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How Does a Water Heater Work?

Published: May 10, 2023
A person feeling water as it comes out of a sink faucet.

Have you ever wondered how hot water finds its way to your sink faucets and showers? It’s not magic; there’s actual science behind it — and it all has to do with your water heater. So, how does a water heater work, exactly? It’s understandable if you have questions, as knowing how this important appliance works can help you pinpoint and diagnose issues later on.

Below, we’ll take a deep dive into how a water heater works, including the different types that are available. Let’s get started!

Components of a Water Heater

Now, let’s get into the components of a traditional tank-style water heater. The water heater tank is the most important part, as it houses and heats the water. This tank is commonly made of steel and is lined with glass or porcelain to protect it from corrosion.

The dip tube is another important component. It’s a plastic pipe that runs from the top of the water heater tank to the bottom. On the bottom of the tank, you’ll find the drain valve. This valve is used to drain the tank periodically to remove sediment and prevent corrosion. It’s essential to keep your water heater functioning properly.

The pressure relief valve is also a crucial component. It’s a safety valve that ensures the tank doesn’t explode due to excessive pressure. If the pressure inside the tank gets too high, the valve opens, and some of the water is released.

How a Water Heater Works

Water heaters are an essential appliance in every household, providing hot water for bathing, cooking, and cleaning. However, have you ever wondered how a water heater actually works? Understanding the inner workings of a water heater might seem complicated at first, but it’s important to know if you’re a homeowner.

In order to know how a water heater works, you need to know the different types that are on the market. There are two main types: traditional tank-style and tankless. Traditional tank-style water heaters store and heat water in a large tank, while tankless water heaters heat water “on demand” — or only when you need it.

Traditional Water Heater

It’s finally time to answer the most important question of all: how does a water heater work? Well, the process begins when cold water enters the tank through the dip tube. As the water is heated by the heating elements, it rises to the top of the tank.

Once the hot water reaches the top of the tank, it’s ready to be used. When you turn on the hot water in your home, it flows out of the top of the tank and into the water lines. The cold water entering the bottom of the tank replaces the hot water, and the cycle continues.

Electric water heaters use heating elements to heat the water, while gas water heaters use a heat exchanger to warm the water. With an electric unit, two heating elements are used — one at the top of the tank and one at the bottom. The elements are controlled by thermostats, which maintain the water temperature.

On the other hand, with a gas water heater, a burner sits beneath the heat exchanger. As water enters the tank, it’s heated by the burner, which is controlled by a thermostat.

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters work differently than traditional tank-style units and heat water on demand. So, how does a water heater work when they don’t have a storage tank? Essentially, whenever you turn on the hot water in your home, cold water enters the tankless unit, where it’s heated by a heat exchanger. Since the water is heated when you need it, tankless water heaters are considered more energy efficient than traditional water heaters.

If you think you might benefit from installing a tankless water heater, don’t hesitate to call our Charleston plumbers for more information. There are many benefits to tankless units, but every home is different. Fortunately, we can help you make the best decision for your unique needs.

Schedule Your Water Heater Services With LimRic!

So, how does a water heater work? As you can see, the process of heating the water in your home involves a lot of moving parts. However, it can be helpful to know how these important appliances work, as they play a large role in our day-to-day lives.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you have a better understanding of how a water heater works. From the different types that are available to their components and processes, there’s a lot that makes these appliances function.

If you need services for your water heater in Charleston, SC, LimRic is the name to call. From minor repairs to complex replacements, we can handle your needs. We also specialize in both traditional and tankless models. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

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