There are a lot of appliances that people take for granted around their homes that they will always be there when they want them. One of those is their hot water heater. It supplies a lot of convenience to peoples lives and it is pretty much a forgotten appliance until it stops working; there is nothing better than a cold shower before work to remind a person the important role a hot water heater plays in their life. Lets take a look at this handy appliance.
How it Works
An electric hot water heater is actually a pretty simple device. It has an incoming cold water line that brings the water to the appliance and another water line that takes the hot water it produces to where it is needed in a persons house. The incoming water goes into a tank that has an electric heating element in it; when the element comes it significantly raises the temperature of the water in the appliance where it is then stored at a set temperature for later use. A thermostat device determines exactly the temperature that the water in the tank is kept at.
There are also safety devices that are usually hooked into the system or in the hot water heater itself too. There is usually a GFI breaker that is in the electrical line someplace to make sure if dangerous electrical current gets into the water supply it shuts the device down. There is also a high limit switch in the hot water heater itself that kicks in if the water gets to a dangerous temperature because the thermostat or something else on the appliance failed to do its job properly.
Common Water Heater Problems
The most common maintenance problem with a hot water heater is tank structure failure. When this happens it not only means that a hot water heater needs to be replaced but it may cause flooding damage to the contents in the room that a hot water heater is placed in. People need to keep this in mind before storing anything near a hot water heater that is valuable or perishable. This problem occurs when sediment builds up in the bottom of the appliances storage tank and causes the water in the system to heat higher than normal on repeated occasions. Draining the storage tank in the hot water heater periodically can help keep this from happening.
Another common problem is electrical contactor failure. A homeowner will usually notice a burning smell near the hot water heater if this happens. The contactor gets worn out over time from continually coming on and off and builds up some carbon on the metal contacts as a result. When this carbon builds up to a certain level the device arcs because it does not make a smooth electrical contact and this eventually ruins it.
Problems with hot water heaters are rare but it sure is a huge inconvenience when they happen; people really do depend on their hot water heater a lot more than they realize.
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