Water heaters are essential in any residential or commercial building, providing hot water for various purposes, including washing, cooking, and bathing.
Each water heater consists of several components that work together to heat water and maintain the desired temperature, and these components may need to be replaced over time.
If you live in the Las Vegas area, you may notice that you need to call in your plumber more often than normal. Las Vegas is known for having extremely hard water or a very high concentration of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium.
These minerals can form deposits inside the water heater tank, which can reduce the water heater’s efficiency and potentially cause damage.
Mineral buildup on the heating elements causes them to work harder and shortens their lifespan. The mineral buildup can also cause the heating elements to overheat, damaging the tank and potentially causing a safety hazard.
Hard water may also cause corrosion inside the tank, which can weaken the tank and potentially cause leaks or cause the sacrificial anode rod to deteriorate more quickly.
Suffice to say if you live in Las Vegas or anywhere in the US where hard water is an issue, water heater repair will be on the cards sooner or later.
Types of Water Heaters
Before discussing the parts of a water heater, it’s important to understand the different types of water heaters available. There are three main types of water heaters: tankless water heaters, storage tank water heaters, and heat pump water heaters.
Tankless water heaters are also known as on-demand water heaters. They heat water on demand, which means they don’t require a storage tank. This makes them energy efficient and space-saving.
Storage tank water heaters, as the name suggests, use a storage tank to store heated water. These traditional water heaters come in various sizes to meet the demands of your household and your family.
Heat pump water heaters work by extracting heat from the surrounding air and using it to heat water. These are energy-efficient and cost-effective, but they are not suitable for extremely cold climates.
Parts of a Water Heater
Your water heater is made up of several different parts, including:
- The tank is the most visible part of a water heater. It is a large cylindrical container that holds the water to be heated. The tank is made of metal, usually steel or copper, and is insulated to reduce heat loss.
- Your tank may experience a number of issues over time, including sediment buildup due to the high mineral content of the water in Las Vegas.
- When minerals accumulate at the bottom of the tank, the tank becomes less efficient and could even start to corrode and leak. You should flush the tank regularly to prevent this particular water heater problem.
- The water heater tank is often the culprit when it comes to water leaks. If you notice water pooling around the heater, it may be time to call in some plumbers.
- Heating elements are the parts of the water heater that actually heat the water. They are made of metal and are located inside the tank. Most water heaters have two heating elements: one at the top of the tank and one at the bottom.
- The heating elements are controlled by a thermostat that maintains the desired water temperature. Heating elements can wear out or become damaged over time, leading to a decrease in the amount of hot water available.
- If you notice that you never have enough hot water when you shower or if the water in the house is not as hot as it used to be, it could be a sign of a heating element issue that requires maintenance or replacement.
- The dip tube is a plastic tube that runs from the cold water inlet to the bottom of the tank. Its function is to direct cold water to the bottom of the tank, where it can be heated by the heating elements.
- The dip tube is made of plastic and can break over time due to exposure to heat and the high mineral content in Las Vegas water. When the dip tube breaks, it can cause cold water to mix with hot water at the top of the tank, reducing the amount of hot water available.
- The anode rod is a metal rod that is suspended in the tank. Its purpose is to prevent corrosion of the tank by attracting corrosive elements into the water. Anode rods require periodic replacement because they become corroded over time.
Pressure Relief Valve
- The pressure relief valve is an essential safety feature of the water heater. Its function is to release excess pressure inside the tank, which can occur due to overheating or other factors.
- If the pressure inside the tank becomes too high, the pressure relief valve will open, releasing water and reducing the pressure. If you notice that your water pressure has decreased, it could be a sign that there’s something wrong with your pressure relief valve.
- The thermostat is part of the water heater that controls the temperature of the water. It is usually located on the outside of the tank and can be adjusted to the desired temperature.
- If the thermostat on the water heater malfunctions, it can cause the water temperature to be too hot or too cold. This can lead to discomfort or safety issues, such as scalding.
- The drain valve is located near the bottom of the tank and is used to drain the water heater for maintenance or repair.
When Should You Call a Plumber for Water Heater Repair?
It’s entirely possible to repair and replace some parts of your water heater on your own with a few basic tools, but unless you are very familiar with your water heater, it’s not recommended.
You can replace simple parts like the heating element, pressure relief valve, and anode rod if you have the right replacement part on hand.
You can – and should – drain and flush the tank regularly. Over time, sediment and debris can build up in the tank, reducing its efficiency and causing damage. Draining and flushing the tank is a simple maintenance task that can be done with a garden hose.
Having said that, there are some repairs that should not be attempted by a homeowner and require the expertise of a professional plumber. If your water heater is powered by natural gas or propane, any repairs involving the gas line should be done by a licensed professional.
It’s a good idea to call in a plumber if you notice a leaking tank. Repairing a leak on your own can be dangerous and could even cause more damage. If your water heater is electric, any repairs involving the electrical system should be done by a licensed electrician.
You should also note that repairing a water heater on your own may void the warranty, depending on the terms and conditions. The warranty may specify that repairs or replacements must be performed by authorized service providers.
If you attempt to repair the water heater yourself and the repair causes additional damage or does not resolve the issue, the manufacturer may refuse to honor the warranty altogether.
The hard water in Las Vegas means that your water heater requires more regular maintenance and even regular repair and replacement parts.
Before attempting to replace a part yourself, find out what the warranty says. In instances that require electrical work or leak repair, or if your water heater uses gas, you should always call in a professional.