4 ways traditional heaters can’t deal with winter

4 ways traditional heaters can't deal with winter4 ways traditional heaters can’t deal with winter

Most homeowners only think about their water heaters when there's a problem. When there's no hot water in the shower, for example, a malfunctioning heater suddenly becomes a major issue.

This is even more of a pressing problem in the winter, when the temperatures drop and your entire house's energy saving abilities are tested. Everybody focuses on ways to keep heat trapped inside, but there may be more serious issues with your hot water heater, which must be watched very carefully during the winter months to prevent your energy bills from soaring. Here are four common ways traditional hot water heaters fail in the cold.

1. Additional repairs and add-ons
Out of the box, most water heaters connect to to your home's plumbing away from supplying water, but that doesn't mean that your work as a homeowner is done. On cheaper models, Popular Mechanics magazine explained that there's often very little insulation on the reservoir section of the heater. This means that even though the unit is applying a constant flame to the tank of water, a significant percentage of that energy is being lost to the environment. This directly leads to higher energy costs, because lower temperatures will draw more wasted energy out of the heater.

2. Poorly designed systems
If your home has a circuitous or poorly designed system of pipes that route hot water from one place to another, you may be leaking heat into the walls of your house. DoItYourself.com explained that if your house has poorly insulated pipes or if they are exposed to cold areas for multiple stretches, whatever heat your traditional furnace can produce may be lost once the water arrives at its destination.

Instead, a point-of-use tankless water heater skips any unprotected pipes to heat water at the shower or faucet most in need at any particular time.

3. Power outages
Homeowners who live in areas that receive frequent snowstorms or other severe weather events should have multiple contingency plans in place in the event of emergencies. Hurricanes, for example, call for flashlights and candles, but winter poses its own problems. When a heavy snowstorm or blizzard hits your home, how do you make sure that your family has enough hot water to last?

Without electricity, you may not be able to run your hot water heater. Even with gas still running or hooked up to a generator, wasting resources on constantly running a traditional heater is not a smart move. Even when power is back up and running, you will need to wait for the device to warm a tankful of water before sending it out to the house.

4. Carbon monoxide
One of the least well-known dangers of living in wintertime, this deadly gas builds up wherever normally clear exhaust pipes become blocked by snow or other debris. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained that carbon monoxide is virtually undetectable – it's odorless, colorless and tasteless, but in high enough concentrations, it can cause severe illness and even death.

While you should inspect your heater once a year just to be safe, the CDC explained that homeowners who live in areas that receive heavy annual snowfall should make sure to clear the exhaust pipes from their heater after every storm. Even though the heat of the gas is hot enough to melt snow, you should still remove all potential obstructions.

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