If you are living in a place where temperatures can easily drop to several degrees below zero and your water heater will not be used for while then it’s important that you winter proof it. If you are leaving for a week or two week long vacation you need to take the required steps in order to ensure that your heating system does not freeze over and eventually break when you get back. Unfortunately, despite winter proofing a heating system being simple most people don’t know how it’s done correctly. The below steps should help you along. Bear in mind the fact that draining water from the entire heating system which includes pipes and the tank is very important. This will prevent the pipes and the tub from cracking owing to the expansion of water within it.
You will have to unplug (if electric) your water heater or simply turn off the gas valve. When shutting off the gas to the water heater use a small crescent shaped wrench to turn off the valve completely, you may have to turn it a half inch counter clockwise until its straight. The best way to check if the gas is completely off is to turn on the pilot and try to light it. If it does not come on or does not light it means that the gas is off. If it’s an electric heater use a multi-meter to check if residual electricity is still running through the system. If it is then wait 30 minutes prior to performing any repairs.
Step no. 2: Find and close the incoming water line
The next thing you’ll want to do is to turn off the water line leading into the water heater. The valve may be located outside your home, or in the basement where all the main water lines are located. This should be a wheel type valve which you turn clockwise to turn off completely. Then when you return back to your water heating unit put your ears to the unit to check if water is still flowing into it.
Step no. 3: Drain the water tank completely
Most hot water systems have a drain which is located at the bottom of your hot water tank. This will often have a connector that will allow you to connect a garden hose to it. The garden hose should then be placed into the nearest drain. Remember, that since there is lots of hot water being drained you’ll want to step away and use a thick plastic pipe to drain the water. If there is no drain located nearby then simply use a bucket placed under the underside of the drain outlet of the tank, turn on the pressure valve to drain out little water at a time. You will also need to open the air vent on the top of the water heater. This will either have to be done by hand (in old style heaters) or you’ll have to pull a level located at the side of the tank to do this. It can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to empty out a tank.
Step no. 4: Turn on all the faucets in your home
You will have to turn on every tap in your home which includes ones in the basement, bathroom and kitchen. Leave everything open until they run dry. This will not take long if the tank has already been emptied. This is done in order to ensure that the pipes do not have any water in them.
Step no. 5: A final touch
The last step includes wrapping up all the pipes that lead into as well as out of the top end of the water heater with an insulating material like duct tape. Then buy a water heater blanket or a thermal blanket made to insulate water heaters and wrap it around the tank. You can also use a homemade blanket made from a regular blanket and held in place over the tank with duct tape. The idea is to keep the tank as warm as possible through the harsh winter when it’s not being used. Some people may skip this step seeing it as unnecessary but doing so will mean that you’re compromising the structural integrity of the pipes and heater.
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Creative Commons image source
- License: Image author owned
Manu Alias has been a hot water repair specialist for years. He has been certified by some of the leading companies in Australia. This has allowed him to repair hot water heater systems of all types and sizes. When he’s not pouring over heating schematics he often found designing a piping layout for a home owner.
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