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One of the most-used and least-thought-about appliances in your home lives tucked away in either your basement or an out-of-the-way closet. Your electric storage tank water heater. We do remember it, though, when we run out of hot water. Although problems are not common, they do come along from time to time. Let’s take a look at the most common problems you’ll see with electric water heaters. Safety tip: Remember to UNPLUG the appliance before you start troubleshooting.

 

Temperature problems

Problems with water temperature far outrank any other water heater problems. Thankfully, repairs tend to be inexpensive for these types of issues.

water heater circuitNo hot water

When you have no hot water at all, check your circuit breaker to make sure a breaker has not been tripped. If the circuit has been tripped, switch it off and back on again to reset it. If the problem is not the breaker, you will want to check the hot water temperature reset button above the upper thermostat inside the heater. In electric water heaters, failed heating elements or a faulty thermostat can also cause no hot water. If this is the case, you will need to check both the upper and lower elements and thermostats and replace whatever is malfunctioning.

Not enough hot waterwater heater tank size chart

Tank size. The primary cause of not enough hot water is a tank that is too small to meet your family’s needs. If your family has grown since you bought your home or if you have added newer water-using appliances (i.e. dishwasher, washing machine) your tank may not be able to keep up with the increased demand. In this case, the best option is to replace your tank. The Department of Energy provides guidelines on sizing your water heater tank needs. We also encourage you to consider multiple options such as our tankless or on-demand water heaters.

Electrical issues. A thermostat that is set too low can also explain why there is not enough hot water. Other culprits can be a failed upper water heater, a faulty thermostat or loose wiring. The elements can also become encrusted with sediment which prevents them from heating the water adequately.

 

Water too hotwater heater thermostats

This problem most likely stems from a thermostat that is set too high. You will have to access the thermostats for each element to lower the temperature. If you are unable to lower temperature settings, your thermostat has most likely failed and will need to be replaced.

 

ball valve inletLeaks

The second most common problem with electric storage heaters is leaking. Leaks present significant safety hazards and should be dealt with as soon as they are discovered.

From the top

While water leaking from the top of the tank poses a less immediate threat, you still need to address it in a timely manner to keep it from becoming a more serious issue. Water leaking from the top of the heater tank can come from only a limited number of sources, most of which can be easily remedied. Check the ball valve in the cold water inbound line. If this is the source of your leak, simply tighten the nut securing the handle to the valve. Another potential leak site is the temperature and pressure relief valve on the top of the tank. If this is leaking, you will most likely need to replace it. If water is leaking from any of the pipe joints, you will probably want to call in a professional to make repairs.

leaking tpr drain pipeFrom the bottom

Water under your tank can be coming from a loose heating element gasket, simple condensation, or a little run-off from the TPR valve releasing some water. It can also be a case of corrosion rusting out the bottom of your tank, in which case, the tank will have be replaced.

 

CONCLUSION

Electric water heaters don’t generally have problems, but when they do, you’ll know what to look for. If you decide to replace your water heater, we’d love to talk with you about your options. Water heating isn’t just for tanks anymore!  As with any type of plumbing issue, if you feel uncomfortable troubleshooting or managing repairs, give us a call! We offer 24-hour emergency service and welcome the opportunity to serve you and your family.

When we hear the phrase “water heater,” most of us probably get a picture in our heads of the traditional storage water heater. Although many other types of water heaters are now available, the standard storage water heater remains the most commonly seen in homes across the United States. A storage water heater consists of a tank or reservoir that holds water. A pipe brings cold water into the tank, where it is heated. Warm water rises to the top of the tank and is disbursed through another pipe whenever hot water is needed throughout the house. Storage water heaters all do basically the same thing, they just use different sources of energy for heating the water. Let’s take a closer look.

 

STORAGE water heaterBasic Structure

The basic structure of a storage water heater is pretty simple. The visible part — the drum — is a tall cylindrical tank made of heavy metal, a layer of insulation and an outer shell. Tanks hold 30 – 80 gallons of water, depending on size. Coldwater enters the tank through the dip tube. The end of the heat-out pipe lies near the top of the tank, ready to whisk heated water wherever it is needed. Other essential parts of each storage water heater are the thermostat, drain valve, pressure relief valve, sacrificial anode rod, and a shut-off valve. The heating mechanisms differ in how they supply the heat needed to warm the water. We’ll look at gas water heaters first.

 

Gas Water Heaters

Gas water heaters, as the name implies, use natural gas or propane to fuel the heat for your water. The heating system for this type water heater has two main parts: the burner and the venting system.

gas water heaterThe Burner

The burner sits beneath the tank in a small chamber. This burner operates on the combustion principle. Gas — either natural gas or liquid propane (LP) flows through a valve into the burner. A thermostat located outside the tank projects a heat sensitive probe inside the tank. The thermostat controls the flow of gas to the burner. Combustion occurs when the pilot light ignites the gas flowing through the burner. Flames heat the bottom of the tank, transferring heat to the water inside the tank. Small openings in the combustion chamber allow air to enter.

As long as gas and air continue to flow into the combustion chamber, the burner will continue to heat water. Thermostats are generally set between 120 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit , although newer models may restrict the upper limit to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. An energy cut off switch acts as a safety mechanism within the thermostat. If the probe detects water temperature above 190 degrees F, the energy cut off valve shuts off the gas flow. If this happens, you usually have to replace the entire gas valve mechanism. The combustion process, though very efficient for heating, produces harmful fumes and requires proper venting.

gas water heaterThe Venting System

Carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide produced in the combustion process are harmful to breathe. They must be vented outside the home or office to protect the people inside the buildings. Gas storage water heaters use a flue and hood venting system. The flue consists of a bottom hood within the combustion chamber. This hood collects and directs the exhaust fumes up through the flue. The flue itself is a small tube rising through the tank and exiting at the top. Many flues now contain baffles. A baffle is a shaped like a helix. It deflects the exhaust push the heated air to the sides of the flue to help heat the water. Exhaust exits the tank through the draft hood located just above the top of the tank. The draft hood prevents back drafts into the flue and vents noxious gasses outside the home or office.

Electric Water Heaters

storage water heaterElectric storage water heaters have the same basic parts as their gas-fueled cousins. Rather than heating water with fire, though, electric water heaters use electricity. The heating system for an electric water heater also has to main parts: the elements and the circuit control.

The elements

The elements in this system work much like the burners on an electric stove. Elements may be stainless steel or copper-plated. They consist of a wire surrounded by filler material encased in a U-shaped tube of either stainless steel or copper. They project into the tank about one-third down from the top of the tank and one-third up from the bottom. Each element has its own thermostat. As electricity flows through the inner wire, resistance in the wire generates heat. The heat passes into the filler material and outer sheath of the element to heat the water. The upper element operates first to heat the top one-third of the water to the temperature set on the thermostat. Once the upper water has reached this temperature, the lower element comes on and heats the middle third of the water.

The control circuit

storage water heatersThe control circuit includes the elements, thermostats, a high limit control switch, and a reset button. As in the case with the gas-powered water heater, the electric water heater also carefully monitors water temperature and pressure. If water temperature in the electric water heater exceeds the established limit, the high limit switch activates and shuts down the entire unit. You can restart the unit once it cools by pushing the reset button on the thermostat.

which storage water heaterConclusion

Well, there you have it. Although both types of storage water heaters provide the same function, the do so by very different means. When you’re considering a new water heater, be sure you review all your options carefully. Both types of heater have energy efficiency and safety features built in. Just how much money you can save will depend on the needs of your family or business. Give us a call today. We’ll walk you through all the details and help you make the best choice for your particular needs.

Whether your water heater broke or your family is growing, you might just need a new water heater. Choosing a new one doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just follow these tips, and this will be one of the easiest things you’ve done!

Research How Water Heaters Work

There are a lot of different kinds of water heaters. They range from tank to tankless and can be powered by gas, electricity, oil, solar or heat pump.

graph showing differences between electric and gas water heatersThe two most common tank water heaters run on gas or electricity.

Electric water heaters use coils that go down into the tank to heat your water. This type is ideal for a smaller household that doesn’t require much hot water. Although electric water heaters might be cheaper to purchase, they’re not as efficient as gas heaters in the long run. They also tend to be more expensive over time.

Gas heaters, be it natural gas or propane, are another common water heater choice. They use a gas burner that is vented through a chimney or small wall vent. Propane gas heaters are used when natural gas is not accessible. Propane tends to be cheaper than natural gas.

Above are great examples of tank water heaters, but there is another option: a tankless water heater.

graph of a water heater in a basementAlso known as the “on demand” water heater, it only turns on when you need hot water. There is no holding tank, which makes this a more efficient option. However, like the electric water heater, this also makes it a more expensive option.

You also need to consider the lifetime expectancy of the heater you choose. Where a tank water heater can hold from 40 to 60 gallons of hot water and last up to 13 years, a tankless heater can last up to 20 years.

Taking all this into consideration, it ultimately comes to what is most suitable for you and your household.

Size and Storage Of Water Heaters

You must factor size and storage into your search for a new water heater. To help with this, think back to how satisfied you were with how your old one worked. Some things to consider: Did you had enough hot water? How long did you have to wait for it to reheat?

graph of water heaters and sizes

If the old water heater didn’t provide enough hot water, you might want to upgrade the size of the new water heater.

For a storage tank water heater, a very important factor to consider is the amount of water that can be held and the recovery rate, which is basically the amount of water that can be heated in an hour. An energy sticker on the new water heater will display the recovery rate as First Hour Rating (FHR).

For example, a four-person household would require a 40- to 50-gallon water tank, whereas a two-person household could skate by with a 30- to 40-gallon tank.

Gas heaters have a better FHR than electric water heaters, which means they have a smaller tank with the same EF rating.

Now What?

Choosing your new water heater doesn’t have to be a headache. Just remember: do your research on types, sizes and storage options.

If you get stuck, give us a call. Here at Knoxville Plumbing, we have experts who can help you evaluate what your family needs and match these up with the heater that will work best for you and your household.

frustrated kid holding his headIt can be very frustrating trying to figure out if it’s time to replace the household water heater, or if it simply needs a little TLC. This article will help shed some light on whether it just needs a repair, or if it needs to be replaced.

There are plenty of signs that a water heater is about to fail. Below are some of the most common indications that it’s time to replace the household water heater. 

Common Signs It’s Time To Replace the Water Heater

rust-colored water running out of a faucet

If the water heater is 10 years or older, it will be in the best interest of the house to go ahead and replace it before it starts causing problems. To check the age of the water heater, simply look on the upper part of it and find the manufacturer’s sticker.

If rust-colored, metallic tasting water is coming out of the hot water faucet, this is another big indicator. Dark, metallic water is a clear sign that the inside of the water heater is beginning to rust. If this is left unattended for too long, it will severely damage the tank. It will also begin to leak and cause more damage to the home. 

sediment at bottom of a water heaterWith older water heaters, it is not uncommon to notice strange noises or rumbling coming from the unit. These are usually caused by excessive sediment build-up accumulating on the bottom of the water heater. As the water heater will frequently change temperature, the sediment will eventually harden. When this happens, it will be harder for the water heater to effectively heat the household water supply. This will ultimately cost more money to run it. 

leak underneath water heaterConsistent “puddles” around the base of the water heater could be a sign that there are fissures and cracks in the hull of the tank. As the metal heats and expands and then cools and shrinks again, this causes these fissures and cracks. While this is normal and should not cause problems for quite some time, in an older water heater it could be a sign that it is time to replace the water heater. But before doing that, make sure that leaky pipes or loose valves are not to blame.

Why Isn’t There Enough Hot Water? 

shivering duckIt’s safe to assume that the biggest problem with water heaters is that there is often not enough hot water being supplied to the household. There are some simple explanations as to why this is happening, regardless of the type of water heater (i.e. gas or electric).

Electric Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes 

yellow lightning boltMake sure that the water heater has a proper connection to the power source, and then, reset the thermostat. There could also be too much sediment in the bottom. As mentioned above, this impedes the function and makes it harder to heat enough amounts of water. A good flushing of the water tank will make sure that all the sediment is removed.

Another culprit might be that the pipes are not properly insulated, and the water is losing heat on its way up to the rest of the household. Another thing to assess is the heating element or thermostat. If this is the case, it would be best to just replace that part, rather than the entire unit. If all those things check out fine, it could just be as easy as raising the temperature.

Gas Water Heater Malfunctions and Possible Causes

close up of water heaterThere are only a few differences when it comes to assessing problems with electric and gas water heaters. The first thing to check on a gas model is the pilot light. If the pilot light has gone out, relight it, and make sure that the gas valve is hooked up securely and properly. Another issue could be that the gas burner needs to be cleaned. The cleaning is a good time to go ahead and replace the thermocouple, too. Just like electric versions, it is important to flush to rid the tank of sediment. Also, keep an eye out for rusty water coming from the hot water faucet.

In conclusion, if the tank itself is presenting serious damage signs, it is smartest to replace the whole water heater. Give us a call, and we will be more than happy to help you make the right decision!