DIY Water Heaters 101
If you need to call for service on this critical appliance, the more information you have, the better the technician can help. Take a minute and get to know your water heater so you are ready when the time comes.
Start with the Shape and Size
The easiest determination to make is storage capacity. Some water heaters have tanks that hold water to be heated while others pull water directly from the pipe and flash heat it. You can't use size to judge the storage capacity since some tank heaters are small and efficient. Instead look at the shape.
A water heater with a tank is round, regardless of the storage capacity. A tankless device is usually a square panel attached to the wall. Some tankless devices are tucked away in the basement or on the wall of the utility closet. These are whole house heaters. Point of use tankless water heaters will be close to the appliance it serves like a shower, dishwasher or tub.
The Hybrid Water Heater
If your water heater has a small circular section and a panel, it is mostly a hybrid unit. They store a small amount of water, but can heat it more quickly. The dual design, both panel and small tank, is easy to spot.
The next thing you need to know is the fuel source. Natural gas and electric are the two most likely options, although solar power or thermal energy are less common possibilities.
The easiest way to tell if you have an electric water heater is to check the name plate. It is usually near the bottom of the tank or panel. This plate offers a wealth of information. For example:
- Gallon capacity - how much water it holds
- Recovery rate - how long it takes to heat all the water in the storage tank
- Energy Efficiency rating
If it is an electric heater, you will also see wattage capacity and voltage measurement. If the name plate lists voltage, the water heater is electric.
If you can't find the name plate, look for screws on the front of the unit. On a storage water heater, you can remove the panel and look for a blue flame. This indicates the unit is a gas heater. Be cautious when doing this!
Other Types of Water Heaters
You probably have either a gas or electric water heater, however, there are other options worth mentioning, however.
- Heat pump water heaters - These units move heat around to generate energy that heats up the water. If your home has geothermal heating and cooling, then your water heater is probably a heat pump.
- Solar water heaters - At least some of the energy for your house comes from solar panels.
- Indirect water heater - These systems rely the home heating unit for fuel to warm the water. They do not have an independent heat source.
If you do not have a traditional electric or gas water heater, consider the energy source for your home as the primary clue.
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