Can Water Heaters Freeze?

Based on your location, mild weather or severe cold may be ordinary this winter. Either way, your water heater must work harder when the temperature drops outside. This begs the question — can water heaters freeze?

While extremely rare, it’s definitely not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The biggest concern is that any standing water found in the tank or tankless unit will freeze and expand, ruining the appliance along the way. If this happens, you may have no choice but to replace the water heater.

Rest assured that water heaters are engineered to be operational despite how cold it gets outside. Still, it is always prudent to take safety measures if sub-zero temperatures are in the forecast, especially if your water heater is installed outside.

Drain the Water Heater

Before going away on an extended getaway this winter, think about emptying 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 instantly and drains the water heater during a power failure.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through it:

    1. Turn off the cold-water supply valve, gas supply valve, and temperature control knob.
    1. Flip the circuit breaker delivering power to the water heater.
    1. Attach a hose to the drain valve or place a bucket beneath it to catch the water.
    1. Open the valve to begin the flow of water.
    1. Keep draining until the tank is empty, then close the valve.

Let the Water Run – A Little

Consider letting a trickle of hot water flowing from a faucet or two until the arctic cold weather subsides. The resulting slight increase in your water bill is well worth averting a frozen water heater. This approach also helps reduce the risk of frozen and burst pipes.

Install Insulation

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 give protection against cold weather.

Naturally, pipes are more prone to freeze than water heaters. Beyond 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 ensure the pipes don’t drop in temperature below freezing. Only a few types of heat tape are compatible with insulation, so read the instructions carefully if you plan to use them together.

Put in a Hot Water Recirculation System

The basic goal of this system is to push hot water to the tap faster, reducing the wait time and reducing the amount of water that flows 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 susceptible to freezing. These overall benefits could warrant the installation cost, especially in cold climates.

Choose a Suitable Installation Spot

The majority of North American households have indoor water heaters. But, in mild southern climates, water heaters are sometimes installed in the garage or even outside. While this practice is fine for those climates, the occasional deep freeze can have negative effects on outdoor water heaters. Consequently, you should insist that your next water heater be installed inside, or at the very least in a covered location sheltered from the wind.

Choose a Water Heater with Built-In Freeze Prevention

Most 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 alternative is to install it outside.

Different brands use different freeze-prevention methods. Several have an electric element that yields a sufficient amount of 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 successful when turned on. First, check the unit to make sure this feature is switched on. Then, for protection during a power failure, look into purchasing a small portable generator, whole-home standby generator, or battery backup power supply for your tankless water heater.

Schedule Water Heater Services

For more information about your pipes or water heater possibly 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 plan a visit, please contact a Service Experts office near you today.

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >
Offer

$50 OFF ANY REPAIR

  • Save $50 on a Paid Service
  • Written 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
  • Plus, ask how to save an additional 15% and waive your trip charge!
print
Offer

MAKE NO PAYMENTS FOR 30 DAYS!

  • Upgrade to Worry-Free Comfort with the Advantage Program and make NO payments for 30 days!
print

© 2024 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.

Chat with a Service Experts Professional