will range from $150 to $600.
Hybrid heat pump water heaters
Hybrid heat pump water heaters are expensive than the above two options. The unit price along with all accessories will range from $700 to $3000. Plus, you have to pay for the installation that can cost you between $150 to $600.
Solar-powered water heaters
Solar-powered water heaters are more expensive than all of the three options mentioned above. The unit price along with all accessories will range between $1000 to $6000. Plus, the installation will cost you between $2000 to $4000.
Condensed water heaters
A condensed water heating system is quite expensive. Plus, it requires specialized persons to install and maintain it. The unit price will range between $2000 to $7000. Plus, you have to pay at least $2000 for the installation.
Combined space water heating system
This system requires too many jobs and working inside the house. You can expect a minimum of $5000 and a maximum of $20000 for installing the system. Plus, you have to contact a special contractor for it. That’s why you may have to pay extra depending upon your location.
Combined space water heating system with hydronic boiler
It is the most expensive deal for you. The boiler will cost you between $5000 to $10000. Plus, the other expenses can raise your cost up to $30000. If you want the best stuff, then you must be prepared to spend around $40000.
Buying the best water heater
Buying the best water heater matters for your livelihood. If you purchase a sub-standard water heater, then you will be spending more money on repairs and replacements. That’s why you must be extra careful while purchasing a water heater.
Here are all factors that you must consider while purchasing a water heater.
Generally, a water heater can last up to 15 years, and you have to pay extra for a long-time warranty. But it is the best decision for you. You can save a lot on repair costs.
So, while purchasing a water heater, you must ask for a long warranty. Some companies offer a 5-year warranty. But there are manufacturers that offer a warranty of up to 12 years.
In short, it’s best for you if you get a water heater with more than 10 years of warranty.
One of the major problems with the water heater is corrosion inside the tank. That will cost you and you have to replace the tank after a year or two. Many manufacturers produce tanks with Glass lining that protects the steel from corrosion.
If a general steel tank lasts for two years, then a Glass-lined tank will last for at least ten years.
So, always purchase a water heater with a Glass-lined tank. It will save you money and last for a longer time.
Mineral deposits inside the water heater decrease the efficiency of the heater. You will have to clean the tank, and it will cost you money. But modern manufacturers embed anti-scale devices in the water tank that will stop minerals to deposit.
If you purchase a water heater with anti-scale devices, then you will never have to clean the tank. It will save you time, money, and resources. Plus, your water heater will last for a long time.
Brass drain valves
Every water heater has a drain valve that helps you empty the tank for maintenance. However, some water heaters have plastic drain valves and some have brass drain valves. The problem drain valves produce problems. It’s because plastic can melt with extra temperature.
On the other hand, brass drain valves do not produce problems. That’s why always choose a water heater with a metallic or brass drainage system.
You should consider your usage and then buy a water heater. If you are a small household, then you must consider buying a water heater with at least 40 to 50-gallon capacity.
Always buy a water heater that can provide you with the required water supply.
Nowadays, water heater manufacturers also produce water heaters with digital displays and controls. These provide more convenience for you and all operation becomes smooth. That’s why you must prefer buying a water heater with digital controls.
Water heater installation
It’s best if you hire professional persons to install your water heater. But if you want to install it all by yourself, then here is a brief guideline.
You will need the following.
- Duct pipes
- Pipe thread compound
- Pressure relief valve
- Venting pipe
- Gas piping
- Water piping
- 4-in-1 screwdriver
- Adjustable wrench
- Electrical tape
- Pipe wrench
- Plumbers tape
- Safety glasses
- Soldering torch
- Tape measure
- Tube cutter
- Voltage tester
- Wire cutter
- Wire stripper
How to install a water heater?
- Shut out the water and gas
- Attach relief valves to gas lines and water lines
- Attach pipe assemblies
- Attach water lines
- Attach gas line
- Check leakage
- Light the pilot and check the performance
Water Heater Parts & Accessories
Here are common parts of all water heaters.
- Cold-water shutoff valve
- Draft diverter
- Temperature and pressure relief valve
- Overflow pipe
- Hot water outlet
- Anticorrosion Anode Rod
- Dip tube
- Drain valve
- Thermostat or control valve
- Gas supply valve
- Flue pipe
You can always replace different water heater accessories in case of malfunction. Almost every water heater store provides accessories to customers. If you have any problem with the water heater, then you must consider changing the problematic accessory. It would be the best decision for you.
Water Heater Repair
If your water heater is showing these signs, then you need to repair your water heater.
- There is not enough hot water supply.
- Water temperature does rise high enough.
- You have a leakage anywhere in the water heater.
- Water flow is reduced.
- Sounds coming out of the water heater.
- Water becomes smelly or dirty.
- The temperature of the water fluctuates.
Generally, water heater repair costs an average of $500. The repairman will cost you around $50 an hour. Plus, you have to pay for materials.
Most of the time, you will experience pipe leakage, mineral deposit, broken thermostat, and gas leakage problem. If you can find a repair person near your vicinity, then it will take around 3 to 4 hours for making your water heater a fully functional machine.
Water Heater Replacement
You need to replace your water heater if you are facing the following situations.
Frequent Leakage Problems
If you have leakage problems and you have brought a plumber many times, then you must not waste more money and time on an old water heater. But the best decision is to replace your water heater as soon as possible.
It’s because worn down water heater will always leak from someplace, and you will be wasting your money on repairs.
The Warranty Limit is Over
If you have used your water heater for more than 10 years and the warranty period has passed, then you must consider replacing your water heater. If you do not do it, then you will be facing problems in the future. That’s why it’s best to anticipate your problems in advance and do something about them.
Change of Building Codes
If you are living in a shared building and your owner has installed a new policy, then you must abide by it and replace your old water heater with a new one.
Bad Supply of Hot Water
If your water heater is losing the temperature of the water, and you are not getting the right hot water, then you must consider replacing your water heater.
It’s the right choice to have fully functional accessories rather than a problematic water heater.
If metallic parts of the water heater have rusted down, then you must consider replacing your water heater. Otherwise, you can experience any accident or diminishing performance.
Cost of Water Heater Replacement
If you want to replace your water heater, then you must be prepared to spend between $1000 to $3000 depending upon your choice.
How your water heater can fail and how to avoid them?
Here are all the possible reasons that can fail your water heater.
Rust can tear down your water heater slowly. But you can avoid it by using enamel or Glass lining inside the tank and outside metallic pipes. Plus, you must regularly check your connecting points and replace them in case of rust.
Incorrect Water Pressure
If the water pressure is high, then your water heater will lose its performance. That’s why you must regularly check the water pressure and keep it on a level. At 80 Psi, your water heater will work perfectly. But if you go higher, then problems will appear sooner.
Faulty Electric Connections
A faulty electric connection in your water heater can cause an accident along with several damages to your water heater. So, you must regularly check electric connections.
If any nut or bolt becomes loose, then it can fail your water heater. So, you must regularly check your water heater and tighten its parts. It would a simple chore. But it will prolong the life of your water heater.
If the thermostat malfunctions, then you cannot control the temperature of your water. Thus, you must replace your broken thermostat as soon as possible.
Sediments in the storage tank cause problems for house owners. Due to them, your water heater consumes more energy, and you will have a possibility of a tank burst. So, you must clean your water tank regularly.
What should you consider while hiring a plumber for your water heater?
You should always hire a licensed plumber for the repairing and installation of the water heater. If you hire an unlicensed person, then you may never get a full service. A licensed person always has thorough knowledge and training from the manufacturer. That’s why you will get the full value against your money.
Always hire a licensed plumber for installation and repair.