Depending on where you live, mild weather or extreme cold may be typical in the wintertime. In either case, your water heater has to work harder when the temperature drops outside. This begs the question — can water heaters freeze?
Although very rare, it’s definitely not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The main concern is that any standing water found in the tank or tankless unit will freeze and expand, permanently damaging the appliance at the same time. If this happens, you may be left with no alternative but to replace the water heater.
Rest assured that water heaters are built to stay operational no matter how cold the weather is. Even so, it doesn’t hurt to take safeguards if bitter cold temps are heading your way, even more so if your water heater is set up outside.
Before departing on an extended vacation this winter, give thought to bleeding out the water heater to bypass a plumbing emergency while you’re away. You can also drain the tank if power is lost to avoid possible freezing. For added protection, you might choose to install a freeze protection solenoid valve, which opens conveniently and drains the water heater during a power outage.
Here’s how to drain a water heater tank by hand:
Give some thought to leaving 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 preventing a frozen water heater. This method 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 cut down on standby heat loss and give protection against cold weather.
Of course, pipes are more inclined to freeze than water heaters. Beyond 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 warm the pipes above freezing point. 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 primary purpose of this system is to transfer hot water to the tap faster, shortening the wait time and reducing the quantity of water that is wasted 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 validate the installation cost, especially in cold climates.
Almost all North American homes have indoor water heaters. Nevertheless, in mild southern climates, water heaters are occasionally installed in the garage or even outside. While this practice is reasonably safe in those specific climates, the rare deep freeze can have negative effects on outdoor water heaters. Consequently, you should demand that your next water heater be setup inside, or at minimum 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. Make sure your next water heater has this feature, especially if the only choice is to install it outside.
Different brands use different freeze-prevention methods. Some have an electric element that provides an adequate amount of heat to prevent internal freezing. Others fire up the gas burners to raise the temperature of a small amount of water and, in short, keep the tankless cabinet frost-free.
Regardless of the method, water heater freeze protection is only effective when turned on. First, check the unit to make sure this feature is switched on. Then, for protection during a power outage, consider 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 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.
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you just had an icy cold shower or turned on the faucet to discover that your house doesn’t have hot water. It’s an annoying situation, but don’t fret. Learning the most likely things that leave you with no hot water is the first step... Continue reading
Heat pump water heaters, also called hybrid water heaters, are an innovative and eco-friendly solution that might be ideal for your household’s hot water needs. Dig into the inner workings of these unique systems and explore their pros and cons to help you decide if a heat pump water heater is... Continue reading
Your faucets, showerheads and plumbing appliances consume plenty of hot water. Believe it or not, the Department of Energy says that water heating is the second-largest utility cost behind space heating and cooling, accounting for approximately 18% of your monthly bill. Find out more about how... Continue reading
© 2023 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.