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Water heater blanket

Hot water heater insulation blankets

A hot water heater blanket is worth considering. Blankets are designed to provide additional insulation to water heating storage tanks. Depending on the particular application, the additional insulation provided can reap significant energy savings, and insulating blankets are relatively inexpensive.

Here's a complete overview;

Whether electric, gas, heat pump or solar powered, additional insulation can be quite beneficial for water heating storage tanks.

Storage tanks and heat loss

With any water heating system that requires a storage tank, some of the heated water will be unused. And this unused water will eventually require reheating for future use. This costly energy waste is referred to as standby heat loss, and it can account for up to 20% of your total water heating costs.

The majority of heat loss occurs through the steel walls of the tank as well as the hot water pipes. With systems that use storage tanks, avoiding or eliminating all standby heat loss is all but impossible. However the additional insulation provided from a hot water heater blanket, can significantly reduce standby heat loss.

R-value rating

Hot water heater blankets are rated and classified by there R-value. R-value is a commonly used industry measurement that represents the thermal resistance (or the insulating effectiveness) of an object or material.

The higher the R-value of a water heater blanket, the more additional insulation provided. Several factors can determine the R-value. The materials, the thickness as well as the density of the materials are all important factors.

Most hot water heater blankets are made of insulating fiberglass interiors, along with either vinyl lining or reflective barriers (usually foil or aluminum). Models with reflective barriers made of pure aluminum usually have higher R-values.

Is a water heater blanket worth it?

The potential long term energy savings will depend on the particular application. New and more energy efficient tanks come well equipped with significant internal insulation. The greater the internal insulation, the reduced the potential for long term savings from providing additional external insulation.

With that said, the internal insulation provided in many previously (and currently) manufactured storage tanks is significantly inadequate when compared to many newer models currently available. Installing a hot water heater blanket on a tank with inadequate internal insulation generally will provide greater energy savings.

What's Recommended

Consider the R-value of the storage tank in question. The R-value of a hot water heater can be obtained simply by referencing the owners manual. If a specific R -value cannot be obtained, simply place your hand on the storage tank itself.

If the external portion of the tank is warm or hot, this indicates that the storage tanks' internal insulation alone is inadequate, and installing a hot water heater blanket is recommended.

Most industry professionals recommend fitting a storage tank with a R-value of 16 (R-16) or less with an insulating blanket with a R-value of 10 (R-10) or higher.

Even a new energy efficient tank with an insulation R-valve between 16 (R-16) and 24 (R-24) stand to benefit from the addition of a water heater blanket with a R-value of less than 10.

In the case of newer and more efficient tanks, it's always wise to verify that the manufacturer recommends additional external insulation before purchase. Such recommendations can be found in the manufacturer provided owners manual.

Installing insulation blankets

In the case of electric powered tanks, installation is relatively straight forward and simple. Insulation blankets are often sold in kits, and more times than not, these kits come equipped with all the tools and materials required for installation.

Hot water heater blanket kits often come equipped with very detailed installation instructions as well. When installing, it would be wise to follow the manufacturers' directions as carefully as possible.

Important Installation Guidelines

It's very important to leave certain fixtures and certain areas of the storage tank uncovered when wrapping a blanket around it. This goes for all tanks; gas, solar and electric powered tanks as well. These fixtures and areas include;

  • the heating element control or thermostat.
  • the water heater drain valve.
  • the temperature pressure relief valve and the overflow or drain tube.

Warning - Gas Powered Tanks and Insulation Blankets

Installing a hot water heater blanket on a gas powered storage tank is a more challenging procedure than wrapping up an electric powered tank. Installation on a gas powered tank requires both additional care and consideration.

  • The flue and the draft diverter along the top of the tank (and the area where they make contact with the water heaters' steel tank) should not be covered with an insulation blanket. Insulating this area can result in improper venting or a possible fire hazard.
  • The area adjacent to the gas burner (which is located at the bottom of the tank below the drain valve) should not be insulated. This could very well obstruct the air flow to the burner, which is required for combustion.
  • When in doubt consult a local water heating professional for installation.

Insulate hot water pipes

Providing additional insulation to the hot water pipe can reduce heat loss as well. Insulating the pipe can also provide hot water to appliances, shower heads and faucet taps quicker. Pipe wraps (or sleeves) are usually made of polyethylene or neoprene, and in some instances, fiberglass.

Wraps or sleeves generally come in the form of foam split tubes. These foam split tubes are very inexpensive and very effective if fit tightly around the pipe. It's a good idea to match the diameter of the pipe to the diameter of the wrap or sleeve to ensure the tightest possible fit.

What's Recommended

It's highly recommended to insulate the hot water pipe 3 feet to 5 feet from the water heater. Consider insulating the pipe as far as possible. But keep in mind that according to most industry professionals, the initial 3 feet to 5 feet of pipe is responsible for most of the heat loss.

Warning - Insulating Pipes On Gas Powered Tanks

With gas powered water heaters, leaving a 5 inch to 8 inch barrier between the flue and the wrap (or sleeve) is recommended. It's important to note (for such applications) fiberglass pipe wrap is better suited than both polyethylene foam or neoprene foam.

More on energy efficient water heating

Water heater maintenance and efficiency

  • Water Heater Maintenance; how to extend the life of an old or recently purchased storage tank.
  • Water Heater Anode; periodically inspecting the sacrificial anode rod is a maintenance procedure that protects the storage tank from corrosion.
  • Drain Hot Water Heater; draining or flushing the storage tank removes sediments that can compromise efficiency and volume.
  • Water Heater Drain Valve; inspect the drain valve on the tank for potential leaks and drips.
  • Water Heater Expansion Tank; high water pressure can compromise any storage tank. The addition of a hot water heater expansion tank can both resolve and prevent high water pressure.

Energy efficient water heating options

Home Energy Savings - Pleases Your Pockets And The Earth

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