In my house, I currently have an old power vent water heater that needs to be replaced before it fails. Because of its location I can replace it with a direct vent water heater, a power direct vent water heater, or another power vent water heater.
So, really my choice boils down to which brand, model and installation cost is the best choice for me. This article will help you make that same decision for your house.
Table of Contents
Is A Power Vent Water Heater The Best?
If you need to replace your water heater, there is one crucial factor that should not be overlooked.
If you’re shopping for a water heater to replace an old one, installing the new one will be a lot simpler if you buy one that uses the same type of vent as the current water heater. There are however other considerations apart from how easy the installation will be. In this article, we’ll discuss what you’ll need to look at when deciding to buy a new water heater.
When your home’s plumbing operates without problems, there is no need to worry about your water heater. This scenario changes dramatically when your water heater starts malfunctioning, and it interferes with all the normal daily activities that need a steady stream of hot water.
If and when this happens, you’ll be forced to wash dishes without a dishwasher and take cold showers. This will get you thinking about replacing your water heater very quickly!
If your home’s water heater gives intermittent problems, or if it is not working at all, the natural tendency would be to have a replacement installed as soon as you can. It would however be foolish to rush this decision too much, without looking at all the factors properly.
There is a wide range of water heaters available on the market, and their energy-efficiency characteristics differ substantially.
The type of water heater you select will to a large extent determine the amount you’ll have to pay for the energy to heat water through its lifetime.
Another reason to do proper research is more subtle, and it will affect your installation costs. If you choose a new water heater that vents in the same way that your current one does, the installation cost will be relative cheap.
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However, if you select a water heater model that uses a different vent system, the installation costs will increase as the venting system will have to be changed.
There is a big drive globally to make everything more energy efficient. Also, in general, people are much more aware of their carbon footprint. This is the main reason why companies that manufacture products consuming gas and posing a risk to the environment are moving to products that are more environmentally friendly.
One of the ways manufacturers of water heaters can increase efficiency (lowering operating costs) and reduce emissions of their products is by using power vents.
This means that there may be cases where it is worthwhile to purchase a new water heater that vents differently from what your existing unit does. Even though the installation cost may be higher. However, if the new unit provides a substantial energy saving cost, this may over time offset the initial installation cost.
The key here is to properly evaluate and compare both the initial and operating costs to calculate the total cost of ownership before you make a decision.
Why Should Water Heaters be Vented?
Propane and natural gas water heaters produce flue gases, consisting of carbon dioxide and water vapor. Apart from ventilating the noxious gases created by combustion for health reasons, this vapor is acidic and has to be released to the outside of your home to prevent combustion pressure that may cause a water heater to explode.
Although the best venting method is most often determined by the location of the heater, you’ll need to also ensure that the method used for venting can handle the heater’s power.
Without sufficient ventilation, water heating could be dangerous, and your health, home, and even life may be at risk. That is why it is highly recommended to only let qualified professionals install a water heater. Venting systems consist of a draft hood, flue baffle and vent pipe. All of which need to be cleaned and inspected once per year.
Water Heater Venting Types
Ventilation for a water heater is not a problem if you plan to place the water heater outdoors in a warmer climate. Or if you plan on installing an electric or solar powered water heater. However, almost any other installation will need some type of venting to the outside.
As there are several different types of venting systems available for water heaters. The requirements for installing it can be very different.
Venting is the method used by the water heater to release its unused and excess moisture, heat, and gas from the tank.
The most common two types of vents for water heaters are power vents and atmospheric vents.
A power vent water heater has a fan or a blower that is used to push the harmful gases through the venting pipes to the outside. It uses the fan to cool the gases and ensures that there are no gases left in the tank that might cause an explosion.
Atmospheric vent water heaters simply release the gas through the venting system by making use of the pressure created by the combustion. All without using moving parts or electric power.
Let’s have a look in more detail at how each of these venting types work.
If your existing water heater has a metal pipe coming out from the top, it most likely uses atmospheric venting. This type of heater is the oldest type available.
With an atmospheric venting system, fuel is heated to warm the water and the pressure created by the combustion forces excess gas up and out of the chimney.
Once the water has been heated, there must still be enough fuel left in the tank to build up enough pressure to push the gases up and out.
This type of venting has a big advantage in that no electricity is required, so the water will still be heated if the power goes out.
This simple system is often used in older houses. It is easy to replace and will likely be the least expensive option. It does however have a number of important disadvantages.
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As heat has to stay in the atmospheric venting tank to make the gases rise effectively, some of the fuel being used is not used to heat water. That unused fuel rises upward and out of the chimney together with the burnt gases. This wastes energy and money.
A bigger disadvantage is that if something goes wrong and the gases don’t vent as they should, the excess gas could leak into your home. Potentially affect your health or result in an explosion.
Atmospheric venting needs a vent pipe that goes all the way from the heater to the roof without any break.
A power venting system and direct venting systems provide a lot of installation flexibility. Neither need a direct pipe to the roof, but typically expel the gas through a vent that runs through a wall to the outside.
The difference between the two types is that direct vent water heater systems pull in air from outside and then vent the gasses through a horizontal pipe.
A power vent water heater pulls combustion air in from the interior space and then pushes the gasses through the vent with a fan.
These two different operating methods mean that you must place a power vent water heater in a space where there is an adequate air supply. While a direct vent water heater system can be installed almost anywhere.
These types of water heaters use a fan to blow the excess gas through the venting pipes to the outside. Due to a fan being used, the gas is not as hot as that used in atmospheric vented tanks and lighter, plastic pipes can be installed.
A power vent heater is more energy-efficient as all the fuel is used to heat the water. As a fan is used, this means that the pressure used to push the dangerous gas out of your home is more consistent, lowering the risk of something going wrong and causing an explosion, or affecting your health.
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This type of venting is however more expensive and more difficult to install. It is also necessary to have electrical power for the fan, and if the electricity is disrupted, you will also not be able to heat water. Power venting hot water systems are also noisier due to the sound of the fan running.
Choosing whether to use a direct vent water heater system or powered venting often comes down to the layout of the house and where there is space for the venting.
Advantages of Purchasing a Power Vent Water Heater
A power vent heater is a great alternative to traditional atmospheric vent heaters. Some of the main reasons you may consider switching to power venting include:
Backdrafts could occur if excess gas from the water heater leaks into a room instead of being pushed out through the venting pipes. This gas contains carbon monoxide, which is flammable. A power vent water heater eliminates the possibility of a backdraft.
They also have indicator lights that show if there is a problem, and safety features that will stop the combustion process if critical components fail. This prevents many accidents from happening.
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Power vent water heaters are more efficient than atmospheric vent ones. They use less fuel, resulting in a cost saving in the long run. They also heat water faster and are cheaper than direct and atmospheric vented water heaters.
As power vents don’t need a vertical vent that runs to the ceiling and chimney, their location is more flexible. They can be located virtually anywhere, depending on where they are easiest to use. Most models have a relatively long vent to allow for this.
Choosing a Power Vent Water Heater
There are a number of factors that should be looked at when selecting a water heater:
Traditional atmospheric vent water heaters cost a fair amount, as do direct vent power water heaters. If you want to switch to power vents, look at the overall costs, as this will also require extra installation charges.
As a power vent water heater uses a fan or blower to push the gasses to the outside, it requires electricity to run. The electricity consumption should be taken into account when calculating the operating costs of the unit. The power requirements can be calculated by checking the type of fan or blower the heater uses.
Length of Vent Pipe
Power vent heaters don’t need an existing chimney, but use a horizontal pipe to expel gases either through the roof or a side wall. The length of the pipe supplied with the unit should be taken into account.
If the pipe is relatively long, the unit’s placement will be flexible. While a shorter pipe may require you to look for an area close to an exterior wall where you can install the heater.
Installing a Power Vent Water Heater
As the installation of a power vent water heater can be very tricky, we’ll discuss some of the things to look out for.
The heater will use one of two types of venting systems.
The first type uses a two-pipe system with different pipes for venting. One of the pipes is used to push the combusted products to the outside. While the other is used to draw in air from the outside.
The other type uses a single vent pipe system that is essentially two pipes, with the one inside the other one. One of these pipes functions as the air intake, while the other serves as a discharge.
Depending on the type of unit you have, the actual installation will be different. Generally, it’s best to follow the instruction manual that is included with the unit.
For detailed instructions, you can refer to the video below.
We strongly recommend that you consult with a local professional professional plumber even when planning to upgrade to a water heater that that uses the same type of vents that your old unit does.
Although it may be a relatively straightforward swap, when you’re dealing with gases that are potentially lethal, even a minor leak can have disastrous consequences.
Don’t take any chances. So, do the research, select a unit that is efficient and has the capacity to meet your family’s requirements, but leave the rest to a professional installer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Power Vent Water Heater More Efficient Than Atmospheric Vented?
Although they are more efficient with regard to fuel consumption, they do also use electricity. The overall operating cost of a power vent heater will be less.
How Far Can a Power Vent Water Heater be Vented?
This depends on the power of the blower and length of the vent pipe. Also, any bends in the pipe will cause more resistance to air flow and will reduce the distance vented.
It should be obvious that you can vent farther with a more powerful blower. The most common distance is about 40 feet. Howver, some newer models are able to vent up to around 180 feet.
Differences Between Power Vent and Direct Vent Water Heaters
A power vent water heater uses a blower or fan to expel gases and does not rely on pressure created by combustion to do so. This makes expelling gases more consistent and efficient. It also does not need a chimney and the gases are cooler when compared to direct venting.
A direct vent water heater expels extra gases by using the pressure created from combustion. Gases become lighter and rise to the top when they are heated and a direct vent system then releases them from the top.
This does not require a fan, but the water heater must be installed next to an exterior wall. This is because of the short distance the water heater can expel the exhaust gases.
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A Power Direct Vent water heater uses a fan to expel the exhaust fumes a longer distance. So, the water heater can be placed in a more convenient location. This is the safest and probably the most used method for new construction.
There are a number of factors that need to be considered when selecting a water heater, including the chimney’s location and your requirements.
These products are all very versatile when it comes to their installation and will make a great investment.
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However, the power direct vent water heater will work in any house and is the safest.