A number of factors can make your water heater susceptible to damage during the winter months. If your water heater is old or in an unheated part of your home, cold temperatures can cause the metal to expand and contract, which can result in damage as well as leaks. Excess sediment, the quality of the unit, and attention to maintenance can all affect how well your water heater stands up to the cold.

It is easy for water heater leaks to go unnoticed until they cause significant damage to your walls or floors. It is important to check under and around your water heater frequently for any signs of water, especially during cold weather.

You should also be aware of the following warning signs that you may have a leak or other problems with your water heater.

  • The metal tank is protruding, bent, or cracked.
  • The water takes longer than normal to get hot.
  • You run out of hot water too quickly.

Self-help fixes, such as adding insulation around the tank, adjusting the thermostat, or flushing the tank may solve the problem. In most cases, it is best to contact a professional repair service to diagnose and fix the problem.

A frozen water heater will typically only occur during a sustained power outage. If it appears that you will be without power for an extended time, you can limit the possibility of irreparable damage to your water heater by taking the following steps.

  • Shut off the electricity or gas to the unit.
  • Turn off the water supply to the tank.
  • Open the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank.
  • Open the temperature and pressure relief valve or the hot faucet. This will allow water to flow out by forcing air into the tank.

These measures may prevent your tank from rupturing, but you may still have some pipe damage. If the tank does freeze, try to disconnect it and remove it from the home before the ice has a chance to thaw and leak inside your home. A frozen water heater cannot be repaired and must be replaced.