Older homes frequently come with a traditional gas water heater. In this type of unit, cold water gathers in a tank to be heated. The heated water is then passed through the pipes when you call for hot water on one of the faucets. Water heaters are typically efficient units, but problems can still arise.
Understanding how your water heater works and the key areas where problems develop can help you describe any recurring problems to a water heater repair technician. Here are two key sections to know.
Gas and Water Supply Lines
At the top of your water heater, there are a series of tube-like lines. The exact layout can vary according to model so it's best to consult your owner's manual to figure out which line is which. If you don't have the original model, search online for the manual using the model number.
There are two water supply lines and one for gas. The gas line is what provides the warming that allows hot water to come out of the tank. The cold water line is how the cold water enters the tank to be heated. And a narrow hot water line attaches to your home's plumbing and allows the warmed water to reach you at the faucet. Both the gas and cold water lines are fitted with shutoff valves that can turn off the supplies quickly in case of emergency.
What could go wrong in the supply lines? Leaks in the water lines can create a flood on your floor and limit the amount of hot water you can get at the tap. A gas leak is obviously far more dangerous. If suspected, the gas shutoff valve should be turned off and you should immediately call a repair technician.
Gas Burner Assembly
The gas burner assembly typically sits at the bottom of the tank and provides the carefully timed heat that's controlled by the thermostat function of the external burner control. The burner assembly contains the vital pilot light that has to be lit for the water heater to work.
If your water heater stops heating water suddenly, the pilot light is likely the problem. You can light a pilot light on your own after consulting the manual and shutting off the gas supply. Turn the gas supply back on and give the unit some time before testing a faucet. Leave more advanced pilot light fixes to the professionals.