Can Your Outdoor Tankless Water Heater Handle The Big Chill?

Construction & Contractors Articles

With Winter Storm Jonas doing a number on the East Coast, you're probably wondering if your tankless water heater can withstand a sustained bout of below-freezing temperatures. If your tankless water heater happens to reside outdoors, then chances are you're definitely worried about how well it'll perform under a sudden cold snap.

The following can help put your mind at ease and show you how to keep your outdoor-mounted water heater going strong.

Built-in Freeze Protection Can Help

Most outdoor-mounted water heaters come with a built-in freeze protection system. Such systems normally consist of an electric heater that's integrated into the unit. The freeze protection system usually kicks in when outdoor temperatures drop near or below freezing, preventing the water within the tankless water heater from freezing solid.

The only caveat is that freeze protection systems rely on the electric power being on at all times in order to work. If a power outage occurs due to a fallen branch or heavy ice on the power line, you'll need a generator just to keep your tankless water heater's freeze protection going. Fortunately, some tankless water heaters are designed to automatically shut off and purge themselves of water in the event of a power outage.

Your Pipes May Also Need a Little TLC

The pipes that run in and out of your outdoor-mounted tankless water heater can prove exceptionally vulnerable in below-freezing weather. Since the freeze protection offered on most units doesn't extend to these areas, you'll have to come up with a protective solution on your own.

Wrapping your water pipes with electric heater tape can help provide a temporary solution to freezing temperatures. As you wrap the tape around the pipe, make sure to not overlap the tape, as this could lead to overheating and an increased fire risk.

You can also use fiberglass or polyethylene pipe wrap as a passive, energy-saving way of keeping your pipes from freezing. Having your pipes insulated raises the hot water temperature by as much as 4 degrees Fahrenheit, letting you save money by reducing water heater temperatures by the same amount.

Chilly Winds Could Hurt Your Water Heater

Wind direction might've been the last thing you were thinking about when installing your outdoor-mounted tankless water heater, but it could mean the difference between a working water heater and one that's frozen solid. Direct wind gusts could easily cause water heater temperatures to plummet faster than being exposed to the surrounding cold air.

If your tankless water heater is already installed in an area that's constantly exposed to wind gusts, consider having a wind break placed near the unit. You can create a natural wind break out of carefully placed trees and shrubbery or use a solid decorative fence as an artificial wind break. Just remember to leave some space so the technician can easily gain access to the water heater for inspection and repairs.

If you haven't installed an outdoor-mounted tankless water heater just yet, consider having it installed on a side of your house that's constantly shielded from strong winds.

Consider an Inside Strategy

Keep in mind that outdoor-mounted tankless water heaters are really meant for use in temperate climates, where snowfall and ice are relatively rare events. If you live in an area where below-freezing temperatures are relatively frequent, you may want to consider bringing your outdoor-mounted tankless water heater out of the cold.

Swapping it for an indoor-mounted unit can help sidestep many of the problems that come with using outdoor-mounted units in cold weather. 

With the right amount of preparation, your outdoor-mounted tankless water heater can withstand a few days of freezing temperatures. However, weeks or even months of consistently chilly temperatures could degrade your water heater's overall performance. Contact companies like First Class Plumbing of Florida Inc. for more information.

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