If you’re like me, you’ve likely never wondered just how the gas water heater does what it does. That is, until just a couple days ago when all possibility of having a hot shower mysteriously vanished from your world. All of a sudden it’s your highest priority to understand just how that blasted thing works, and how to make it do so again! If you happen to be the intelligent type and you’re just perusing for some good maintenance tips to keep your water heater from going out in the first place, we’ll cover that too.Trust me, they make a difference.
There are countless makes, models, and varieties of water heaters, but in general there are 2 main types found in homes today, the gas water heater, and the electric water heater. A really easy way to tell the difference is to look in the very center of the top of your water heater. If there is a large tube coming out of the very center you have a gas one! If instead of a large tube you have a much smaller cable, or nothing at all in the very center, you have an electric heater! For more on the electric heater, read our article on electric water heaters. For the rest of us, Press onward!
The water in your water heater had to get there somehow. It enters your water heater through the plastic pipe referred to as the Dip Tube. it is then heated by the gas burner located underneath your tank. The water exits through the heat out pipe and is rushes through your home to deliver hot water from any tap or shower head upon demand. Pretty simple right? Unfortunately like everything else, there’s always another level of understanding.
Peeling Back The Layers
The Dip Tube
First up, the Dip Tube. The Dip Tube is, as mentioned before the tube that brings the cold water into the tank of the water heater. It runs the length of the tank until it reaches the bottom, depositing the hot water directly above the burner to be heated. The hot water then needs to rise through the tank to reach the exit pipe. If you are receiving consistently lukewarm water, or sudden bursts of cold water there is a significant possibility that you have a broken dip tube. When the dip tube is broken, it doesn’t deposit the cold water at the bottom of the tank directly above the burner any longer. Instead it allows it to mix with the warm water at the top of the tank. Reducing the overall temperature of the water. Replacing your tank’s dip tube can be a quick and easy solution to this problem!
Up next is the burner! The burner plays the most important role of the water heater! It does the heating. However, held in an enclosed section under the bottom of the tank, it can be difficult to keep your burner from operating as efficiently as possible. The burner’s ventilation shaft runs up through the center of the tank to the fume hood mounted at the top of the tank. If any part of this system were to become plugged or simply not mounted properly, not only will it harm the energy efficiency of your water heater, but it can also release toxic gasses into your home. If you suspect there may be an issue with your water heater’s ventilation, please have it inspected by a professional immediately.
The most common cause of burner inefficiency is sediment buildup. Without a proper cleaning the sediment can build up forming a layer of insulation between the water and the burner in your water heater. Without removal, it will force your burner to work harder. It will burn hotter and using more gas to maintain the same water temperature. Without intervention the burner will eventually burn so hot it will crack the bottom of the tank. When that occurs it will release hundreds of gallons of water all over the floor. Also not a situation we strive to find ourselves in. In order to avoid that catastrophe we recommend that you perform a sediment extraction on your gas water heater annually.
The Heat Out Pipe
Thankfully there’s really not a whole lot that can go wrong with the heat out pipe. It just simply does it’s job moving the water throughout the house. With the sediment settling on the bottom of the tank it doesn’t clog easily, and it doesn’t break easily either. But if your hot water heater is leaking hot water from the top, the Heat out Pipe, and Temperature and Pressure valve should be the first two components to check.
The Anode Rod
Lastly, but certainly not least, comes the Anode Rod. The Anode Rod plays a unique role in the water heater. It’s only job is to sit there and rust. Also known as the sacrificial anode, it is made of material that is very susceptible to rust. This protects the water heater from rusting out. The chemical reactions focus on the anode rod. Thus protecting the water heater from rust. Under standard conditions, you should replace the anode rod every 6 years. Though depending on your water composition, it may require maintenance more frequently. Failure to keep an eye on your anode rod will result in a compromise in the integrity of your water heater. So be sure to stay on top of it!
Hot water heaters aren’t complex. But without following through on these simple maintenance tips, it can fail to produce, or even hold hot water at all. Learning the basics of how the water heater works will save you money. In the long run it will help you enjoy life too! tune in to Turbo Tank Cleaner for new ways to keep your hot water heater in ship shape. We are always striving to create innovative new products!