How Does a Hot Water Heater Work?

Water heaters are one of the many great inventions of our modern world. The ability to have hot water on command is vital to living a happy and healthy life. We need our hot water heaters to do all the essentials like cooking and cleaning but also for soothing and enjoyment. In our busy lives it can be easy to forget about our hard-working home appliances. It’s important to know what type of water heater is providing for your family and to know about how it works. Knowing what you have is vital to keeping it running longer and keep your home running smoothly. 

What types of water heaters are there?

There are three main types: tankless, gas, and electric. Each may have some varients on them but for the most part, will either be one of those three. Gas and electric water heaters are similar in that they are a storage-based style, whereas tankless functions differently. 

Tankless Water Heater
McClain Bros can service your tankless water heater
Gas Water Heater
McClain Bros can service your gas water heater
Electric Water Heater
McClain Bros can service your electric water heater

How does a Tankless Water Heater work?

Also known as an “on-demand” water heater, this type is a newer type that is gaining in popularity. This is because of its energy efficiency, which makes it worth it pricier upfront costs. Tankless water heaters are smaller than their storage counterparts because, obviously, it doesn’t have a tank to store water. Rather it heats water as you turn on your sinks, tubs, or other appliances. As you need water, the tank-less heater will heat the naturally cold water that passes through it with either a gas or electric element. Gas-fired models tend to produce hot water quicker than electric models. Perfect for small homes that are more conservative on hot water use, but larger homes can still benefit from tankless water heaters. You can install more than one tankless heater for homes that use a lot of hot water without taking up much space. There are solar-powered options if your area allows for them.


Like most home appliances, some maintenance is required. Tankless water heaters do need to be flushed about once a year to keep it clean and prevent clogs. The filtration and fans also require regular cleaning. While this may not sound difficult, it is highly recommended you get a professional to perform the maintenance. DIY solutions may void your warranty which may be a problem down the line. When properly cared for tankless water heaters can last up to 20 years, which is double the lifespan of those with storage tanks. 

How does a Gas Water Heater work?
How does an Electric Water Heater work?

Since both gas and electric are storage style water heaters that means both work similarly. Both store the hot water until it is needed, but one type is heated with a flame and natural gas while the other uses resistant coils. These heaters use the science of convection, meaning it uses the fact that heat rises to function. Coldwater is constantly being supplied into the tank, where either the flame or coils heat it. The heated water rises to the stop and when needed is then used in whichever appliance your using. Storage style water heaters are less efficient than tankless types but are more affordable and still the most common water heaters around. Electric water heaters are a bit more energy efficient but gas is still considered better at heating in general. 


Gas and Electric water heaters do require less maintenance overall than the tankless, but also do have a shorter lifespan overall. When going on a trip it is recommended to adjust the water heater’s thermostat to save on some energy. Overall just be sure to keep an eye and ear out for any signs that your water heater might need some attention. Signs can include leaking, noises, or a loss in pressure and temperature. Be sure to call a professional expert in water heaters to resolve any issues right away! 

Water Heater Services for Bucks County

Keep your whole home happier and healthier by making sure your vital appliances get the TLC (tender love and care) when needed. Knowing how your home works will help you avoid emergency situations such as expensive repairs or water damage that’ll need restoration. Be sure to talk to your local trusted plumber or water heater professionals so your in-the-know and ready for anything. McClain Bros. is ready to help all of Yardly, PA with all plumbing and water heater needs! Call us today for professional service!