Are Water Heater Heat Traps Worth It? Assessing The Benefits For Improved Efficiency

Discover the potential of water heater heat traps!

If you want to enhance your water heater’s efficiency and reduce energy costs, heat traps could be the perfect solution.

Heat traps for water heaters
photo: amazon.com

Our comprehensive guide will provide you with clear and concise instructions on how to install water heater heat traps, as well as troubleshoot common problems that may arise during the process.

Join us as we assess the benefits of heat traps and help you decide if they’re worth the investment. Get ready to optimize your water heater’s performance and embark on a journey towards enhanced energy efficiency!

Water Heater Heat Traps: Important Factors To Evaluate

  1. Energy usage and how to improve energy efficiency
  2. What are the heat traps?
  3. How they work?
  4. Are heat traps necessary on a water heater?
  5. DIY tips to prevent thermosyphoning
  6. How to install water heater heat traps?
  7. Can I remove heat traps?
  8. Common problems

Energy Usage And How To Improve Energy Efficiency

According to studies, water heaters in residential homes contribute to nearly 20% of total energy usage. Achieving higher efficiency can result in significant cost savings on heating expenses. It is important to note that standby heat loss is a primary factor contributing to high energy bills, particularly in the case of water tank heaters.

To enhance efficiency, it is highly recommended to insulate the water heater. This can be achieved by installing an insulation blanket, insulating the pipes, and adding heat traps if they are not already built-in. These measures effectively eliminate or reduce wasted energy, helping you lower your energy expenses and optimize the performance of your water heater.

What Are Water Heater Heat Traps?

Heat traps are small devices designed to reduce heat loss through the heater’s inlet and outlet pipes. They are typically installed on the hot water pipes connected to the water heater. The purpose of heat traps is to minimize heat transfer through convection and reduce standby heat loss, which occurs when hot water cools down in the pipes and escapes back into the water heater.

When the hot water is not drawn from the tank, the heat, which resides inside the tank, could exit the cold (inlet) and hot (outlet) piping due to natural convection (the heat moves from hot to cold). This is also known as thermosyphoning, and it is the main reason for water circulation when the heater is not in use. Once they are installed, they will prevent or reduce water circulation.

The most popular types come with floating balls and plastic inserts with flaps.

Heat traps are often included as standard features in newer water heaters, but they can also be retrofitted to existing systems.

How Do Heat Traps Work?

As mentioned, heat traps play a crucial role in preventing heat loss and undesired water circulation. Taking the example of ball-type traps, when the hot water tap is opened, water pressure pushes the ball into the upper position, allowing water to flow freely from the tank to the fixture.

Conversely, when there is no water pressure, the ball settles in its lowest position, effectively blocking heat dissipation through the pipe (in the case of ball-type traps). Similarly, the flapper-style traps operate in a similar manner, opening when the heater is in use and closing when the unit is not operating.

While heat traps with floating balls have been known to potentially cause noise-related issues, the popularity of flapper-style inserts is increasing among plumbers. This type effectively eliminates such noise problems, making it a preferred choice.

By incorporating heat traps, regardless of the specific type chosen, you can effectively reduce heat loss, optimize energy efficiency, and ensure proper water circulation in your water heater system.

Are Heat Traps Necessary On A Water Heater?

Heat traps are not mandatory but highly recommended for optimal water heater efficiency. Many new models already come with built-in heat traps. However, if the water heater does not have them pre-installed, manufacturers and experts advise retrofitting them using kits available from the heater’s manufacturer or plumbing/HVAC stores.

In addition to reducing standby heat loss, heat traps are beneficial when connecting different types of metals, such as copper pipes to a metal tank. These are known as dielectric heat traps, which helps minimizing the risk of corrosion between the metals.

Dielectric heat traps typically have a metal body with threading on each end, while the inner part is coated with a thermoplastic lining. This lining acts as a barrier, preventing galvanic corrosion and the potential damage that can occur when dissimilar metals come into contact.

By incorporating heat traps, whether as standard features or retrofitted installations, you can enhance energy efficiency, reduce heat loss, and mitigate corrosion risks in your water heater system.

DIY Tips To Prevent Thermosyphoning

One DIY tip to prevent thermosyphoning and address self-circulation and heat dissipation is to create a heat trap by bending the hot pipes downward into a “U” shape, forming a gooseneck loop. For optimal effectiveness, it is recommended to bend the pipe at least 20 mm.

This DIY heat trap method is also valuable for protecting thermostatic mixing valves from higher temperatures, especially when they are installed near the water heater and remain unused for extended periods.

When combining a water tank storage system with a boiler, it is crucial to design the heat trap in a manner that prevents hot water from circulating back into the boiler during idle periods. This becomes particularly important if the boiler is positioned above the water storage tank, as it can contribute to undesired water circulation.

How To Install Water Heater Heat Traps: Things To Consider

Heat trap installation is a simple DIY home project that doesn’t require any special tools or skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to install water heater heat traps:

  1. If you are installing a nipple with a floating ball, soldering is not necessary. However, if you are retrofitting, you may need to cut an existing pipe and create more space.
  2. Before installation, it is recommended to drain a few gallons of water and release the pressure from the T&P valve. Remember to turn off the heater first for safety.
  3. Using an adjustable wrench, remove the old nipples from the heater on one side and the plumbing connector on the other.
  4. When installing the new nipples, apply Teflon tape or joint compound to the exposed threads. This helps create a better seal and provides additional insulation between the metal parts.
  5. Ensure that the heat traps are installed with the arrow pointing in the direction of water flow. This ensures proper functionality.
  6. The installation process typically takes less than an hour to complete, making it a quick and straightforward task.

Alternatively, as mentioned earlier, you can also create your own “heat trap” using a gooseneck loop. This provides another option for preventing thermosyphoning and addressing self-circulation and heat dissipation in your water heater.

Can I Remove Heat Traps?

If your gas or electric water heater is equipped with ball-type heat traps and you frequently experience noise issues like “ticking,” “clicking,” or “tapping,” some plumbers suggest removing the ball from inside. The ball can rattle due to frequent pressure fluctuations caused by sprinklers and water pumps, resulting in annoying noise.

To address this problem, you can consider installing flexible disk-type heat traps, commonly found in certain water heaters from manufacturers like Bradford White. These plastic parts are easy to install by simply pushing them into the top of the extension pipes. Not only does this installation eliminate the noise, but it also provides a dielectric connection.

Problems Caused By Heat Traps

While heat traps are generally beneficial for improving water heater efficiency, it’s essential to know how to install water heater heat traps properly to avoid common problems that can arise during the installation process. By following the correct installation procedures, you can ensure the optimal performance and functionality of your heat traps.

  1. Reduced water flow: Improper installation of heat traps can lead to reduced water flow in the plumbing system. This can result in lower water pressure and less effective hot water distribution throughout the household.
  2. Noise issues: Some types, such as ball-type heat traps, can produce ticking, clicking, or tapping noises. The noise is often caused by pressure fluctuations in the plumbing system or the presence of sprinklers and water pumps. It can be bothersome and require further troubleshooting or alternative heat trap options.
  3. Leaks: If heat traps are not installed correctly or experience wear and tear, leaks may occur. Leaks can lead to water damage, increased water bills, and the need for repairs or replacements.
  4. Sediment buildup: They can sometimes accumulate sediment or debris over time. This can affect their performance and reduce their effectiveness in preventing heat loss. Regular maintenance, such as flushing the water heater to remove sediment, can help mitigate this issue.

Conclusion

Investing in and installing heat traps for water heaters is a budget-friendly and straightforward process that doesn’t demand special tools or expertise. By following a guide or instructional video on how to install water heater heat traps, you can easily complete the installation.

They provide a simple and cost-effective solution to minimize standby heat loss, prevent unnecessary water circulation, and protect valves from exposure to higher temperatures. This can result in potential savings of up to 50% on energy costs and extend the lifespan of your valves.

Moreover, once installed, heat traps can function as union valves, facilitating effortless removal and replacement of your water heater when necessary.

FAQ

Are Heat Traps Compatible With All Types Of Water Heaters?

Heat traps can be installed on most types of water heaters, including gas, electric, and tankless models. However, it’s important to check the specific compatibility and installation requirements for your water heater model.

Can I Retrofit Heat Traps To An Existing Water Heater?

Yes, heat traps can be retrofitted to an existing water heater. The kits are available in plumbing and HVAC stores, and they typically include the necessary components for installation. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure proper compatibility with your specific water heater model.

Can Heat Traps Extend the Lifespan Of A Water Heater?

Heat traps can help extend the lifespan of a water heater by reducing standby heat loss and minimizing the strain on the unit. By preventing excessive heat dissipation and unnecessary water circulation, these elements can contribute to improved energy efficiency and overall system performance, potentially prolonging the life of the water heater.

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