Why Every Homeowner Should Consider Insulating Their Water Heater This Winter

Getting the Water Heater Ready for Winter

With winter just getting started, it’s time for homeowners to prepare their homes for the cold months ahead. Most people know to winterize their plumbing and get the heater serviced, but another vital part of the home may need a little help to get through the winter – the water heater.

With colder water coming into the home and many water heaters located in parts of the house that tend to be exposed to colder temperatures (be it a garage or an unfinished basement), adding insulation to the water heater can help protect the appliance and help it perform better. Homeowners can keep reading to learn everything they need about water heater insulation!

The Importance of Insulating the Water Heaterinsulating

Between the cold water coming in and the cold air surrounding the unit, a home’s water heater always works hardest in the winter months. The burners or heating elements will have to run longer and hotter to heat the incoming water to the correct temperature, then run more frequently to maintain that temperature in the hot water tank.

So by insulating the water heater itself, homeowners can reduce the amount of standby heat loss that occurs, which cuts down on the water heater’s workload. This will allow the unit to run more efficiently since incoming water will heat up faster and stay hot longer. And, of course, greater energy efficiency means lower utility bills. It’s estimated that homeowners can save as much as 16% on their water heating costs by adding insulation.

Insulation is particularly beneficial if the homeowners have an electric water heater since these tend to be less efficient and electricity generally costs more than natural gas, depending on the region. Most standby heat loss in gas water heaters goes up the exhaust flue, but insulation can still help reduce heat loss around the tank.

Does the Water Heater Need Insulation?

Most water heaters have some degree of insulation built in, but that doesn’t always mean they don’t need more. For instance, older units typically aren’t as well-insulated as newer models. Fortunately, manufacturers use a rating system to denote the efficacy of the tank’s insulation. This is known as a water heater’s “R-value” and can typically be found in the owner’s manual or the unit itself.

If the water heater’s R-value is below R-24, it’s a good idea to add insulation. Many new units are rated at R-24 or higher and likely don’t need to be insulated. Some utility company regulations and local building codes prohibit using certain types of insulation. So if homeowners have doubts or can’t find the R-value anywhere, they can ask their local plumber if their water heater can (or should) be insulated.

Types of Water Heater Insulation 

insulationThere are several different types of water heater insulation on the market today. These are typically flexible materials that can be wrapped around the water heater, which is why they’re usually referred to as water heater blankets.

Fiberglass blankets are the most common and tend to be the most effective, thanks to their thickness and the insulative nature of fiberglass. Still, they can be scratchy and uncomfortable to install. Reflective foil is another popular material that reflects escaping heat back to the tank. Other water heater blanket materials include foam, cotton, and denim. Some blankets combine foam or fiberglass with reflective foil for even greater insulation.

Installing water heater insulation typically involves wrapping the blanket around the water heater, securing it with tape, and cutting holes around valves, drains, and burners. This must be done correctly to prevent fire hazards and avoid hindering the unit’s functionality or safety mechanisms. Some electric water heaters may also benefit from rigid insulation on the bottom of the unit, but this is best done when installing the unit. Homeowners can also add foam pipe insulation to the pipes going to and from the water heater to reduce heat loss further.

About Heil Plumbing

Heil Plumbing is a locally owned and family-owned company serving Jessup, MD, and the surrounding areas. They provide straightforward pricing, professional values, and a plumbing maintenance plan. Call them today for water heater services in Jessup, MD.