Depending on where you live, mild weather or intense cold may be ordinary in the wintertime. Regardless, your water heater has to work harder when the temperature drops outside. This prompts the question — can water heaters freeze?
Although very rare, it’s actually not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The main concern is that any standing water inside the tank or tankless unit will freeze and expand, destroying the appliance in the process. If this happens, you may have few options but to replace the water heater.
Now, it’s worth mentioning that modern water heaters are engineered to stay operational despite how cold the temperature drops. Even so, it never hurts to take safeguards if sub-zero temperatures are in the forecast, even more so if your water heater is placed outside.
Before leaving on an extended trip this winter, think about draining the water heater to bypass a plumbing crisis while you’re away. You might also wish to drain the tank if your home loses power for an extended period to avoid possible freezing. To provide greater comfort and security, you may want to install a freeze protection solenoid valve, which opens conveniently and drains the water heater during a power failure.
Here’s how to accomplish this task yourself:
Think about keeping a trickle of hot water flowing from a faucet or two until the arctic cold weather subsides. The associated increase in your utility bill is well worth averting a frozen water heater. This approach 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 special 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 shield exposed pipes situated outside or along exterior walls by wrapping them in foam insulation. You can also install electric heat tape to keep the pipes just above freezing. Only a few types of heat tape are compatible with insulation, so read the directions for use carefully if you plan to use them together.
The basic intent of this system is to transfer hot water to the tap quicker, decreasing the wait time and reducing the volume of water that is wasted down the drain. A hot water recirculation system is useful, 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 warrant the installation cost, particularly in cold climates.
Almost all North American properties have indoor water heaters. However, in mild southern climates, water heaters are once in a while installed in the garage or even outside. While this approach is perfectly safe most of the time, the unexpected deep freeze can have catastrophic effects on outdoor water heaters. For this reason, you should insist that your next water heater be placed inside, or at the very least in a covered area sheltered from the wind.
The majority 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 provides just enough heat to avoid internal freezing. Others light 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 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.
For more information 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 propose steps to help your pipes and plumbing appliances last longer in any weather. For more information or to arrange a visit, please contact a Service Experts office near you today.
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