Weather in Ontario can reach below zero degrees celsius. Some parts of the province can see a lot of snow between December and March. It's vital that your water heater work during these cold winter months.
Your water heater is probably something you never think about, but you should have some idea how it works. Basic working knowledge of a piece of machinery you use every day can only be helpful to you.
Which begs the question, how does your hot water heater work? What internal mechanisms warm the water flowing through your home's plumbing?
What Parts Compose A Hot Water Heater?
Your water heater is more than just a gigantic tank that pumps out warm water. Several different parts work in concert to heat your morning shower or water for after dinner.
Before moving on, it's important to mention four types of water heaters: natural gas, electrical, propane, and oil. All of these types of heaters have similar parts that work slightly differently from each other.
Understanding the pieces inside a water heater is only part of understanding how it works. A detailed breakdown of how all these parts function together will come later.
Your heater's tank will be either in the basement or somewhere near the furnace. A water tank's max capacity ranges between 19 to 105 gallons (75 to 400 liters). The tank warms all the water it contains at once.
A storage-tank water heater can use energy slowly and retain heat for long periods. As a result, they do their job of warming water efficiently. Tank heaters do have a flaw, however.
If you're using a lot of water at once, it may take time for a new batch of heated water to refill. The following person needing hot water will have to wait before their shower.
The dip tube is situated at the back-top of the tank and is the piece that supplies the tank with water from whatever water source you use. The main water line splits into hot and cold water taps.
The cold water tap draws water from the main valve and pipes it into the cold water line. If you need heated water, liquid flows from the hot water tap and drains into the dip tube to pour inside the tank.
Water has to pass through the tank before passing through the central line to be heated.
Heat-out piping is also at the top of the tank. Hot water has less density, so it naturally rises to the top of the water tank.
The warmed water flows out the heat-out pipe and into the hot water line throughout the rest of your home's plumbing system.
There are two ways that a hot water heater warms its contents: an electrical element or a thermopile. Both of them are at the bottom of the tank. This lowermost location is the perfect place to heat water.
As water becomes hot, it loses density and rises. The colder, heavier water replaces the warmer liquid and, in turn, is warmed.
Both burners and elements keep this warm/cool cycle going as the water circulates throughout the tank.
Thermostat and Anode Rod
Thermostats are located on the outside of the heater and are used to control the water's temperature. An anode rod is a safety precaution that keeps tanks from rusting via electrolysis.
Electrolytic corrosion is when metallic materials in contact with other metals rust through electricity flowing between them. Anode rods coated in zinc (magnesium or aluminum) endure the rusting in place of your tank's steal lining.
Draft Hood and Flue
The draft hood is attached to the bottom of the flue. A draft hood's slightly funneled design lets it draw in surrounding air to alleviate pressure inside the burner.
A flue is a gas water heater component located vertically in the center of the tank. The flue duct is made of metal or plastic and vents gasses outside through the chimney.
Flues can sometimes lead to a bigger vent that acts as a propane or gas furnace in the house. Though this is no longer allowed in some areas due to the risk of back drafting.
The combustion chamber is at the bottom of the water heater. This chamber is where combustion happens to feed the burner. Air enters from the bottom and provides fuel to heat the water.
There are three main valves that water tanks need to function safely and deliver water. Without these valves, your tank could damage your house in the event of leaking or suffer catastrophic failure.
- Shut-off valve - shuts off water flow in the tank in the event of leaks
- Pressure relief valve - relieves pressure in the tank to prevent bursting
- Drain valve - drains sediment that accumulates in the tank
To specify, the shut-off valve keeps water from flowing from entering the tank from the dip tube. The inside of a water tank is intensely pressurized.
Pressure relief valves keep the pressure from building and eventually rupture the metal barrel. Particulates that find their way inside a tank can inhibit water heating.
The drain valve allows you to filter the particles out and enables the burners to heat water fully.
How Hot Water Heaters Work
You know all the significant functioning parts of a water heater, but the question remains, how do they work?
Firstly, water flows in your home from the central water line, which branches into two routes: the cold water and hot water taps. When you need hot water, cold water streams past the shut-off valve and through the dip tube.
Liquid pours from the dip tube and fills the tank. The hot water from the burner or element raises to the top of the steel drum. Cold, denser water entering the water tank sinks to the bottom to replace the warmer water.
The longer the hot water tap stays on, the more water rushes in the tank from the dip tube. Eventually, the pressure gets to the point where the uppermost heated water travels out the heat-out pipe.
Differences Between Electric and Gas Water Heaters
You'll have electricity in Canada no matter where your house is, but gas lines are a different matter.
Installing an electric water heater is more reliable in the sense that anyone can use it. However, electrically powered heaters aren't functional during power outages.
The way a conventional electric (or atmospheric venting) heater warms water works the same manner previously described. Water circulates throughout the tank as it's heated and sent to the hot water tap.
An electric heater can convert all energy used into heat which transfers to the water.
A gas heater works a little differently, though. Gas heaters use pilot lights to heat the thermopile, creating a little electricity to power safety controls and the main burner.
Gas burning water heaters need combustion to work. Air enters the water heater from the bottom of the combustion chamber, which helps keep the burner fueled and lit.
The combustion chamber is what provides fuel for the burner. But the thermostat and gas valve unit are what maintain the heat the burner provides.
A gas heater's burner will switch on when temperatures inside the water heater drop. The decrease in temperature happens when a specific amount of hot water is displeased by cold water.
Hot gasses rise up the flue to heat the cold water in the heater and vent out the house. Conventional gas water heaters don't need electricity to work.
There are also power vented gas heaters that work much like conventional gas heaters. The main difference is that they're powered vented by a fan that pushes exhaust gas out a side vent built into a wall.
Power vented gas heaters can avoid back drafting. Back drafting is what happens when water heater gasses gather inside the house instead of emptying outside.
Hot Water Heater Installation and Cost
Installing hot water is no simple do-it-yourself project. You can easily get injured or destroy property. And with no health insurance or home insurance, it can be costly very fast.
Skills in plumbing, ventilation, carpentry are necessary for the project to be successful. You should also be familiar with state and building costs. Finally, visit the municipality to obtain a permit for the work, and also for inspection visits by an official.
All this can be avoided by hiring a professional plumber knowledgeable in installing residential or commercial water heaters.
A plumbing insurance policy covers most professional plumbers. However, if you don't want to pay for any damage costs, you should consider hiring their services.
Remember that the majority of high-quality water heaters should last between eight and ten years before considering a replacement. However, the main reason water heaters are replaced is not because of age.
Instead, it's due to complications that can arise before its intended lifespan.
In case your water heater starts leaking or running out of water quickly. The heater could potentially failing.
Other issues can include strange noises, inconsistent water temperatures, mainly in showers, and lower water pressure. Suppose your water heater develops complications and requires replacement. It will typically set you back around $105 to $83,000.
On average, it will cost you about $1,466 to replace a faulty water heater. Many factors go into the cost of replacing a water heater. But the significant factors are the size of the tank and mode of heating (electric, gas, etc.).
Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover damaged hot water heaters. However, if it results from something covered explicitly in the insurance policy, such as house fires or floods.
To save money, as a homeowner, you need to understand the different types of hot water heaters, and which variation will serve you best.
Types of Water Heater and Tanks
There are 5 main types of water heaters. It's well worth the time to take a moment to understand the differences as each comes with their own energy efficiencies and levels of technology.
Conventional Storage Tank Water Heater
Simply put, this is a traditional tank which stores the heated water until it's needed. The pipe on top of the tank then transports the water to where it's being used in the house.
While this is the most common type of water heater, it's also the one that, as families grow, need to be replaced. More people in your home equals a higher demand for hot water. Once the hot water runs out, there's no choice but to wait for it to fill and be heated again before the next person can shower.
Tankless (On-Demand) Hot Water Heater
This type of water heater features modern technology and can offer nearly endless hot water for your home.
Tankless water or on-demand water heaters use electrical elements or gas burners to heat water that flows through a heat exchanger. On-demand water heaters require less wait time for hot water due to the lack of a tank.
In exchange, though, you have a limited output of water. At most, a tankless water heater can provide you with 2 to 5 gallons or 7.5 to 15.2 liters.
While tankless gas heaters often offer more water, they still can't do multiple things at once. For example, you couldn't wash dishes or your hair simultaneously with electric or gas tankless heaters.
Heat Pump (Hybrid) Water Heater
The type of water heater is very unique because it utilizes the heat in the ground and in the air to heat the water. In this case, it's very energy efficient because electricity is only used to move the heat from the ground or air as opposed to generating the actual heat.
Hybrid water heaters can potentially save a homeowner up to $4,700 in energy costs inside the first ten years of use. They can also last for two years more compared to a conventional tank-style water heater. More to that, they are expected to last for a whole two more years then a traditional conventional hot water heater. They also come equipped with Leakguard and Smart App technologies for added safety measures.
Solar Powered Hot Water Heater
A solar powered hot water heater allows you to draw electricity from your solar panels to heat the tank.
On sunny days and in warm climates, these are especially beneficial and very cost effective. However a backup electricity system is highly recommended in the event of a string of cloudy or rainy days, in which case the system just simply wouldn't work.
Condensing Water Heater
These hot water heaters are great for reducing waste and lightening your carbon footprint. They have a tank much like a traditional conventional water heater, but rather then allowing the gases to escape from the flue, they recapture them and utilize them as energy.
What to Do When Something Goes Wrong?
A water tank water heater can last from a decade to 15 years. On-demand heaters can last about 20 years if you maintain them well. Both of these heaters can still break down even with proper maintenance, though.
So, what do you do if your hot water heater is malfunctioning? Well, there are certain things you should be on the lookout for to confirm that your water heater isn't working as it should.
The first thing that may tip you off to the fact that something is wrong with your water heater is if it's making strange noises. Banging and cracking noise could mean that sediment is building up at the bottom of the tank.
Another indication that something is wrong is if your water heater isn't providing hot water. A hot water heater not doing its job likely means that there's an issue or even that you need a replacement.
When you spot leaks on your water heater, you should automatically assume you need to have it replaced with a new unit. Old heaters are likely to run into some maintenance problems.
If your heater is around 9 to 12 years old, expect there to be a mishap in the future, especially if it's somewhere in your home that's prone to water damage.
Once again, consider getting a replacement for your old water heater.
What Actions Should You Take to Repair Your Heater?
If you have a reliable HVAC repair specialist, call them to have the water heater tuned up. Regularly scheduled tune-ups can increase the longevity of your unit.
A technician with training and experience can inform you of what steps you can take to make your heater last longer or if it's on the verge of failing.
Water heaters also need flushing every so often. Flushing a water heater involves clearing built-up particulates every 6 to 12 months. If you have sufficient DIY experience, you can do this on your own.
If you're not sure what to do, then you should call a trained professional to handle it for you. Some parts of Ontario have hard water, damaging regular tank water heaters and on-demand water heaters.
Large amounts of accumulated minerals make the water too hot and can cause injury to you and your family. Scale-inhibiting filters can reduce the build-up of minerals.
You also have the option of installing a whole home water filter or water softener.
The filter can remove minerals from all the water in your home, while the softener will break down the deposits before they get into the water heater. A malfunctioning water heater could require an anode replacement.
Anodes last about 2 to 3 years and should be checked yearly, so you're sure they're still in working condition. You can install two anode rods to be safe.
If all the precautions mentioned above fail, you might have to replace your water heater. An HVAC technician can reliably spot the signs that your hot water heater isn't functional anymore.
It can be cheaper and easier to have a professional install a new unit than trying to repair one on its last legs continuously.
Popular Hot Water Tank Brands and Prices
So how do you shop for a hot water tank? A simple Google search will yield multiple options but can every company, brand and salesperson be trusted? We've done the heavy lifting for you and here we provide the best places for you to begin comparing prices.
Costco Hot Water Tank
Costco Wholesale offers several brands of hot water tank heaters. They range from outdoor and indoor to tank and tankless water heaters. Three leading brands are being sold at Costco Wholesale, offering all types of hot water tanks.
Eccotemp water heaters are the most common water heating brand. The other few spots are for Rheem water heaters and AquaFlow Rectangular Reversible Pool heaters.
Rheem Hot Water Tank
Rheem specializes in providing residential water heaters with products ranging from tank to tankless water heaters. In addition, the company manufactures smart waters with EcoNet, which alerts you if there is a water leak or damage to the heater.
Considering that the average water heater flood claim costs $4,440. An intelligent water heater saves your home from unnecessary damage and costs. In addition, when you install Rheem smart water heaters, you can be eligible for insurance discounts.
If you already have a water heater, but you want to increase capacity. The company provides boosters that can improve the performance of your heater by 45%. In addition, it's compact and can fit inside a conventional tank or a nearby wall.
All Rheem products are environmentally friendly, and they encourage their customers to live sustainably too. The company is dedicating its future to reduce up to 50% of its greenhouse gas footprint and emissions.
When shopping for Rheem products at Costco Wholesale, you get a Costco Shop Card worth $300. However, some of their services are not available in all locations. But they do offer free in-home consultations.
Eccotemp Hot Water Heater
Eccotemp hot water heaters are available for both indoor and outdoor use. Most of the heaters are portable, allowing homeowners to access hot water wherever they want to. At Costco Wholesale, three Eccotemp products are selling on their website.
Mini Tank Eccotemp water heaters are available in two models. First, the Eccotemp EM—4.0 Electric 15 Litre (4-Gallon) mini-tank water heater is available for $189.99. The other option is the Eccotemp EM- 7.0 Electric 26.5 litre (7-Gallon), which costs $199.99 and is slightly bigger.
The indoor tankless Eccotemp water heater available at Costco costs $679.99. The heater is rated for 2-3 applications used simultaneously and is CSA certified. It has an advanced third-generation computer system with high-performance processing.
It also boasts advanced temperature sensing technology for incoming and outgoing water.
Portable outdoor water heaters from Eccotemp are lightweight and easy to carry. The water heater operates on a 20 Lb Liquid propane tank backed up by two D-cell batteries. It also includes a garden hose quick connect and adapter.
Safety features include a shut-off procedure that automatically activates after 20 minutes or when the heater is tilted more than 45 degrees.
Home Depot Hot Water Tank
The Home Depot platform offers a wide variety of hot water tanks. The website has categorized the tanks according to the number of people who will simultaneously use the heater.
Then, they further organize the tanks according to the type of fuel consumed.
To make sure you get the right fit, Home Depot advises the following. For two or fewer people, a hot water tank ranging between 23 and 36 gallons will serve you well. As the number of users rises, increase the hot water heater capacity by ten gallons for each two added.
Home Depot offers all types of water heaters ranging from commercial to residential use. Here are a few different water heating tanks available in the store.
Understand Everything About Hot Water Heaters
There's a lot that goes into understanding your home's hot water heater and water heating units, in general.
Knowing what each part does and how water heaters warm your water will help you understand the repair or replacement process. You have to understand the financial aspect of fixing or replacing your water heater also.
Insurdinary is here to provide you with tools you can use to map out your finances in the event of any household emergencies.
There's much more home advice and tips for your to browse through in our blog!