Water heater drain pan and water heater pad are two helpful features that may be required depending on where you live. Even if they are not required, they serve a useful purpose.
A drain pan is a simple catch basin for any water that may leak out due to pipe leaks, slow drops after testing the TPR valve or after using the drain valve, due to corrosion in an old tank, and even from condensation drops. Drain pans are not likely to help in the event of a burst pipe. They will contain small leaks that would otherwise wick up walls, get trapped in carpeting, or leak through to a lower level. Water heater drain pans are typically connected to a pipe that directs water to a floor drain, sump pump, or other appropriate location as recommended by your plumber. Some may not choose or may not be able to route water, but small drips caught by the drain pan may have a chance to evaporate from the metal pan before spreading through your home.
Water heater pads are rigid foam boards that prevent heat transfer. This is especially important when sitting on concrete, in a garage, basement, attic, or other location that is not well conditioned. The floor is more dense than air, so it can take a lot more heat before you notice that it is warming up. This means it would be very subtle, but you are spending money to heat your water alone, and you are also paying to heat your concrete for no reason just by thermal transfer. It’s a lot like putting a cold drink in a coozie, so your hand doesn’t heat up the drink. Keep the heat energy you paid for where you will use it!
Too Long, Didn't Read Version: Drain pans and water heater pads may not be required depending where you live, but they can save you energy and prevent damage to your home for just a few dollars. Be sure to ask your plumber when you have your tanks serviced or replaced!
-Marshall Tramp, CPI, RMP
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