Based on your location, mild weather or extreme cold may be the norm this winter. Regardless, your water heater must work harder when the temperature drops outside the house. This makes many people ask the question — can water heaters freeze?
While extremely 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, permanently damaging the appliance at the same time. If this happens, you may have few options but to replace the water heater.
Rest assured that water heaters are engineered to stay operational despite how cold it gets outside. Still, it doesn’t hurt to take safeguards if bitter cold temps are heading your way, especially if your water heater is set up outside.
Before going away on an extended trip this winter, consider emptying the water heater to bypass a plumbing disaster 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 might choose to install a freeze protection solenoid valve, which opens automatically and drains the water heater during a power outage.
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 cold snap subsides. The associated increase in your utility bill is well worth preventing a frozen water heater. This technique also helps reduce the risk of 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 decrease standby heat loss and give protection against cold weather.
Of course, pipes are more inclined to freeze than water heaters. In addition to running a trickle of hot water, you can protect exposed pipes located outside or along exterior walls by wrapping them in foam insulation. You can also install electric heat tape to warm the pipes above freezing point. 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 main objective of this system is to transfer hot water to the tap faster, shortening the wait time and reducing the quantity of water that pours 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 susceptible to freezing. These combined benefits could warrant the installation cost, particularly in cold climates.
Most North American properties have indoor water heaters. However, in mild southern climates, water heaters are occasionally installed in the garage or even outside. While this practice is perfectly safe most of the time, the unexpected deep freeze can have negative effects on outdoor water heaters. Because of this, you should demand that your next water heater be installed inside, or at minimum in a covered spot sheltered from the wind.
Most 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. Several have an electric element that provides just enough heat to protect against internal freezing. Others fire up the gas burners to warm 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 activated. 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.
For answers to questions about your pipes or water heater potentially 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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