Please choose a Location

Can Water Heaters Freeze?

Depending on where you live, mild weather or extreme cold may be the norm in the wintertime. Regardless, your water heater works harder when the temperature drops outside the house. This begs the question — can water heaters freeze?

While relatively rare, it’s certainly not impossible for a water heater to freeze. The biggest 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.

Rest assured that water heaters are engineered to remain operational no matter how cold it gets outside. Even so, it never hurts to take safeguards if bitter cold temps are heading your way, especially if your water heater is placed outside.

Drain the Water Heater

Before going away on an extended getaway this winter, think about bleeding out the water heater to bypass a plumbing crisis while you’re away. You might also wish to 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 automatically and drains the water heater during a power outage.

Here’s how to drain a water heater tank by hand:

    1. Turn off the cold-water supply valve, gas supply valve, and temperature control knob.
    1. Flip the circuit breaker delivering electricity to the water heater.
    1. Connect a hose to the drain valve or place a bucket underneath it to capture 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 cold snap subsides. The associated increase in your utility bill is well worth avoiding a frozen water heater. This technique also helps reduce the risk of frozen and burst pipes.

Install Insulation

Plumbing insulation is very affordable and comes in a variety of forms. You can insulate your water heater tank with a unique blanket to help reduce standby heat loss and provide protection against cold weather.

Naturally, pipes are more likely to freeze than water heaters. In addition to 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 warm the pipes above freezing point. Only certain 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 primary goal of this system is to push hot water to the tap rapidly, shortening the wait time and reducing the volume of water that pours down the drain. A hot water recirculation system is useful, water-wise and energy-efficient. It also warms the pipes during the cold months and makes your tankless water heater less prone to freezing. These bundled benefits could justify the installation cost, particularly in cold climates.

Choose a Suitable Installation Spot

Almost all North American homes 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 practice is reasonably safe in those specific climates, the occasional deep freeze can have negative effects on outdoor water heaters. Consequently, you should insist that your next water heater be setup inside, or at the very least in a covered spot sheltered from the wind.

Choose a Water Heater with Built-In Freeze Protection

Most 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 option is to install it outside.

Different manufacturers use different freeze-prevention methods. Several have an electric element that yields an adequate amount of heat to avoid internal freezing. Others fire up the gas burners to warm a small amount of water and, in turn, keep the tankless cabinet frost-free.

Regardless of the method, water heater freeze protection is only successful when utilized. First, check the unit to make sure this feature is activated. Then, for protection during a blackout, consider buying 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 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 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