How to Prepare your Water Heater for the Winter

Modern Automatic Water Heater in front of brick wall. 3d Rendering.

With the weather cooling down, now is the time to start getting your home ready for the winter. If you want to continue enjoying your hot water throughout the chilly winter months, it’s essential to prepare your water heater for winter. Here are 5 steps to help get your water heater in top shape for the cold winter months.

Insulate your Tank Water Heater and Pipes

As the weather cools down, keeping your hot water as hot as possible is essential. Standby heat losses that can occur as hot water sits in the tank drive up utility costs with extra electricity and gas usage. Insulating the tank and the pipes leading away from the water heater helps to reduce heat loss. Newer water heater tanks often already have this insulation built in, but if you have an older tank, you can purchase a tank cover that provides an extra layer of insulation to keep hot water hotter. Your plumber can adequately measure and install this tank insulation for you. Otherwise, consider upgrading to one of the newer tank heaters with built-in insulation if you’re due for a water heater replacement.

Check the Anode Rod

The sacrificial anode rod is an essential part of tank water heaters because it rusts away and ‘sacrifices’ itself, so your heater tank doesn’t rust. The sacrificial anode rod is located at the top of the tank, and the pre-winter inspection is an ideal time to check it. Anode rods last for 5 years but should be checked annually. If the rod is coated in calcium buildup or worn away to less than 1/4 thick, it’s time to replace it.

Plumber adjusting a water heater's temperature

Adjust Temperature

Just before winter is the perfect time to review and adjust the temperature setting on your tank water heater. While it’s tempting to want to turn the dial up in winter, it’s better to save energy and maintain water temperature through cleaning or insulation and leaving the temperature dial lower. Turning the temperature down even 1-2 degrees can make a significant difference to energy consumption.

Clean Out the Tank

Excess sediment and calcium buildup can coat the tank sides and an element of your water heater, reducing its efficiency and producing less hot water for you. Before the coldest months of the year, you want to ensure your water heater is functioning as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Hot water tanks may need to be drained 1-2 times a year to clear build up and prolong the life of the tank. To drain the tank, turn off the water, and gas or power supplies. Connect a hose to the drain valve and let it flow to a drain on the ground. Open the drain valve and the temperature-pressure regulator valve and let the tank drain. Once empty you can flush the tank with more cold water to get all the sediment out. Your plumber can also help you inspect the water heater element for any signs of calcification.

Assess the Temperature Pressure Regulator

This valve on the top or side of your tank releases water from the tank automatically if temperature or pressure rises too high. Check the valve by lifting the lever and then releasing it. You should hear pressure escaping or see water. If the valve is not working or water continues leaking, contact your plumber for expert service.


With these 5 simple steps, you can get your water heater ready for winter. For more ways to protect and prolong the life of your heater, talk to your local plumber, Magnificient Plumbing for expert advice.

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