Does Your Water Heater Need to Be Insulated?

Water heaters ensure you have plenty of hot water. However, they can be a source of energy waste because the stored water eventually cools and needs to be reheated periodically. If you have an insulated furnace, this rate of cooling is significantly slowed. Unless you were there when the water heater was purchased, it can be difficult to tell just by looking at the machine whether it is insulated or not. Here's how to determine whether your water heater has built-in insulation and what you can do if it doesn't.

Check the R-Value

Newer water heaters—typically those made within the last decade—will generally already be insulated due to companies working to meet customers' demands for energy-efficient appliances. If your water heater appears to be older than that, chances are pretty good it's not insulated.

However, there is an easy way to tell whether or not the machine has built-in insulation. Check the appliance's R-value. The R-value measures the amount of thermal resistance a water heater has. In layman's terms, it tells you how quickly heat is lost. The lower the R-value, the faster the water in the tank cools.

Insulated water heaters have double-digit R-values that typically land anywhere from R-12 to R-25. Anything lower than that, and you can assume your machine is not insulated.

Cover with an Insulating Blanket

There's no need to fret if you have a non-insulated water heater. This problem is very easy to fix. All you need to do is cover the appliance with an insulating blanket. You can find these products at home-improvement stores. However, your utility company may also give products away to customers for free or at a very low cost.

However, you can't just throw the blanket on and go about your business. Water heaters have a number of exterior gadgets, pipes, vents, and panels that can't be covered. Therefore, you'll need to alter the blanket to account for these items and ensure they remain exposed; otherwise, you may cause a fire or invalidate the manufacturer's warranty.

Turn off the water heater, and then measure the appliance and cut the blanket if necessary to match the machine's height. Next, temporarily wrap the blanket around the water heater and use a marker to indicate all the places where there is a gadget or some item that needs to remain exposed. Lastly, cut out those areas and then fit the blanket over the machine and tape it in place.

Insulating your water heater can reduce your water-heating bill by 10 percent. So investing the time to insulate your heater can result in some extra cash every month. For more information about this issue or help insulating your water heater, contact a plumber.