If you are a first-time homeowner, then you are very likely still learning all about the different components of your home. It’s not like you didn’t know where the air conditioner, furnace, or water heater resided in the home — or homes — you grew up in. But, chances are good that you didn’t have a lot to do with them. But once you got the keys to your very own castle, everything changed.

Now, you’re learning all about the benefits and drawbacks of the pre-existing systems in your home, and you’re slowly becoming an expert — either through dedication or through mishap and misfortune — on certain aspects of your home’s large appliances and HVAC systems.

If it’s not your first rodeo, then chances are you’ve already learned that not all homes, and not all major appliances in them — such as AC units and water heaters — are created equally. But, you may not know which types of units are the most advantageous for your home yet.

In today’s blog from the water heater installation and repair professionals at Ace Hi Plumbing in Loveland, we’re covering the differences between various styles of water heaters — a crucial component of every Northern Colorado home’s comfort and cleaning amenities.

For the sake of clarity, we’ll approach this topic from the perspective of a direct vent water heater. To get expert service, repairs, or installation for your home’s water heater and ventilation system, contact the team at Ace Hi Plumbing to schedule an appointment today. We can even help you determine what kind of setup makes the most sense for your needs and space.

What Is A Direct Vent Water Heater?

Simply put, a direct vent water heater is a water heating tank that utilizes a natural airflow system to vent exhaust gasses safely out of your home. Hot exhaust fumes are buoyant compared to the air around them, and a direct vent water heater utilizes this natural principle of physics to allow these dangerous fumes to escape your home in a fairly economical manner. 

Meanwhile, the cooler air needed to provide for combustion to heat your water is naturally drawn in from the outside through an adjacent vent or intake portion of the same vent. This type of water heater, like virtually any kind of major appliance, offers a specific set of advantages and benefits over competing styles, but also has a handful of limitations, and not every Loveland or Northern Colorado home can physically allow for a direct vent water heater and vent ducts.

Now that we have established an understanding of one specific kind of water heater common to homes in and around the Loveland-Fort Collins area, let’s answer some bigger questions and take a look at the other variations of water heater that you might find in your home.

Do All Water Heaters Need A Vent?

The short answer is no, not all types of water heater need a vent. However, in a state where natural gas is a common utility in many homes, vented water heaters are plentiful in Colorado, and chances are good that your home does use a direct vent water heater or a power vent water heater.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Venting Systems On Water Heaters?

Direct Vent Water Heaters

As we covered in detail above, the direct vent system uses a natural airflow process designed around the buoyancy of hot air to safely remove exhaust from your home. One unmentioned benefit is that a direct vent water heating system only needs a short length of vertical venting to operate, the rest can be horizontal and exit through a wall, improving the efficiency of the system overall when compared to the following examples.

Atmospheric Vent Water Heaters

Atmospheric vent water heaters are very similar to a direct vent water heating system as they do not require a powered infusion of air, but rather use the same principles of buoyancy to allow air to freely escape. 

One of the primary differences is that an atmospheric vent is either perfectly vertical or will maintain an angled vent that juts upwards and away from the ground. This older style of water heater, while inexpensive and typically easy to install, requires that some of the fuel spent to heat water be retained to provide lift for all of the gases in such a long venting system. This can largely eliminate the energy-efficiency benefits of an unpowered venting system.

Additionally, atmospheric vents in older homes are sometimes tied into the chimney system, which if done improperly, can increase the chance of backdraft and cause a safety hazard. These venting systems are unsurprisingly referred to as chimney vents.

Power Vent Water Heaters

A power vent water heater might look like a direct vent water heater to the untrained eye, but there are a couple of crucial differences. First and foremost, a power vent system can typically be installed in a smaller space because it requires no vertical venting — venting can be mounted perpendicularly (horizontal) to the water heating unit so exhaust can be forced directly out of an exterior wall.

The reason that a power vent water heater can accomplish this is because it uses a powered air intake fan to pull air in and push it out. While the space savings can be nice, a power vent water heater does require that you have a source of both fuel — gas — and power — electricity, If your home was designed with this in mind, installing a power vent water heater will cost quite a bit more and will require you to hire an electrician as well as a plumber.

Electric Water Heaters

Some Northern Colorado homes will have a fourth style of water heater which does not require a vent in the traditional sense. Electric water heaters don’t burn gas, and as such, they do not produce toxic fumes that need to be expelled from the house for safety reasons. These hot water heaters come in many shapes and sizes, but they have one defining feature: a pressure vent.

This safety valve provides a release for excess pressure, and typically is in the form of a T & P release valve or a copper arm that runs parallel to the water heater, like a downspout of sorts, and empties into a drain, or in some cases, directly onto a floor.

Is There An Advantage To Having A Direct Vent Water Heater Installed?

Direct vent water heaters provide some pretty substantial benefits, but they aren’t right for every home or space. While they consume no electricity and use the laws of nature to move hot exhaust and cold air through the system safely, they do require a small vertical vent and need to be placed somewhat close to the exterior of a home to ensure proper intake and exhaust.

Despite these small limitations, many people prefer a direct vent water heater for energy efficiency, quiet, and lack of any utility requirements besides a gas line that it offers. This, of course, is not the case if the water heater has an electric ignitor for the pilot light.

I Read That If I Replace My Water Heater, I Should Get The Same Kind. Is This True?

It might be, or it might not be. It all depends on the space that your hot water heater is going to be installed. Even if the proper connections and venting don’t already exist, sometimes they are not too hard to tie into. However, you’re better off contacting Ace Hi Plumbing for a consultation before making a purchase that may end up being useless.

Trust The Water Heater Repair And Installation Experts At Ace Hi Plumbing With Your Water Heater Project

Ace Hi Plumbing has been serving Northern Colorado since 1996. We have thousands of hours of real-life plumbing experience working right in your community, and that doesn’t even begin to describe our commitment to excellent service and work of unbeatable quality. Call Ace Hi Plumbing today for your hot water heater installation or repair project.