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Electric Water Heater

How An Electric Water Heater Works (And Maybe Why It Doesn’t)

As long as the electric water heater works, I’m pretty sure that me and my family can be happy. But the moment the water heater fails to fulfill its duty, That moment all possibility of happiness disappears. Understandably, it’s the highest priority repair at any given time. If you’re reading this, it might just be one you’re looking to tackle yourself as well. Here we will cover potential causes for the many problems that plague electric water heaters and how to prevent them. For more in depth repair guides check out this article


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 Gas heater, read our article on gas water heaters. For the rest of us, Press onward!


The Basics

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, is heated by electric elements located in the tank, and exits through the heat out pipe. The water is then rushed 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 An element 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 element 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!


The Burner

The next step though our journey brings us to the heating elements. While it is not always the case, most electric heaters have 2 heating elements, one that resides in the bottom of the tank, and one that is higher up and serves to keep the temperature up upon the water leaving the tank.

The single most common cause of failure in electric water heaters is actually the buildup of sediment on the bottom of the tank. Most tank cleaners and descalers chemically remove or dislodge calcium buildup from the surfaces of the tank, allowing the larger chunks to float down to the bottom. Piling up with the dirt and other particulates that flow in through the piping. Over time this sediment buildup can completely cover the lower element on many models, causing it to overheat and burn out. Leaving your water heater to limp along, trying to heat the water sufficiently with only the upper element just before the water leaves the tank. Not only does this result in lukewarm to cold water consistently, but also a reduced volume within the tank itself. This solution is easily repaired through sediment extraction and replacing the lower heating element. To prevent damaging buildup we recommend that you perform a sediment extraction on your 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!


Wrapping Up

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!

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