What Happens if Your Hot Water Heater Freezes
If you have a hot water heater in your home, it’s important to know what to do if it ever freezes. A frozen hot water heater can be a major inconvenience, and can even lead to extensive damage.
In this guide, we will discuss what happens when a hot water heater freezes, and how you can prevent it from happening.
Reasons Why Your Hot Water Heater Might Freeze
There are a few reasons why your hot water heater might freeze. Here are a few of the most common ones:
Reason 1 - The water in the tank is not being circulated
If the water in your hot water heater’s tank is not being circulated, it can cause the water to freeze. This usually happens when there isn’t enough demand for hot water.
Reason 2 - The ambient temperature is too cold
If the surrounding temperature is too cold, it can cause your water heater to freeze. Water heaters are designed to operate in specific temperature ranges, and if the surrounding temperature drops below that range, it can cause problems.
Reason 3 - The thermostat is set too low
If your thermostat is set too low, water can become trapped in the heating element, and cause it to overheat. This will not only cause your hot water heater to freeze, but it can also lead to serious damage to the unit. Here is how you turn up the hot water heater temperature.
Reason 4 - There is a problem with the heating element
If your water heater is electric, one of the most common reasons for it freezing is because there is a problem with the heating element. If this is the case, you’ll need to call a professional to come and take a look at it.
Reason 5 - There is a leak in the tank
If there is a leak in your hot water heater, it could be because the tank has frozen. This can cause the water pressure to build up, and eventually burst the tank. If this happens, you will need to replace the entire unit.
Signs of Hot Water Heater Freezes
There are several signs that you can look for that will indicate that your hot water heater is freezing. These include:
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take action immediately. The longer you wait, the more damage can be done to your hot water heater.
What Happens if Your Hot Water Heater Freezes?
If your hot water heater freezes, it can lead to a number of problems. Here are a few of the most common problems that can occur:
Problem 1 - The pipes may burst
If the pipes connected to your hot water heater freeze, they may burst. This can cause extensive damage to your home, and will require costly repairs. If the pipes burst, you will also need to have the hot water heater replaced.
Problem 2 - The tank may crack
If the water in the tank freezes, it can cause the tank to crack. A cracked tank will need to be replaced, and can also be a very costly repair. This is why it’s so important to prevent your hot water heater from freezing to begin with.
Problem 3 - The heating element may be damaged
If the heating element is damaged, it may need to be replaced. This is a serious problem, and you’ll probably need to call a plumber. However, if you catch the problem early enough, you may be able to replace the heating element yourself.
Problem 4 - The thermostat may be broken
If your water heater is over ten years old, the thermostat may be failing. This is a mechanical part, and they do fail eventually. If it’s not working properly, it could cause the unit to overheat and shut off. Or, it could also cause the unit to freeze up in very cold weather.
Problem 5 - The pressure relief valve may be frozen
The pressure relief valve is a vital component of your hot water heater. Its job is to release excess pressure from the tank in order to keep it from exploding. However, if this valve becomes frozen, it can’t do its job properly. This puts your entire hot water heater at risk.
How to Keep Your Hot Water Heater from Freezing
Now that you know what can happen if your hot water heater freezes, let’s discuss how to prevent it from happening. Here are a few tips:
Insulate your hot water heater
If your hot water heater is located in an unheated area, such as a basement or garage, you should insulate it. This will help keep the water in the tank from freezing. You can buy special blankets that are designed for hot water heaters, or you can use other insulation materials.
Set the thermostat to at least 55 degrees fahrenheit
As we mentioned earlier, the thermostat should be set to at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit in order to prevent the water from freezing. Any lower and it might freeze, while turning it up too high may cause it to overheat.
Drain the hot water heater periodically
Draining the hot water heater on a regular basis will help to prevent sediment from building up and causing problems. This is especially important if you have hard water. This will help keep your hot water heater in good working condition, and will also help prevent freezing.
Keep the area around the hot water heater clean
Keeping the area around your hot water heater clean will help prevent problems from occurring. Make sure that there is nothing blocking the vents or exhaust pipes. Also, be sure to remove any flammable materials, such as gasoline, from the area.
Do Hot Water Lines Freeze First?
One of the most common questions we get is “Do hot water lines freeze first?”
The answer to this question is no, hot water lines do not freeze first. In fact, they are less likely to freeze than cold water lines. This is because hot water lines are typically located inside your home, where it is warmer. Coldwater lines, on the other hand, are typically located outside, where they are exposed to the cold weather.
However, just because hot water lines are less likely to freeze, doesn’t mean that it can’t happen. If the temperature inside your home drops below freezing, it is possible for your hot water lines to freeze. This is why it’s so important to take steps to prevent your hot water heater from freezing.
Can a Water Heater Freeze Up?
Yes, a water heater can freeze up. This usually happens in very cold weather when the tank isn’t being used much. The water inside the tank cools down and can turn to ice, especially if there’s any moisture on the outside of the tank.
When this happens, you won’t have any hot water until the ice melts. To thaw a frozen water heater, turn off the power to the unit and open all the faucets in your home. Once the ice has melted, you can turn the power back on and resume using your hot water heater as usual.
If your water heater is located in an area that gets very cold, you may want to consider insulating it to help prevent it from freezing. You can purchase special blankets for this purpose at most hardware stores. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully so you don’t damage the unit.
How Long Until the Hot Water Comes Back?
It usually takes around an hour for the hot water to come back after the ice has melted. However, this will depend on how much ice was in the tank, and how cold it is outside. If it’s very cold outside, it may take longer for the ice to melt.
You can speed up the process by turning on a space heater and pointing it towards the tank. Just be sure to keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overheat. Once the ice has melted and the hot water is back, you can resume using your hot water heater as usual.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does the water heater freezing affect the warranty?
Most manufacturers void the warranty if the unit is not properly maintained. This includes taking steps to prevent the water heater from freezing. If your unit is under warranty, be sure to check the terms and conditions to see if freezing voids the warranty.
Do tankless water heaters freeze?
Yes, a tankless water heater can freeze, just like traditional water heaters. However, they are less likely to freeze because they don’t have a tank full of water that can cool down and turn to ice. Tankless water heaters are also typically located inside the home, where it is warmer.
Can pipes burst if the water is turned off?
If the water is turned off to prevent the pipes from freezing, they will not burst. However, if the pipes are already frozen, and you turn off the water, they may burst when the ice thaws. This is why it’s so important to take steps to prevent your pipes from freezing in the first place.