Water heating is an essential part of comfortable everyday living. Without heated water, simple tasks like washing, cooking, and even heating up a room can become impossible. Thus, most homes need a water heater to provide a regular supply of hot water.
There are many types of water heaters available on the market that operate in very different ways, but the most common water heaters are combustion-based. Gas water heaters such as storage heaters use gases that are then burned to create heat which heats up a body of water reserved within a tank.
This heated up water is then used in your kitchen or bathroom faucets, and might even be pumped into your radiators.
Of course, burning gases creates byproducts that need to be expelled somehow. All water heaters feature ventilation systems that keep dangerous gases like Carbon Monoxide from seeping out into your rooms, but these ventilation systems vary massively.
‘Power vent’ and ‘Direct vent’ water heaters are perhaps the two most popular type of water heater. But what is the difference between the two? And can you replace one with the other? Let’s take a deeper look.
What Is The Difference Between a Power Vent Water Heater And A Direct Vent Water Heater?
The key differences between power vent water heaters and direct vent water heaters are fairly simple. Power vent water heaters make use of a powerful built-in fan that removes the combustion gases from the atmosphere after they have been burned.
The use of a powered venting fan to expel these gases ensures far better safety, as the gases are being actively withdrawn from the environment in which the water tank resides.
Direct vent water heaters, on the other hand, lack this power fan and instead make use of intricately placed exhaust pipes or chimneys, in order to pump the gases out into the atmosphere outside of the home.
These often have a vertical vent. This particular option is great if you want a more quiet option for your home, as the gases will silently be removed from the home.
Can I Replace A Power Vent Water Heater With A Direct Vent?
If you were to replace a power vent hot water heater with a direct vent water heater, then there is one vitally crucial thing you would need to consider: Where will it be installed?
Direct vent water heaters need to be placed in rooms with lots of airflow in order to work efficiently, as they do not utilize a fan to withdraw exhaust gases. Direct vent water heaters draw out air from the environment which is then used to pump the gases outside of the home.
Power vent units, on the other hand, can be installed anywhere in the home, as they make use of fans to expel dangerous gases and pump them out of the home.
If you were to place a direct vent water heater into a room without adequate air flow you run the risk of lethal gases such as carbon monoxide leaking into your rooms. This can prove to be lethal if not detected, as carbon monoxide has no smell.
This is why you should only ever replace a power vent water heater with a direct vent water heater once you are sure there is enough air flow in a certain room.
Can You Put A Power Vent On Any Water Heater?
No. Definitely not. You should be sure to never simply replace the ventilation system on your water heaters.
This is because power water heaters and direct water heaters are very different systems and as such you would need to fully replace one with the other, and not just specific components from one to the other.
If you were to try to replace specific components of each system with the others’, then you run the risk of your water heater becoming irreparably damaged, or allowing dangerous gases to leak out into your home.
If you already have a direct vent water heater in a perfect position, don’t bother attempting to replace its vent with a power vent, as there is simply no need.
Is Ventilation Necessary For Water Heaters?
Water heaters have changed quite a bit in recent years, with some running entirely off of electric power, and thus not needing any kind of ventilation for gases and even recently there are tankless water heaters.
However, electric water heaters are very uncommon, and the vast majority of households still make use of combustion-based water heaters. As such, it is definitely important for such water heaters to have ventilation.
It is unavoidable that, when gases are burned to create heat for your water heater, dangerous gases and other byproducts are created in the process. These gases need to be released somewhere or they can prove very dangerous.
If the gases created by heating up your water could not escape your water heater tank, then the tank would run the risk of exploding, as it would become stuffed with too much gas.
As well as this, if your water heater were to just simply release the gases as is, then your home would very quickly be filled with lethal gases that could kill you within seconds before you realize it.
To Finish Up
Ventilation is essential for most conventional water heaters which still use combustion to create hot water that you can then use for various domestic tasks such as cleaning and cooking. Without ventilation, water heaters would not function properly, and might even become extremely dangerous.
The two most popular types of power heaters: power vent water heaters and direct vent water heaters, largely perform the same function but do so in very different ways.
Power vents utilize a powered fan to pump dangerous gases outside of the home, while direct vent systems use the air around them to push the gases away.
You can replace one form of water tank with the other in its entirety, but you must make sure that a direct water heater is placed in a room with plenty of air flow, in order for it to work efficiently.
And make sure not to simply swap the ventilation systems alone, as direct and power vented water heaters are very different.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Direct Vent Water Heaters Better?
In terms of operating costs, direct vent water heaters are much better, as they do not require the use of a powered fan to pump out the gases. Power vent water heaters are best for those who have homes with limited air flow. Direct vent water heaters will also have significantly lower installation costs.
Can You Reuse A Power Vent On Any Water Heater?
You should not aim to reuse a power vent on any water heater you find. This is because water heaters that use power vents are built in an entirely different way, and thus using a component from a power vent water heater on just any water heater could lead to catastrophic and even dangerous results.
Can a Direct Water Vent Heater Be Vented Horizontally?
Heat and gases move upward, and thus direct vent water heaters are designed with this in mind, and often have a vertical vent. However, surprisingly to some, direct vent water heaters can in fact be vented horizontally.
This is because direct venting makes use of the air in the atmosphere around it, and uses the natural draft to pump the exhaust gases out through the vent pipes. Thus the gases are able to travel horizontally out of the home.