Depending on where you live, mild weather or harsh cold may be ordinary this winter. Regardless, your water heater works harder when the temperature drops outside. This begs the question — can water heaters freeze?
While extremely rare, it’s actually not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The biggest concern is that any standing water on the inside of the tank or tankless unit will freeze and expand, ruining the appliance at the same time. 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 despite how cold the weather is. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take precautions if sub-zero temperatures are in the forecast, even more so if your water heater is placed outside.
Before departing on an extended getaway this winter, think about draining the water heater to prevent a plumbing emergency while you’re away. You might also wish to drain the tank if the power goes out to avoid potential freezing. As an added precaution, you might choose to install a freeze protection solenoid valve, which opens automatically and drains the water heater during a power disruption.
Here’s how to drain a water heater tank by hand:
Consider letting a trickle of hot water flowing from a faucet or two until the cold snap subsides. The resulting slight increase in your water bill is well worth averting a frozen water heater. This technique also helps prevent frozen and burst pipes.
There are many types of plumbing insulation that you can purchase. You can insulate your water heater tank with a special blanket to help reduce standby heat loss and give protection against cold weather.
Obviously, pipes are more inclined to freeze than water heaters. Along with running a trickle of hot water, you can shield exposed pipes situated outside or along exterior walls by wrapping them in foam insulation. Another option is to 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 objective of this system is to transfer hot water to the tap rapidly, shortening the wait time and reducing the amount of water that flows down the drain. A hot water recirculation system is useful, water-wise and energy-efficient. It also keeps your pipes warm in the winter and makes your tankless water heater less susceptible to freezing. These overall benefits could warrant the installation cost, particularly in cold climates.
Almost all North American properties have indoor water heaters. Nevertheless, in mild southern climates, water heaters are once in a while installed in the garage or even outside. While this approach is fine for those climates, the rare deep freeze can have ruinous effects on outdoor water heaters. Consequently, you should insist that your next water heater be placed inside, or at the very least in a covered area 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 choice is to install it outside.
Different products use different freeze-prevention methods. Several have an electric element that supplies a sufficient amount of heat to avoid internal freezing. Others fire up the gas burners to heat a small amount of water and, in short, keep the tankless cabinet frost-free.
No matter the method, water heater freeze protection is only effective when activated. First, check the unit to make sure this feature is engaged. Then, for protection during a blackout, look into purchasing 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 complete any water heater repair or replacement you need. We can also propose steps to help your pipes and plumbing appliances last longer in any weather. For more information or to schedule a visit, please contact a Service Experts office near you today.
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