Water heaters are essential components of modern households. They provide hot water for bathing, cleaning, and other household activities. Understanding how they work is important if you need to repair or replace one in your home. Find out the basics about water heater types, parts, and how they work so you know when to call for repair or replacement.

6 Types of Water Heaters

1. Storage Water Heaters

A storage water heater is a popular water heating system that stores heated water in an insulated tank until required. The heated water stays at a constant temperature, ready to supply sinks and showers. Tanks come in various sizes and capacities to cater to different households.

The storage tank is typically made of steel, fiberglass, or copper and insulated with foam to retain heat. Despite its popularity, storage water heaters have some downsides, such as higher energy bills due to constant water heating. However, advancements in water heater technology, such as smart water heaters, provide homeowners with more energy-efficient options.

2. Tankless Water Heaters

A tankless water heater is an increasingly popular heating system that heats hot water on demand. The heated water is then supplied to multiple outlets, such as showers, faucets, and dishwashers. It does not store water in a tank, so it’s not constantly wasting energy heating water that won’t be used.

Tankless models can offer advanced features such as digital temperature controls, smart home compatibility, and Wi-Fi connectivity. In addition, they provide a continuous hot water supply, making them suitable for larger households requiring higher water demands. The upfront cost of installing a tankless system can be high, but its energy savings over time might make it worth the investment.

3. Heat Pump Water Heaters

A heat pump water heater is an energy-efficient alternative to traditional storage tank systems. This system uses an electric pump to transfer heat from the surrounding air into the water, rather than generating it through electricity or gas. It typically requires a separate storage tank to store the heated water. However, heat pump systems with integrated tanks are becoming more common.

The advantage of this system is its potential for high energy efficiency, as it can provide hot water at a fraction of the cost of traditional models. Heat pumps also require less maintenance and typically have longer warranties than standard water heaters. However, despite its advantages, a heat pump system can be more expensive and perform less well in colder climates.

4. Solar Water Heaters

A solar water heater is an eco-friendly option for your home’s hot water needs. As the name implies, this type of system utilizes the energy from the sun to heat water stored in an insulated tank. In addition, many homes now feature rooftop solar collectors that capture and transfer the sun’s warmth into the water tank and can help with domestic hot water needs and space heating.

Solar heating systems have safety features like freeze protection to ensure reliable performance in cold climates. They are also very low maintenance and typically require minimal upkeep. Although installing a solar water heater can be expensive, it is an excellent long-term investment as these systems offer significant energy savings over time.

5. Heat Recovery Water Heater

A heat recovery water heater is a type of water heating system that captures and recycles wasted heat from other sources to heat the water. This system works by circulating water through a heat exchanger near the air conditioner or furnace. As warm air passes through the heat exchanger, it transfers heat to the circulating water, which is then stored in a tank. This process results in significant energy savings as the system repurposes heat that would otherwise get wasted.

Heat recovery water heaters are particularly useful in large buildings or homes with frequent hot water demands. You can also use them with solar water heaters, as they provide backup heating during periods of low sunlight.

6. Condensing Water Heaters

A condensing water heater works by extracting heat from the exhaust gases of the burner and transferring it to the incoming cold water. These systems are usually fueled by natural gas or propane and feature an efficient heat exchanger that captures the maximum heat from the exhaust gases. The condensing process also helps to reduce emissions, making this system more environmentally friendly than traditional models.

Parts of the Water Heater

It’s important to know the key components of a water heater appliance and how they work together to ensure your home’s hot-water system stays up and running over time. These components include the tank, insulation blanket, thermostat/controls unit, heating elements or burner system for gas models, pressure relief valve, and cold-water inlet pipe. Each of these parts is essential in providing heated water when needed.

The tank is the main component of a traditional water heater and is often made from steel. It ranges in size from 20 to 80 gallons, depending on the needs of your home. Inside the tank are two pipes, one for the cold-water inlet and the other for the hot-water outlet. An insulation blanket wraps around the outside of the tank and helps keep the heat in.

You’ll find two thermostats and two heating elements on electric water heaters. The thermostat allows users to set their desired hot-water temperature while the heating elements provide the necessary heat to reach that temperature. Gas water heaters have a burner system with a gas valve and regulator. This allows the user to control the flame and gas flow rate for optimal performance.

The pressure relief valve is on the side of the tank and releases excess pressure if it builds up inside the appliance. Finally, the cold-water inlet pipe connects your home’s main water supply line to the tank. This pipe is usually made from copper and has a shut-off valve, so you can turn off the water supply to the heater if needed.

How a Water Heater Operates

A water heater works by taking in cold water from the main supply and heating it using electricity or gas. The heated water is then stored in a tank until you require it. As you use the hot water, cold water enters the bottom of the tank, and the process continues.

The water heater’s thermostat keeps the temperature of the water at a constant level to prevent overheating or underheating. Inspecting and servicing your water heater regularly ensures the water gets heated efficiently. This will maximize the appliance’s longevity and improve its performance.

In conclusion, with various types, parts, and sizes available, you must understand how they work and what kind of water heater works best for your particular circumstance. Our experienced technicians can help you choose the best water heater for your needs. In addition to water heater installation, maintenance, and repair, we offer emergency plumbing repair, gas line services, and water filtration solutions. For more information on water heaters or for any other plumbing needs in San Jose, CA, contact Universal Plumbing & Rooter.

company icon