How Do I Protect My Water Heater This Winter?

How Do I Protect My Water Heater This Winter

It’s hard to imagine a winter without hot water, but this is the situation you could be facing if you don’t take care of your water heater, both regarding preparing it for winter and also concerning protecting it during winter.

The best way to protect your water heater may differ depending on whether it is a tank style storage heater or whether it is a tankless on-demand heater. It is also important to consider where you live and whether the heater might be subjected to freezing temperatures or not. Here are the different ways you can assess and protect your heater for this winter.

Protecting a Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are more expensive to install, but they have several advantages over storage heaters. Tankless water heaters have a reputation for not coping well in cold climates, but natural gas on demand heaters can be beneficial in cold weather and cold climates.

Typically, as long as the electricity and gas supplies are working, tankless water heaters themselves need no protection from freezing weather. This is because some power is used to prevent freezing during cold weather, even when the water heater is not in use. However, it is vital that you do not disconnect your tankless water heater from power, as this could cause the water inside the heater to freeze. If a tankless heater is going to be exposed to extreme cold or left for an extended period, it should be drained. You can talk to your plumber about more specific details for protecting your tankless water heater in winter depending on your climate.

Protecting a Tank Water Heater

A tank storage-style water heater may require more protection during the winter months for optimum function.

Conduct a general inspection and tune-up on your water heater tank before the coldest season starts. Inspect the tank and connections for leaks, check the temperature pressure releasing valve, and confirm that the sacrificial anode rod is still functional. If you notice calcification or sediment build up in your tank, it might be worth draining the tank to clear it out and boost efficiency.

drain storage tank beforehand to prevent risk of it freezing If your water heater tank is placed in a spot where it is exposed to the cold, the variations in temperature could cause it to crack, which is a severe problem. Many newer water heater tanks are already insulated. Check to see if your tank has an “R” value of over 24. If the R value is less than 24, or if the tank is warm to the touch, then you should consider insulating your water tank. You can do this yourself by purchasing a relatively inexpensive water heater tank cover, or have your plumber do this for you.


If you plan to be away from your house for an extended period over winter, and freezing temperatures are likely, it is advisable to drain the storage tank beforehand to prevent the risk of it freezing.

Keeping the Intake and Exhaust Vents Clear

In the winter snow and other debris can block the intake and exhaust vents. These blockages can cause serious damage, so it is a good idea to check these vents regularly and ensure they are clear.

Protecting External Pipes

One of the biggest problem with both tank and tankless water heaters in cold weather is uninsulated pipes. Uninsulated pipes not only promote heat loss from your hot water, but they can also freeze and cause burst pipes.

  • Keeping internal pipes warm can prevent heat loss so use the central heating for a short time every day. Consider leaving cupboard doors ajar, doors between rooms ajar, access to your loft or roof space open, to allow the warm air to move around the house.
  • Adding pipe insulation is an inexpensive way to protect pipes and reduce heat loss. Your plumber can install custom fitted pipe insulation to provide added protection this winter.

For more ideas on keeping your plumbing and hot water system safe and protected this winter, talk to your local plumber, Magnificent Plumbing for expert advice to reduce energy costs and boost comfort.

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