Most of the time, commercial water heaters do what you expect them to do, sit quietly and do their job. Unless you have a lot of sediment build-up, then it may not be so quiet. But your water heater can be a hazard if not properly ventilated. Here are three types of water heater vent systems.
Water heaters that burn natural gas or liquid propane must have a venting system. The process of burning the gas is called combustion, and it creates heat, exhausts gases, and moisture. The water heater ventilation system removes these byproducts, making it a critical safety feature.
The Importance of Proper Ventilation
Proper ventilation prevents backdrafting. Backdrafting is when the exhaust from the water heater fails to exit via the vent, instead of coming back into the building. While there are many causes of backdrafting, it’s typically due to poor vent design, improper installation, or an imbalance of air volume in the building. Air volume can occur as a result of ventilation fans such as bathroom or kitchen vent fans. These fans create a vacuum effect that draws the gas down into the building from the water heater vent.
Water heaters with fan-assisted ventilation or direct venting technology remove the possibility of backdrafting.
3 Types of Water Heater Vents
1. Atmospheric Venting
Atmospheric venting is the most common type for many water heaters. This vent consists of a vertical or upward-sloping vent duct attached to the vent. Hot exhaust rises up through the vent and exits into the air outdoors, creating a draw that promotes this upward flow.
These vents work well (and without electricity) if properly designed and no backdraft issues in the building.
2. Power Venting
The power vent system uses an electric blower or fan installed on the top of the heater with either horizontal or vertical vents. This vent doesn’t rely on the buoyancy of hot air like the atmospheric vent. Instead, the blower cools the air so the vent can be run through PVC pipe rather than metal (as required in atmospheric venting). A power-vent is generally easy to install but must have a nearby electrical outlet to power the fan.
3. Direct-Vent Water Heaters
The direct-vent system draws the exhaust from a vent pipe that runs through an exterior wall or the roof. The gases vent outdoors via a separate vent duct or through a separate chamber of the same pipe, which requires a double-wall vent duct. Essentially, direct-vent systems “breathe” outdoor air eliminating the possibility of backdrafting. They also reduce the risk of fires caused by flammable vapors around the water heater.
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