How to Buy and Install a Water Heater Insulation Blanket

Insulation blanket for water heatersInsulation blanket for water heaters

Installing a water heater insulation blanket or insulation jacket is a popular, affordable, and effective way to reduce standby heat loss or energy wasted during the heating process.

Insulating your water heater is an easy DIY home project that improves efficiency and saves money. According to some studies, properly installed insulation can save you approximately 12% in water heating costs with a standby heat loss reduction between 25% and 45%.

Buying a water heater insulation blanket often makes sense if you have an older low efficient unit located in the cold basement, garage, or utility room.

Water heater insulation blankets: Things to consider

It is easy to check if your water heater is losing heat and wasting energy.

Simple touch the outer surface. If it feels warm, your tank loses heat and needs additional insulation. We suggest buying an insulation blanket with a higher "R" value.

Some manufacturers, like AO Smith or Bradford White, design water heaters to meet or exceed National Appliance Energy Conservation Act standards concerning insulation and standby loss requirements. The insulation is thick enough, so the standby heat loss is minimal and additional insulation unnecessary.

These devices are equipped with 2" thick foam and R-8 or higher insulation value, significantly reducing energy waste and heat loss.

The best water heater blankets are made of quality materials, including thick fire-resistant fiberglass options, while cheaper models come with foam, cotton, and foil variants.

They come in different sizes, ranging from 30 to 100 gallons, where those designed for the 40 and 50 gallons tanks are the most common in residential homes. And don't worry when selecting the size because manufacturers label their blankets according to the size of the tank to be covered.

While the quality of the blanket is important, its thickness is another factor to consider because the thicker it is, the better it will be at insulating. Cheaper models often come with a one inch thickness, while better ones are 3-5 inches thick.

Water heater blankets come various insulation ratings (R-value), which are often used to rate the fiberglass type. The higher the insulation value is, the more energy is saved. Look for models with an R-value of at least 10, where R-7 and R-8 are the most common.

Every manufacturer explains rules in their manuals when covering a water heater with the insulation jacket, so the warranty, in some cases, can be voided if you don't follow the instructions.

Also, note that some local codes and regulations may prohibit the blanket installation.

Why installing a water heater insulation blanket is recommended

Here are the general instructions that cover important points of the unit and which can be affected by improper water heater blanket installation, lack of access, restrictions in the air flow, heater malfunction, or even a fire:

  • Draft hood (gas units)
  • Thermostat
  • Controls
  • TPR valve
  • Water heater access door
  • Shut off devices
  • Don't cover safety tags with warnings and operating instructions

In the long run, insulation blankets are a good investment, especially these days with the rising energy costs. You can reduce the energy consumption by up to 20 % and make your unit greener with CO2 reduction as well.

You can buy a water heater blanket at Home Depot, Lowe's, and any other well-equipped hardware store, or online like Amazon.

For less than 20 bucks, you can buy an insulating jacket with the size that easily covers a 60-gallon tank water heater, two-inch-thick, made of fiberglass with R-6.7 insulating value, and with the included adhesive tape for easy installation.

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Installing a water heater insulation blanket: Step-by-step guide

The insulation blanket installation is a DIY home project, and doesn't require any special skills or tools. We also suggest insulating hot water pipes so they can work more efficiently.

Working on electric units is easier than gas- or oil-fired appliances. Be careful not to obstruct the flue at the top and the burner area. Failure to do so could be very costly for you and dangerous.

Unless you buy a pre-cut hot water heater blanket, you need adhesive tape and scissors to cut out the areas so you can clear the elements, as mentioned earlier.

Clean up the dust and wash the top surface so the tape can adhere.

  • Measure a water heater.
  • Use the scissors or utility knife to cut the insulation blanket to the unit size, but be sure to make it a little bit longer (the length of the insulation strip should be the same length as the circumference of the heater plus 3", for example).
  • Wrap the insulation horizontally and around the unit.
  • Always try first to see if the water heater blanket fits correctly.
  • Use duct tape to seal the seams where they meet.
  • Once wrapped and taped, find where the controls and valves are and make the cut-outs.
  • If you need access to the thermostat, cut a three-sided flap, so the top edge is still attached, so you can always tuck it back.
  • For the elements such as the drain valve or TPR valve, make the cut-outs to expose the parts.
  • Cut a cap of the insulation blanket to fit the top of the electric units, but never install it on the gas appliances.
  • Tape the remaining joints and seams.

Note: With the additional water heater insulation, do not set the thermostat over 130 F, as the wiring may overheat.

Other effective ways to reduce the water heating costs

In addition to insulating a water heater, there are other ways to reduce the costs. We covered 29 effective ways to save money, including the following:

  • Installing a rigid insulation block under the tank.
  • Insulate hot water pipes.
  • Lower the water temperature.
  • Install a timer.
  • Install a low-flow shower head.
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