Depending on where you live, mild weather or extreme cold may be typical during the winter months. Regardless, your water heater has to work harder when the temperature drops outside the house. This prompts the question — can water heaters freeze?
Although very rare, it’s certainly not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The biggest concern is that any standing water within the tank or tankless unit will freeze and expand, permanently damaging the appliance in the process. If this happens, you may be left with no alternative but to replace the water heater.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that modern water heaters are built to stay operational regardless of how cold it gets outside. Still, it never hurts to take precautions if a deep freeze is in the forecast, particularly if your water heater is set up outside.
Before heading out on an extended getaway this winter, give thought to emptying the water heater to bypass a plumbing crisis while you’re away. You may want to drain the tank if power is lost to avoid possible freezing. For added protection, you could install a freeze protection solenoid valve, which opens automatically and drains the water heater during a power failure.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through it:
Think about leaving a trickle of hot water flowing from a faucet or two until the bitter temperature subsides. The associated increase in your utility bill is well worth preventing a frozen water heater. This technique also helps counter frozen and burst pipes.
Plumbing insulation is very affordable and comes in a variety of forms. You can insulate your water heater tank with a unique blanket to help cut down on standby heat loss and give protection against cold weather.
Naturally, pipes are more prone to freeze than water heaters. Along with running a trickle of hot water, you can cover exposed pipes located outside or along exterior walls by wrapping them in foam insulation. You can also install electric heat tape to ensure the pipes don’t drop in temperature below freezing. Only some types of heat tape are compatible with insulation, so read the instructions carefully if you plan to use them together.
The basic purpose of this system is to push hot water to the tap quicker, reducing the wait time and reducing the volume of water that flows down the drain. A hot water recirculation system is convenient, water-wise and energy-efficient. It also ensures your pipes are warmer and makes your tankless water heater less prone to freezing. These combined benefits could justify the installation cost, particularly in cold climates.
Almost all North American properties have indoor water heaters. But, in mild southern climates, water heaters are sometimes installed in the garage or even outside. While this approach is perfectly safe most of the time, the rare deep freeze can have ruinous effects on outdoor water heaters. Because of this, you should insist that your next water heater be installed inside, or at the very least in a covered location sheltered from the wind.
A large number of tankless water heaters have built-in freeze protection that works in temperatures down to -22 degrees F. The next tankless water heater that you buy should have this, especially if the only option is to install it outside.
Different brands use different freeze-prevention methods. Many have an electric element that yields an adequate amount of heat to protect against internal freezing. Others light up the gas burners to heat a small amount of water and, as a result, keep the tankless cabinet frost-free.
Regardless of the method, water heater freeze protection is only effective when utilized. First, check the unit to make sure this feature is activated. Then, for protection during a blackout, think about investing in a small portable generator, whole-home standby generator, or battery backup power supply for your tankless water heater.
To learn more about your pipes or water heater possibly freezing this winter, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. Our well-trained plumbers can accomplish any water heater repair or replacement you need. We can also recommend steps to help your pipes and plumbing appliances last longer in any weather. For more information or to plan a visit, please contact a Service Experts office near you today.
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