Water Heaters Intro

Water heaters are devices that handle a household or a company water supply easily and with convenience. This machine regulates the water’s temperature within its POUs and the central tubes within your house.

History of Water Heaters

Years ago, the thought of a machine able to regulate the water’s temperature was unheard of. But then in London, England, a painter by the name of Benjamin Waddy Maughan invented the first one. It was an instantaneous type of water heater; thus it did not utilize solid fuel. He decided to name it “Geyser”, which was after an Icelandic gushing hot spring.

His invention made cold water enter the tank through a tube at the top and then flow through the pipe that was heated by gasses from a burner at the bottom. After the heating process, the hot water sank and was stored at the bottom of the tank. This heater was a little dangerous because it didn’t have an exhaust that would remove the heated gas from the tank.

Many inventions have succeeded Maughan’s, but people in the UK still call their water heaters geysers. A few still call the machine as “electric dispensing pot”, “electric water boiler” and “electric water urn”.

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Inspired by Maugan’s invention, Edwin Ruud, a Norwegian mechanic engineer, decided to improve the device. After migrating to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he invented the first automatic storage, tank-type, gas water heater in the late 1889. A lot of people liked his design, which in turn inspired him to start his own water heater business. Since then, Ruud Manufacturing Company has created different models from the time the company first started until today. The company aims to further improve the process of heating water and, at the same time, find a way to make the appliances safer for every household.

Parts of a Water Heater

  • The tank is the main part of a water heater. It is what you notice first when you look at a device. The inner layer is made up of a heavy metal containing water protective material that holds 40 to 60 gallons of water a day. The outside layer is made up of insulating material called polyurethane foam. It looks like an ordinary water tank that is cylindrical and huge.
  • Dip Tube is where the water enters the heater and travels to the bottom part where it is heated. It serves as an entry port for water in to the tank.
  • Shut off Valve, as the name suggests, stops water from entering into the water heater. It is separated from the component of the heater located outside and above the unit.
  • Heat out pipe is suspended to the top of the tank’s interior. It allows the hot water to leave the tank. It is the outlet of processed water.
  • Thermostats are like thermometers that measure the temperature inside the tank. Some electric water heaters have a separate thermostat for each element.
  • Heating mechanism is the process of how gas appliances use a burner and chimney system.
  • Drain valve is located at the bottom of the exterior housing. It helps in emptying the tank when it is necessary to replace the elements, remove sediments or move the tank to another place.
  • Pressure relief valve is a safety tool inside the tank that is used to regulate the internal temperature.
  • Sacrificial anode rod is made of magnesium or aluminum with a steel core that is suspended in the appliance tank to prevent corrosion.
Parts of Water Heater

Parts of a Water Heater


Types of Water Heaters

There are two types of water heater systems used in the household. They are: storage heaters (tank-type) and tankless heaters.

  • Storage water heaters (Tank-Type) are the most common in North America. It is made of a cylindrical container that stores hot water, making it efficient for usage.  It can store from 75 to 400 liters. This machine utilizes either natural gas, electricity, propane, heating oil, solar or other sources of energy. In the US and other European countries,  natural gas is typically used,  since it’s readily available. In North America, people call this machine a “hot water tank” because it includes an electrical resistance heater, an air source heat pump, or a gas and oil burner. As a result, water can be heated directly.  When you compare a storage heater with the tank-less heater,  the storage heater’s main advantage is that it does not consume too much energy. However, the disadvantage is that the water inside the tank may cool down if not used. This will cause the heating system to activate and start heating the water again.
  • Tankless Heaters are also known as “in-line”, “continuous flow”, “instantaneous”, “flash”, “on- demand”, or “instant – on” heaters. Most tankless devices are installed on more than one point-of-use, so if you want a steady supply of water in your home, then you can use larger, centralized models. This high power device can heat water in an instant. As it flows through the tubing, the machine processes the water to desired temperature and it does not leave excess water in the machine. The main advantage of this type of appliance is that it continuously supplies water. Unlike the tank-type, this machine utilizes copper heat exchangers, promoting high thermal conductivity and ease in fabrication. 

 The Process of Heating Water

There once was a time in history when starting a fire was a huge challenge. Nowadays, in most modern parts of the globe, heating water is never a problem. You can take a warm shower right in your bathroom at any time. Thanks to water heaters, there is no need to boil water and wait for it to reach the right temperature.

Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

The water inside the tank is controlled by a thermostat. You can regulate its temperature from 49 to 82 degrees Celsius. The recommended setting temperature is 49 to 60 degrees Celsius, which is not too hot but can prevent the risk of scalding.

Setting the device at lower temperature can help you save energy. If you’re not using it (for example you went on vacation), turning off the machine can save you more energy too.

The dip tube acts by feeding cold water from your home’s water source and leads it to the bottom of the tank where the heating process occurs. The heating mechanism, whether by an element or a burner, will stay directed until the heating process is done. After heating the water, it goes up to the tube where it is connected to your home’s POUs. This tube is called the heat-out pipe and it is located at the top of the tank. Always remember that this tube is extremely hot and avoid touching it!

If your water heater is defective or leaking, an experienced licensed plumber can easily repair or replace it.

4 thoughts on “Water Heaters Intro

  1. charlie brown

    One of the most common issues that I generally face is leakage either its from top or from bottom and every next year you need a complete er heater maintenance.

    1. mark bramlett

      my elec hwh doesn’t heat and the upper and lower panels have rusty water li them and when i push on the wh it leaks fromthe bottom welded ring where it is put together what in your expert opinion is wrong and what should i do? 50 gal

      1. Water Heater Leo Post author

        Mark – honestly – when the tank leaks, and there is much rust inside – it may be time to replace it. Electric water heaters are very inexpensive and I think are very easy to replace yourself. Just have it delivered to your home (Home Depot, Lowe’s and most plumbing suppliers will bring it to your basement and take the old one back).

        You can get 50 gallon electric tank for about $500. It would probably cost more to have a plumber try to repair it.

        Just shut off the circuit breaker for the heater, and wire new one in – turn electricity back on. Connecting copper pipes is also pretty easy. I recommend soldering, but if you don’t know how to or are afraid to start a fire.

        There are push fittings that cost under $10 and you only need 2 (one cold inlet, on hot outlet) – push the pipes in from both sides, and you are done. Not the best method, but I’ve used these to repair baseboards – they work great. Only concern with them – they MAY start to leak after a few years – though I’ve never seen them leaks!

        If you don’t feel comfortable – pay a plumber $800-900 … they will do everything for you.

  2. Kenneth Fontenot

    My hot water heater Feb water will run sometime for a week then the next day it won’t ,then it runs again what causes this


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