Hot water is a staple of civilization.

We use it to cook, clean, bathe, and more. When we turn that left tap, we expect hot water to be there for us. If it isn’t, that’s a big problem. So, what’s this magic appliance making our lives so pleasant? Let’s learn a little more about water heaters.

A tank style gas powered water heater

Storage water heaters or “tank-type” heaters

This is the type of water heater most people are familiar with. A tank type heater uses either burning gas or a set of electric heating elements to raise the temperature of water in a vessel, then keeps it at that temperature until it’s needed. There are two inherent downsides to this design.

First, as soon as the water is heated, it begins losing heat to the outside environment. This is known as standby loss. Modern, energy conserving tank-type water heaters have highly efficient insulation on their tanks, but standby loss still happens. After a period of time, the temperature of the water in the tank drops, and the heater kicks back on to bring it up to temperature.

The second weakness is that the hot water capacity of a tank-type water heater is limited by the size of its tank. This disadvantage has caused innumerable arguments among family members over the years. With a properly sized tank for the task at hand, however, this type of water heater can usually get the job done.

Tankless Water Heaters

Also known as instant or on-demand water heaters, tankless water heaters do not heat water and then store it up. When you aren’t using any hot water, the tankless water heater is off. It has flow sensors so that when you turn the tap, the heater comes on and brings the water flowing through it up to the desired temperature as it passes through the unit’s heat exchanger. This system eliminates the two main weaknesses of tank-type water heaters, making it a very appealing option.

Check back soon for Water Heaters – the silent, loyal appliance – Part 2