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Maintaining a Hot Water Heater in Winter

Winter is coming, and with it comes sub-zero temperatures that would make showering bone-chilling in the most literal sense of the word. Hence, the coldest season of the year is when we usually appreciate water heaters as they allow us to enjoy warm and relaxing showers even if it’s freezing outside.

As many are probably aware, winter can seriously affect your plumbing system and will usually extend to your water heater. This vital home appliance is subjected to significant stress when exposed to lower temperatures. Thus, you must understand how cold weather affects your heater and the importance of regular water heater maintenance, so your unit doesn’t suffer any serious damage.

Reasons Water Heaters Malfunction in Winter

We all know water heaters often work harder during the cold months. Thus, before the first snowflake falls, we must ensure that they’re in great condition for them to be able to provide us with hot water whenever we need it. If they’re not functioning as they should be, here are some of the things you should look into:

1. Plumbing

Temperature drops will directly affect your plumbing pipes and the water that flows through them. It is not unusual for the water temperature in the faucet, shower head, and water heater to drop by as much as 10 degrees. If the water becomes too cold, it could freeze and get stuck inside the pipes. This will prevent your heater from providing you with hot water. Even worse is that the pipes could burst, causing water damage in your home.

2. Location

Several places in the home are unusually cold. Placing the water heater in these areas will cool its system, forcing the unit to exert extra effort to heat water.

While the location may not be among the common problems with water heaters, it should still be considered a contributing factor. Where you place your heater can influence its performance.

3. Temperature

The sub-zero temperatures during winter can cause water in your pipes to freeze. As a result, your heater must work harder to produce the needed hot water.

4. Demand

The hot water needs of your family will definitely increase during the cold months. To meet the increased demand, your water heater often has to face tremendous pressure to deliver the required service.

How to Maintain a Hot Water Heater in Winter

Relying on your water heater will mean putting the unit under a lot of stress, which can lead to system problems and even failure. To prevent this from happening, you should prepare your heater for winter by following the below heater maintenance tips:

1. Check the Location

Some places have varying temperatures, forcing people to move some appliances like water heaters to ensure their safety. Double-check if the new place is warm enough if you need to move your heater. Placing the heater in cold garages, sheds, and drafty basements is poor water heater maintenance. These places can cool the unit, forcing it to work hard to provide you with hot water.

2. Drain the Heater

Every year, the storage tank of your water heater should be drained to remove any sediment or mineral deposits that may have accumulated at the bottom. These impurities can make your water heater less efficient, waste energy, and cause an early system failure.

3. Examine the Anode Rod

Anode rods are made from aluminum or magnesium and are sometimes called sacrificial rods. They are essential components of a water heater as they protect the tank from rust by attracting the corrosive elements found in water. Consequently, the anode rod becomes rusty and will need to be replaced.

4. Adjust the Temperature

When the outside temperature drops in the winter, so will your water temperature. It means that your water heater will need to be set at an average temperature to warm water and send this through your pipes.

The general recommendation for maintaining a hot water heater is to set the thermostat at 120 degrees F. This can prevent scalding, but a lower temperature setting can be programmed if you also want to save energy.

5. Test the TPR Valve

TPR stands for Temperature and Pressure Relief and is a valve designed to open automatically and release excess pressure from your heater. The TPR valve, however, can get damaged at some point, so you need to test if it’s functioning properly.

To do this, gently pull up the attached tab and ensure that hot water is escaping from the discharge tube. If little to no water is coming out, or if water is still running after closing the tab, it’s a sign that the valve is damaged and should be replaced immediately.

6. Insulate the Tank

Insulating the tank is a good way of maintaining a hot water heater, especially if you expect extreme temperature drops. This can be done by wrapping the tank with foil insulation blankets and cutting them to fit around your heater’s valves, thermostats, and pipes. Tank insulation will also help you conserve heat, making your heater more efficient.

7. Check the Pipes

Traditional water heaters have insulated pipes designed to increase efficiency. When insulating the heater, the pipes should also be included for that extra layer of protection. The insulation process for this may sound complicated, but it’s not. A simple pipe sleeve will often suffice as insulation material.

8. Inspect the Vents

All vents in your water heater should be checked for any obstructions, such as leaves, scraps, and other debris. The performance of your heater could be affected by anything that blocks the entry of oxygen or the release of CO2 exhaust.

9. Test the Flood System

Flood stop systems are hard-wired with existing electrical systems and placed near the water heater. These have sensors placed in the heater’s pan.

If water is detected near the area, the system will shut off the heater’s power supply and sound an alarm. This helps prevent flooding and water heater damage and can be useful if you have out-of-town travel plans during winter.

Key Takeaway

A crucial home appliance during winter is the water heater. It can supply you with relaxing warm water for drinking, bathing, and washing even if the outside temperature is freezing.

Given their essential role, water heaters need to be appropriately maintained. This is especially true during the cold months when they have to work double time. By regularly checking its various parts for signs of damage, you get to have an idea if your heater is still in tip-top shape. Otherwise, you may need to call a water heater technician to have your unit repaired or replaced.

Are you having problems maintaining a hot water heater for winter? Let A Better Plumber help you.

Before winter comes around, you must prepare your home water heater to handle freezing temperatures. If you have difficulties doing this, especially in cleaning out water heaters, A Better Plumber is ready to help.

We have professionals that can handle top-notch services for plumbing in Denver CO who will be more than happy to assist you. Call us now so we can help you prepare your winter plumbing plan.

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