How A Water Heater Works
Most problems with water heaters are announced by noises or by water that’s either too hot or not hot enough. Often you can correct the problem yourself. A possible exception is a water leak, which may require professional service or tank replacement. Gas leaks call for immediate help from the Plumber.
Whenever someone turns on a hot water faucet, heated water is drawn from the top of the tank and is replaced by cold water that is carried to the bottom through the dip tube. When the water temperature drops, a thermostat activates the heat source (a burner in a gas model — two heating elements is an electric.) A gas heater has a flue running up the center and out the top to vent deadly gasses. An electric water heater needs no venting. In both, an anti-corrosion anode attracts corrosion that would otherwise attack the tank’s walls.
Maintenance For Good, Safe Service
• Open the drain valve at the bottom about every 6 months, letting the water run into a bucket until it looks clear. This will prevent sediment accumulation.
• Annually test the temperature-pressure relief pressure buildup by lifting or depressing its handle and draining water from the overflow pipe. If water doesn’t drain out, call in a plumber to inspect.
Water Heater Safety Tip
If steam or boiling water ever comes out of the valve or the hot water faucets, shut the heater off at once. If you ever hear a rumbling sound, assume the heater is overheating and turn it off.
If temperature is a problem on a gas heater, check that the temperature control is on and is set correctly . If you suspect a faulty control, test it by opening a hot water faucet for 3 minutes. If the heater doesn’t turn on, reset the control to a lower temperature and test again. If it still fails, have it replaced.