Based on your location, mild weather or harsh cold may be the norm in the wintertime. In either case, your water heater must work harder when the temperature drops outside the house. This begs the question — can water heaters freeze?
While extremely rare, it’s actually not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The primary concern is that any standing water found in the tank or tankless unit will freeze and expand, permanently damaging the appliance along the way. If this happens, you may have no choice but to replace the water heater.
Today’s water heaters are engineered to stay operational no matter how cold it gets outside. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take safety measures if sub-zero temperatures are in the forecast, even more so if your water heater is installed outside.
Before departing on an extended trip this winter, think about draining the water heater to prevent a plumbing crisis while you’re away. You can also drain the tank if power is lost to avoid possible freezing. For added protection, you may want to install a freeze protection solenoid valve, which opens automatically and drains the water heater during a power failure.
Here’s how to accomplish this task yourself:
Think about letting a trickle of hot water flowing from a faucet or two until the bitter temperature subsides. The resulting slight increase in your water bill is well worth averting a frozen water heater. This approach also helps counter frozen and burst pipes.
Plumbing insulation comes in many forms. You can insulate your water heater tank with a specific blanket to help cut down on standby heat loss and deliver protection against cold weather.
Obviously, pipes are more inclined to freeze than water heaters. Beyond running a trickle of hot water, you can shield exposed pipes located outside or along exterior walls by wrapping them in foam insulation. Another option is to install electric heat tape to warm the pipes above freezing point. Only certain types of heat tape are compatible with insulation, so read the instructions carefully if you plan to use them together.
The basic intent of this system is to push hot water to the tap rapidly, reducing the wait time and reducing the volume of water that is wasted 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 likely to freeze. These bundled benefits could validate 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 practice is fine for those climates, the rare deep freeze can have negative effects on outdoor water heaters. As such, you should insist that your next water heater be setup inside, or at 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. Don’t buy a tankless water heater without this feature, especially if the only option is to install it outside.
Different manufacturers use different freeze-prevention methods. Many have an electric element that provides just enough heat to protect against internal freezing. Others spark the gas burners to heat a small amount of water and, in turn, keep the tankless cabinet frost-free.
Whatever the method, water heater freeze protection is only helpful when utilized. First, check the unit to make sure this feature is activated. Then, for protection during a power failure, think about 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 potentially freezing this winter, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning. Our well-trained plumbers can perform any water heater repair or replacement you need. We can also suggest 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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