When winter temperatures plummet, your water heater often feels the effects. A residential tank-style water heater stores at least 40 gallons of heated water on stand-by at all times. In winter, temperatures where the water heater is installed — often a garage, a basement or even just an under-heated utility room — are lower than normal. This accelerates heat loss from water inside the tank. Higher energy costs and increased wear and tear on the water heater result.
Taking a few steps to prepare your water heater for winter can help reduce utility expenses and also perhaps extend the lifespan of the heater.
- Set the temperature. A water heater thermostat setting of 120 degrees is generally optimum. First, it reduces the hazard of scalding which occurs rapidly when exposed to higher temperatures. Second, in cold conditions, higher water temperature means faster thermal loss from the tank. The burner cycles on more frequently and energy consumption is greater.
- Insulate the pipe. Locate the hot water pipe leading away from the water heater. Install lengths of slip-on foam pipe insulation anywhere you can access the pipe. This reduces thermal loss and helps sustain consistent hot water temperature throughout the home.
- Flush out sediment. Mineral sediment accumulating in the bottom of the tank reduces water heating performance as well as energy efficiency. Because the burner runs longer cycles to overcome the effect of mineral residue inside the tank — especially in cold conditions — the service life of the heater may also be reduced. A qualified plumber can flush the tank in a short procedure.
- Put on a blanket. An insulating blanket wrapped around the heater helps reduce tank heat loss in winter. These products are sized for the type (gas or electric) as well as size of the heater. Gas water heater blankets should be installed by a plumber to ensure that air openings to the burner are unobstructed and that the burner flame cannot contact the blanket.
Our goal is to help educate our customers in Traverse City, Michigan and surrounding areas about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about water heaters and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Guide or call us at 231-714-6196.
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