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How a Water Heater Works If you are hoping to better understand how a water heater works in order to fix it in the future or if you are simply curious this article will go through the basics. While there are a number of different designs of water heaters the most used the iconic cylinder shape that you will find the basement or garage of your house. The system used in these cylinders is actually very simple.

1. Incoming Water Water is fed into your house through plumbing. The water can come from your own well or the town watershed. Either way it flows through the pipes, passing the shut-off valve and enters the water heater where it sits. The heater is constantly full of water waiting to be used.

2. Heating the Water The cold or cool water will enter your water heater through the dip tube through the top of the tank and travel down to the bottom. At the bottom of the tank the water will come into contact with the heating mechanism. Electric water heaters will have heating elements inside of the tank (usually in the form of wired coils around the pipes) while gas water heaters will have a burner and chimney system (the burner is placed directly below the cold water at the bottom of the tank). On the outside of a tank there is a thermostat which is set to the desired temperature (recommended tempertatures are between (120-180 degrees Farenheit). The thermostat is usually located below a protective cover plate and has a knob you can turn to set the temperature. The thermostat also measures the current heat of the water. The heating mechanism will stay on until the water reaches the set level. The pipe entering and existing the water heater is an elongated U-shape. As the water heats up it will naturally raise to the top of the tank above the colder, denser water. This principle of heat rising is the base principle of how the heater works and it is how the cold water and hot water are separated. As the water heats up it continues up the water heater eventually reaching the heatout pipe on top of the tank (these pipes should be marked so you don’t accidentally burn yourself). The water leaving the water heater through this pipe is the hottest the water in


the tank will ever be.

3. To Your Shower The hot water will sit on top of the water heater until you wish to use it. The water in the heater is also pressurized so when you release the spout upstairs in the house the water pressure will push the hot water up and out of your showerhead. If you are constantly requiring hot water you will find that the water heater will not be able to heat up the cold water fast enough to keep up with demand (you might need a larger heater). The water heater design is very simple and rests on the principle of hot water rising above cold, dense water. If you are interested in creating a self-sustaining water flow in your house look into groundwater mapping and installing your own well. Good luck in your future repairs. Photo Credit: Christopher, smynsbrg


How a water heater works