Depending on where you live, mild weather or extreme cold may be the norm this winter. Either way, your water heater works harder when the temperature drops outside. This makes many people ask the question — can water heaters freeze?
While relatively rare, it’s certainly not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The leading concern is that any standing water inside the tank or tankless unit will freeze and expand, destroying the appliance along the way. If this happens, you may have few options but to replace the water heater.
Today’s water heaters are built to remain operational no matter how cold the weather is. Still, it never hurts to take safeguards if a deep freeze is in the forecast, particularly if your water heater is placed outside.
Before heading out on an extended trip this winter, consider bleeding out the water heater to prevent a plumbing emergency while you’re away. You might also wish to drain the tank if power is lost to avoid possible freezing. To provide greater comfort and security, 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:
Give some thought to keeping 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 avoiding 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 unique blanket to help decrease standby heat loss and offer protection against cold weather.
Naturally, pipes are more likely to freeze than water heaters. Along with running a trickle of hot water, you can cover exposed pipes found outside or along exterior walls by wrapping them in foam insulation. Another option is to install electric heat tape to keep the pipes just above freezing. Only some types of heat tape are compatible with insulation, so read the directions for use carefully if you plan to use them together.
The primary objective of this system is to transfer hot water to the tap faster, reducing the wait time and reducing the quantity of water that is wasted down the drain. A hot water recirculation system is simple, water-wise and energy-efficient. It also keeps your pipes warm in the winter and makes your tankless water heater less likely to freeze. These paired benefits could justify the installation cost, especially in cold climates.
The majority of North American properties have indoor water heaters. However, in mild southern climates, water heaters are sometimes installed in the garage or even outside. While this practice is fine for those climates, the rare deep freeze can have ruinous effects on outdoor water heaters. Because of this, you should demand that your next water heater be setup 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 alternative is to install it outside.
Different brands use different freeze-prevention methods. Several have an electric element that supplies an adequate amount of heat to avoid internal freezing. Others fire up the gas burners to heat a small amount of water and, as a result, keep the tankless cabinet frost-free.
No matter the method, water heater freeze protection is only successful when turned on. First, check the unit to make sure this feature is engaged. Then, for protection during a power failure, look into 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 perform 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 schedule a visit, please contact a Service Experts office near you today.
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