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Go Back To School With a Water Heaters 101 Lesson

What Homeowners Need To About Their Water Heaters

Regardless of the time of year, homeowners rely on their water heaters every single day. From showering to cleaning, daily routines are centered around having access to warm water. Waking up to a cold shower is a nightmare for most people. That’s why it’s important to have a basic understanding of water heaters. Read on to learn more.

3 Main Types of Water Heaterswater heater

The first thing to understand about water heaters is the general types that exist. Most U.S. homes have one of 3 options: 

  1. Gas-powered traditional water heater: This uses gas (typically natural gas or propane) to light a burner that heats the water inside a tank. Whenever water in the tank falls below the set temperature, the burner is ignited, and it remains lit until the tank reaches that threshold again. For example, cold water from a home’s water source enters the tank when hot water is used, meaning the burner will ignite to re-heat the tank’s water.
  2. Electric traditional water heater: This works the same way as gas-powered “tanked” water heaters, except that they are powered by electricity instead of gas. 
  3. Tankless water heater: This operates completely differently. These do not have a tank at all, meaning they do not store hot water. Instead, tankless water heaters use a heat exchanger to heat the water in real-time whenever hot water is pulled from the system. Whereas traditional water heaters have large tanks (and thus take up a lot of space), tankless water heaters are typically a small suitcase. 

Each of these types comes with its pros and cons, and the first step in understanding a home’s water heater is to know which type it is. For example, tankless water heaters are often more expensive to install, but they usually use less energy over time and last longer than traditional water heaters.

Water Heater Maintenance Tips

By spending a few minutes per year on maintenance, homeowners can significantly extend the useful life of their water heaters. Here are a few simple maintenance steps to take. For any homeowner with a traditional water heater with a tank, the pressure-relief valve located on the top or side of the water heater should be tested once per year by placing a bucket under the tank’s discharge pipe and gently lifting the lever on the valve. If no water is released, the valve needs to be replaced. 

Another routine maintenance job for “tanked” water heaters is to fully drain the tank to flush out any sediment from within. Sediment buildup within a tank can severely shorten the expected life of a water heater, and it also increases energy bills, making this annual maintenance extra important. To drain a tank, simply place a bucket beneath the drain valve and twist the washer to loosen the plug. 

Typically only two to three gallons need to be drained, but this should be continued in any event until particles are no longer visible in the draining water. Note that the water coming out of the tank will be very hot, so one should use caution at all times. Tankless water heaters should similarly be flushed once per year to remove sediment buildup, but most homeowners hire a professional plumber for this job. 

water heater

Is Water Heater Repair Needed?

To avoid an untimely water heater failure, it’s important to look for the following indicators. The most obvious sign that a water heater may need maintenance or repairs from a professional plumber is irregular water temperature. Homeowners should also watch for water discoloration and hot water shortages. 

Additionally, if there is any physical damage to, or noise coming from, a water heater, such as water leaks or corrosion, a professional plumber should promptly take a look. In short, if anything appears off with a home’s hot-water supply, a good first step is to call an experienced technician for assistance. 

About Magic Plumbing

For additional information about water heater maintenance, repair, and installation in the San Francisco, CA area, contact Magic Plumbing. The company provides practical and cost-efficient plumbing and HVAC services to homeowners, with over 40 years of experience solving problems and satisfying customers. Call for water heater services!