Simple and Efficient
Using natural gas is a great way to heat water. A natural gas water heater is a relatively simple piece of equipment. That simplicity makes it one of the most reliable appliances in your home.
Natural gas is piped to your water heater and comes through a valve regulated by the thermostat. The thermostat setting determines the temperature of the hot water running to the faucets in your home.
A setting of 120 degrees is adequate for most homes. Not only does this temperature save energy, it also protects family members from scalds.
When the temperature of the water in the tank drops below the thermostat setting, a valve opens and gas begins to flow to the burner, located at the bottom of the tank. When gas reaches the burner, it's ignited by a pilot flame or spark ignition.
The flame produced by the burner heats the bottom of the tank. That heat is transferred to the water inside and it rises. The outlet for the water heater is on top of the tank, so the hottest water leaves the tank first. Incoming cold water is piped to the bottom of the tank for heating.
When the temperature of the water reaches the temperature set on the thermostat, the valve closes and the burner goes out.
Tanks are usually made of steel and lined with glass or other materials to help prevent corrosion. The water heater may also have an anode rod that attracts corrosion away from the tank.
An exhaust opening located in the top connects to a vent that carries combustion byproducts (mainly water vapor and carbon dioxide, the same elements you exhale as a natural part of breathing) to the outside of the home. It's very important that this vent remain unobstructed and in good working order.
The exterior of the water tank is wrapped in insulation to help keep heat in the tank. Your water heater may benefit from an additional insulation jacket installed around the outside covering of the water heater.
Make sure the manufacturer of your water heater has approved the use of external insulation jackets. Don't install insulation on the top of the water heater, just the sides.
Your natural gas water heater does its job day after day with little attention. If you do have a problem, be sure to call a licensed plumber for help.