How to Install Water Heater Insulation

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Up to 18% of your utility bill may related to heating water, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Insulating your water heater can improve energy efficiency and result in some monthly savings. In fact, estimates you could save as much as 16% in water heating costs, and many pre-cut insulating materials aren’t more than $20. Insulation is most effective for electric water heaters, although any water heater tank can be insulated. We’ll explain how to install water heater insulation below.

How Does Insulating a Water Heater Work?

Tank-based water heaters experience something known as standby heat loss. Some heat is lost to the air, via convection, when water is stored in a tank. That’s why the water heater reheats tank water periodically, so you always have a supply of hot water. Factors impacting heat loss include tank size (larger tanks have more surface area, and lose more heat to the air) and the temperature difference between water inside the tank and the air outside it. You may not benefit by insulating a water heater that’s in a heated location, such as an interior closet. However, insulation can improve efficiency if the unit is in a garage, cold basement, or placed outdoors. It’s also more effective for older water heaters, as modern units are built with insulating materials. You can tell if insulating the unit would help by touching the tank; if it’s warm, heat is being lost, but if it’s cool, then the tank is well insulated.

Insulating Your Water Heater

When installing water heater insulation, it’s important to exercise caution. Check with your utility company and local regulations as to whether insulation blankets are prohibited. You could create hazards by covering operating instructions, safety warnings, or controls, access areas, temperature/pressure relieve valves, or automatic shutoffs. Blocking airflow can create combustion safety concerns. But if insulation blankets are permitted, contact your utility company to see if they offer discounted insulation or even rebates. Depending on the utility, it may even offer free or low-cost installation. But assuming you’re doing the work yourself, follow these steps:

1. Gather Materials

Choose an insulating blanket that matches the size of your water heater. The size of the tank, in gallons, is indicated with a label on the side of the unit. Your local hardware store should sell insulating blankets in different sizes. You’ll also need supplies such as electrical tape, a marker, and scissors. A dust mask and gloves should be available too. It’s good to have someone help you as an extra pair of hands can make installation go smoother.

2. Turn Your Water Heater Off

If you have an electric water heater, turn off the breaker for its circuit, at the electrical panel. For gas water heaters, move the gas valve to the “pilot” position. Then measure the height of the water heater. If the blanket doesn’t fit perfectly, cut it to fit.

3. Wrap the Tank

Place the blanket around the water heater, but don’t cover the access panels. Tape the ends to temporarily secure the insulation. If the blanket is at all loose, you’ll have to cut it, or else it won’t provide effective insulation. Be sure to wear gloves and a dust mask as you wrap the blanket.

4. Mark Spaces to Cut

Mark any part of the blanket that covers a control panel, pressure relief valve, pipe, burner element, or other vital component. Remove the blanket. Then cut out the spaces you marked. The open parts of the blanket will expose important areas so you can easily access them.

5. Permanently Install the Blanket

Wrap the insulation around the water heater, lining up the cut outs with areas you want exposed. Use electrical tape to secure it in place.

6. Turn On/Adjust the Water Heater

Turn the unit back on at the electrical panel or gas valve. Also lower the temperature setting. You won’t need the temperature to be set higher than 130° and 120° may be just fine. After all, more energy is being conserved to heat water. And besides, with more heat retained, a higher setting can cause wiring and other components to overheat.

Call Service Today for Help

We’re known for high-quality water heater services in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Local homeowners trust us for water heater installation/replacement, repair, and maintenance. Installing water heater insulation should be an easy task you can do. But if you run into any problems, just contact Service Today and we’ll answer your questions and even inspect your water heater. For assistance, contact us on the web or call (888) 578-5641.