How To Protect An Outdoor Tankless Water Heater?

How to protect an outdoor tankless water heater, is crucial as these units provide energy-efficient and on-demand hot water. However, they face a unique challenge – exposure to the elements. To ensure your unit operates effectively, even in harsh weather conditions, In this article, we’ll explore why outdoor tankless water heaters need protection, and we’ll provide a comprehensive guide on how to safeguard your unit from the cold, snow, and freezing temperatures.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the critical aspects of protecting your outdoor tankless water heater. We’ll explore why these units require special care, what risks they face, and the essential steps you can take to safeguard your outdoor unit from cold weather, snow, and freezing temperatures. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to ensure your outdoor tankless water heater operates efficiently, even in the harshest of weather conditions.

Why Outdoor Tankless Water Heaters Need Protection

Outdoor tankless water heaters are robust, but they’re not invincible. Here’s why they need protection

Exposure to Harsh Weather

Outdoor tankless water heaters are designed to be tough, but they are constantly exposed to the elements. Rain, snow, strong winds, and extreme temperature variations can take a toll on their performance and longevity.

These units are often installed outside to save space and to avoid the need for venting, which is typical for indoor models. However, this exposure also means they are vulnerable to the harshest conditions Mother Nature can throw at them.

Risk of Freezing

One of the most significant challenges these water heaters face is the risk of freezing. In cold climates, water within the unit and its connecting pipes can freeze. When water freezes, it expands, and this expansion can lead to cracks in pipes, valves, and even the heat exchanger, causing extensive damage.

Freezing temperatures can also disrupt the operation of your tankless water heater. When pipes freeze, they block the flow of water, preventing the unit from working correctly. In extreme cases, this can lead to costly repairs or even the replacement of the unit.

Efficiency and Longevity

Beyond preventing freezing and damage, protecting your outdoor tankless water heater is crucial for its overall efficiency and longevity. A well-protected unit operates more efficiently, providing hot water on demand without interruptions. It also lasts longer, reducing the need for maintenance and replacements.

By safeguarding your water heater, you are making a wise investment in its performance and lifespan. This protection ensures that you have a consistent supply of hot water, even in the most challenging weather conditions.

Essential Steps for Protecting Your Outdoor Unit

Now that we understand the importance of protecting your outdoor tankless water heater, let’s delve into the key steps you should take to ensure it remains in top-notch condition

Insulate Your Water Pipes

Proper insulation is key to preventing freezing and maintaining a consistent supply of hot water. Here’s how to go about it

  • Foam Pipe Insulation The first step in protecting your outdoor unit is to wrap the water pipes connected to it with foam pipe insulation. This insulation creates a barrier that minimizes heat loss, effectively keeping the water within the pipes at a suitable temperature.
  • Heat Tape In particularly frigid climates, foam insulation alone may not be enough. Consider using heat tape or heating cable, which comes with integrated thermostats. When the temperature drops to a critical level, the heat tape automatically activates, providing gentle warmth to the pipes, and preventing freezing.

By combining foam insulation and heat tape, you create a robust defense against freezing temperatures. This practice ensures that your water heater’s pipes remain well-insulated, preventing the water from reaching the freezing point.

Install a Freeze Protection Kit

Many manufacturers offer freeze protection kits designed specifically to safeguard your outdoor unit. These kits include the following components

  • Heat Tracing Cables At the core of these kits are heat tracing cables, which are designed to wrap around the water pipes and the tankless water heater unit itself. These cables generate low-level heat when activated, ensuring that the temperature within the system remains above freezing.
  • Thermostats The freeze protection kits also come with thermostats that continuously monitor the ambient temperature. When the thermostat senses that the temperature is approaching freezing levels, it triggers the heat tracing cables to activate. This automated system ensures that your tankless water heater and its connecting pipes are consistently protected without requiring manual intervention.

The freeze protection kit is an excellent choice for homeowners in regions with severe winter conditions. It offers a hassle-free and dependable solution to the freezing issue, ensuring that your outdoor tankless water heater functions optimally throughout the winter.

Set the Right Temperature

Properly adjusting the temperature settings of your tankless water heater is another essential step in preventing freezing

  • Locate the Temperature Control Start by locating the temperature control on your tankless water heater. This control may be a dial, button, or digital interface, depending on your unit’s make and model.
  • Activate Freeze Prevention Mode If your tankless water heater has a “freeze prevention mode” or a similar setting, activate it. This mode ensures that the heater maintains a minimum temperature to prevent freezing.
  • Adjust the Temperature If your unit doesn’t have a dedicated freeze prevention mode, you can manually adjust the temperature setting to a level that will keep the water warm enough to prevent freezing. A temperature setting of around 40°F (4°C) is typically sufficient to ensure the water stays above the freezing point.

Properly setting the temperature ensures that your tankless water heater remains active and maintains a safe temperature, even in colder weather. This step is critical for preventing freezing and ensuring a continuous supply of hot water throughout the winter.

Regularly Run Hot Water

Running hot water through your tankless water heater, even in small amounts, is an effective strategy for preventing freezing

  • Continuous Flow Set a schedule to run hot water through your tankless water heater at regular intervals. This can be as simple as turning on a hot water faucet for a few minutes several times a day.
  • Water Movement The key to this strategy is to keep the water moving within the system. Stagnant water in the pipes is more likely to freeze. Running hot water keeps the water moving, preventing it from cooling down and reaching the freezing point.
  • Energy Efficiency While this may seem counterintuitive in terms of energy efficiency, the energy used to heat the water intermittently is far less than the energy required to thaw frozen pipes or repair damage caused by freezing.

By incorporating this practice into your routine, you ensure that your tankless water heater remains active, and the water within the unit and pipes stays above freezing, even during the coldest winter days.

Prevent Snow Buildup

Preventing snow buildup around your tankless water heater is a crucial measure to maintain its efficiency during winter. Here’s an in-depth explanation

In regions with heavy snowfall, the accumulation of snow around your outdoor tankless water heater can obstruct its operation and increase the risk of freezing. Clearing the area around the unit is essential to ensure that it functions optimally throughout the winter months.

Here’s how to prevent snow buildup

  • Regular Snow Removal After each snowfall, make it a routine to clear the area around your tankless water heater. Use a shovel or a snow blower to remove accumulated snow. Ensure that the area is kept clear to allow proper ventilation and access to the unit.
  • Maintain a Safe Clearance Create a safe clearance zone around your water heater. This zone should be free from snow and ice to prevent obstructions and to enable easy access for maintenance.
  • Monitor Snow Drifts Be vigilant about snow drifts that may accumulate around the unit. Drifts can quickly bury the water heater, leading to reduced efficiency and increased freezing risks.

Preventing snow buildup is a proactive measure that ensures your tankless water heater operates efficiently and mitigates the risk of freezing, especially in areas with harsh winter conditions.

Use a Well-Ventilated Cover

Using a cover or enclosure for your outdoor tankless water heater is a valuable strategy for protecting it from the elements. Here’s an expanded explanation

While insulation and other preventive measures are vital, using a cover or enclosure provides an additional layer of protection for your tankless water heater. These covers shield your unit from direct exposure to cold winds, snow, and ice, helping to maintain a stable operating temperature.

Here’s how to effectively cover your unit

  • Select a Weather-Resistant Cover Choose a cover specifically designed for outdoor tankless water heaters. These covers are typically made from weather-resistant materials that can withstand cold, moisture, and UV exposure.
  • Ensure Ventilation The cover or enclosure should be well-ventilated to prevent moisture buildup and ensure that your unit doesn’t overheat. Proper ventilation is key to maintaining a healthy operating environment.
  • Secure the Cover Make sure the cover or enclosure fits securely around your tankless water heater. It should be snug but not too tight, allowing for proper airflow while keeping out the elements.
  • Regular Inspection Periodically check the cover to ensure it remains in good condition. Replace it if it becomes damaged to maintain the protection it provides.

By covering your tankless water heater, you create a barrier against the harsh winter elements, helping to keep your unit and its components at a suitable temperature and preventing freezing.

By following these expanded steps, you’ll be well-prepared to protect your outdoor tankless water heater from freezing, ensuring a consistent supply of hot water even in the coldest of winters.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

While protecting your outdoor tankless water heater is crucial, it’s also important to be aware of common mistakes to avoid

Neglecting Proper Insulation

One of the most common mistakes homeowners make is neglecting proper insulation. Inadequate or absent insulation leaves pipes vulnerable to freezing and damage. Ensure you use the right insulation materials and techniques to effectively protect your unit.

  Inadequate Freeze Protection

Choosing the wrong freeze protection kit or incorrectly installing it can lead to inadequate protection. Be sure to select a kit that matches your climate and unit, and follow the installation instructions carefully. If you’re uncertain, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance.

Incorrect Temperature Settings

Failing to set the right temperature increases the risk of freezing. Incorrect temperature settings can lead to water that’s too cold for the weather conditions, making freezing more likely. Pay careful attention to temperature settings to avoid this mistake.

here’s a table summarizing the key points of the article:

Key PointsDescription
Protecting Outdoor Tankless Water HeatersOutdoor tankless water heaters face exposure to harsh weather and freezing risks. Protection is vital for efficiency and longevity.
Exposure to Harsh WeatherWeather elements like rain, snow, and extreme temperatures can impact outdoor units. Proper protection ensures consistent operation.
Risk of FreezingCold weather can cause freezing within the unit and pipes, leading to damage and operational disruption. Freeze protection is essential.
Efficiency and LongevityProtecting your unit enhances efficiency and extends its lifespan, reducing maintenance and replacement costs.
Essential Steps for ProtectionInsulate water pipes, install a freeze protection kit, set the right temperature, run hot water regularly, prevent snow buildup, and use a well-ventilated cover.
Neglecting Proper InsulationNeglecting insulation leaves pipes vulnerable to freezing. Proper insulation is key to preventing freezing and maintaining efficiency.
Inadequate Freeze ProtectionChoosing the wrong protection kit or improper installation can lead to inadequate protection. Follow manufacturer guidelines for effective freeze protection.
Incorrect Temperature SettingsIncorrect temperature settings can increase freezing risks. Adjust settings or activate the freeze prevention mode to prevent freezing.
Ensuring the Longevity of Your Outdoor Water HeaterProtection measures and avoidance of common mistakes ensure the longevity and efficiency of your outdoor tankless water heater.


Can you cover an outdoor tankless water heater?

Yes, you can cover an outdoor tankless water heater to protect it from the elements.

How do I protect my outside tankless water heater?

Protect your outside tankless water heater by insulating pipes, using a freeze protection kit, and keeping the area clear of snow.

Should you wrap a tankless water heater?

Wrapping a tankless water heater with proper insulation is essential to prevent freezing.

Do tankless water heaters need outside air?

Yes, tankless water heaters need outside air for combustion and ventilation.


In conclusion, protecting your outdoor tankless water heater is crucial for its efficiency and longevity. Exposure to harsh weather and the risk of freezing necessitates proactive measures. By insulating water pipes, using freeze protection, setting the right temperature, running hot water regularly, preventing snow buildup, and utilizing a well-ventilated cover, you can ensure an uninterrupted hot water supply, even in the coldest conditions.

By following these comprehensive steps and avoiding common mistakes, you can ensure the longevity and efficiency of your outdoor tankless water heater. The protection of your unit against the elements, freezing, and other weather-related challenges is essential to enjoying a continuous supply of hot water, even in the most extreme conditions.

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