Basics of water heaters parts,Types and How They Work

If you enjoy having hot water then you probably enjoy having a hot water heater in your home. While your hot water heater may not be in direct view at all times or even the most accessible location, it is important to understand how your hot water heater works, the types of water heaters available, and also the parts for your hot water heater. Knowing these basic things can help you keep up with the maintenance of your unit and give ideas for future upgrades as well.

Parts of Your Water Heater

It is important to understand the parts of your water heater and what their purpose is to get a general idea about replacements and repairs. Although calling a professional is always the best idea for both replacements and repairs, if you have a better understanding of the parts and functions of those parts it can give your plumber a better idea of what they can expect. This can save both time and money and you will have it as a reference for any future issues that may arise.

Flue Pipe

If your hot water heater is powered by gas, then it has a burner where combustion takes place. Upon combustion, carbon monoxide is formed and is then needed to be evacuated which is where the flue pipe comes into play. This pipe is used to help get rid of these deadly gasses keeping your home safe!

Cold Water Shut Off Valve

Simply put, this valve is used to cut the water off from the water heater when the unit needs to be drained or have repairs done.

Draft Diverter

The draft diverter is a fitting that is found on the end of the flue pipe that gathers all the harmful gasses to safely get them outside of the home.

Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve

Also known as the T&P valve, this part of a water heater is code for every unit. This part allows pressure and heat to be released from the unit so the tank doesn’t explode. If this valve is constantly discharging it needs to be replaced immediately.

Anticorrosion Anode Rod

This part comes standard for every tank-style water heater. The purpose of this rod, generally made of either magnesium or aluminum with a steel core, is that it attracts corrosive elements in the water supply to save the more vulnerable parts of the tank. Without this rod, your tank is exposed to corrosion causing elements that can ultimately cause your unit to fail. This rod should never be removed even if an “egg smell” begins to occur as this will void the warranty of absolutely every water heater you find.


Elements are only found in electric water heaters and hold the purpose of heating the water. Think of this part the same as you would the element of your stove.

Drain Valve

Although it is pretty self-explanatory, the drain valve is important because it drains the water from the heater. Its function is important because draining your water heater at least annually should be part of regular maintenance so it is important this drain valve is in working order.


The thermostat is important to your unit because it controls the temperature of the water coming from the unit. It is important to set this at a comfortable level because having water that is too hot can be dangerous to your household and cause injury. While water heaters usually perform better and last longer is set to higher temperatures, there are some plumbing codes that have requirements of what the temperatures must be set at.


Just as the element is crucial to heating the water in an electric unit, the burner is essential to heat the water in a gas unit.

Types of Water Heaters

While there are many different brands and styles of water heaters to choose from you have simple options to narrow it down. The right heater for you is based on need and personal preference. There are two types of fuels that can be used for water heaters and those are electricity and natural gas. Once your fuel type is chosen the only option left is whether you want a tank unit water heater or opt for the tankless water heater.

Tank Water Heaters

A tank water heater is the most common type of water heater you will find in most homes across the country. This water heater is considered the most traditional style of water heater and is known for being the most cost-efficient. These water heaters typically last around 12 years and can be generally easy to fix if repairs are needed. Tank water heaters work by filling the tank full of hot water to be used for showers, laundry, and dishes. Once the tank is empty it will take time to refill before having access to the hot water again which can be a disadvantage for this type of heater.