Invented in the late 1800s, and commonplace by the early 1910s, tank water heaters didn’t change much for decades. But the 21st century has seen innovations in design and efficiency. Many developments center on reducing standby losses, or the amount of energy wasted by repeatedly heating a tankful of water. We’ll cover features that enable new water heaters to combat this and overcome other efficiency issues.
Water On Demand with a Tankless Water Heater
The availability of tankless water heaters is worth mentioning here. A tankless unit does not store water, so it does not have to keep heating it. Running only on demand, it turns on when you open the hot water faucet. This means you pay only for the hot water you use. Therefore, operating costs are lower and tankless units tend to last longer.
In addition, graphite electrodes and advanced electronic controls help prevent rust and scale buildup. Many units have Wi-Fi capability, so you can monitor hot water usage and program the water temperature for specific tasks. Plus, much less water is wasted while waiting for hot water. One reason is the unit is much smaller than a standard water heater and can be placed closer to the source of use.
Higher Quality Insulation
Before the 1970s, only insulation in the walls or attic prevented heat loss. That didn’t do much for water heaters. Once foam insulation was placed between the steel shell and glass lining, most water heater manufacturers implemented this design. Today, R-16 or higher insulating materials are used for gas- or oil-fired tank models. Electric water heaters may have R-22 insulation or higher. Insulation built into the tank is much more effective than wrapping a tank in a fiberglass blanket.
Improvements in Tank Design
Earlier water heaters were prone to rust and corrosion due to the interaction of water and steel tanks. To address this issue, finely ground glass was heated onto the interior steel surface. Today, most manufacturers protect the metal tanks of new water heaters using proprietary glass, silicon, porcelain, and other liners.
Despite being prone to mineral buildup, water heaters are often the most neglected plumbing appliance. Minerals from the city water line enter the tank; since they’re heavier than water, they sink to the bottom and form a layer of sediment over time, reducing performance and efficiency. This process increases wear and tear because the unit has to work harder.
New water heaters include a dip tube in the tank. It is a narrow metal pipe that channels incoming cold water to the bottom, where a rotating fitting stirs up the water to prevent minerals from coalescing. These minerals will then float, be forced through the discharge pipe, and directed out to faucets.
Hot Water Circulation System
A pump integrated into the water heater directs unused hot water back to the tank. It activates when the standing water reaches a set temperature. While cool water is pumped back into the tank, hot water is pushed toward the discharge line. Therefore, you get “instant” hot water instead of waiting for the supply to warm up.
Built-In Heat Traps
Heat traps prevent thermosyphoning, a type of convection that causes heated water to rise to the supply pipe, cooling the tank supply. A heat trap is a valve or flexible connector that can be added during installation or retrofitted at the inlet and outlet connections. This feature is built into new water heaters to prevent hot water from rising and being displaced by cold water.
A smart water heater can be controlled from smartphones, tablets, or other devices. It’s possible to remotely adjust the water temperature, turn the unit on and off, or check its status from anywhere. The unit will also automatically shut down if a leak is detected to prevent further damage. A smart water heater can save money by improving efficiency and reducing repairs.
Purchase Your New Water Heater from Air Stars
Our Oregon customers have access to the latest tank and tankless water heater models and technologies. Fully licensed and trained, our technicians are equipped to properly install water heaters. They also provide high-quality repairs and maintenance. Newer systems can help you save, as can our special offers, financing, and maintenance plan. For fast, personalized solutions with professional service, book online or call 503-744-5879 today.