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Serving the Olympia, WA area since 1994



Water Heater Repair FAQ: What Is a Heating Element?

Friday, September 26th, 2014 at 3:29 pm

While your water heater allows you to do so many important activities around the home, such as cleaning floors, doing laundry, washing dishes, and taking hot showers, most homeowners generally don’t know about the various parts involved in this process. Of course, water heater repair is a complex job best left to experienced professionals, so it’s likely that you’ll never have to deal with the various components of a water heater on your own. However, the heating element is an interesting component of an electric water heater, relying on the principle of heat rising to provide hot water. In this guide, we’ll look at how the traditional storage tank water heater works and the role of the heating element in electric models, as well as what may go wrong.

Storage tank water heaters, the most common type of unit found in homes, use a fairly simple process to supply hot water whenever a hot water tap is turned on. First, cold water travels through a long dip tube at the top of the tank that leads all the way to the bottom. Water is heated at the bottom of the tank and naturally rises to the top over the denser cold water. Another shorter tube at the top of the tank allows water to enter into the pipes and reach your faucets.

With a gas-powered water heater, water is heated with a burner located underneath the tank. For homes without access to a natural gas line, however, an electric water heater may be a better option. Electric units use small heating elements installed inside of the tank rather than burners to heat the water. These metal elements heat up via electrical resistance. There is a heating element toward the bottom of the tank and another at the top in order to help keep water thoroughly heated when the tank is not in use. However, because the bottom element takes on the bulk of the work, it may be more susceptible to breaking down. It’s important to have a technician assess the damage and ensure a replacement element uses the same voltage.

The best way to prevent damages to your water heater is by scheduling regular water heater maintenance with a professional. When you need maintenance or water heater repair in Olympia, call one of the experts at Brooks Plumbing today!

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