Water Heating

According to the Department of Energy, indoor and pool water heating can account for 18% to 25% of the energy consumed in your home, second to cooling and heating. There are commonly known methods used to conserve hot water: use less water, turn down the thermostat setting, purchase a more efficient water heater, cover your water heater with an insulated wrap, and insulate exposed water lines.

Hot Water Conservation

One simple yet inexpensive way to conserve hot water is to install a low-flow showerhead. A standard showerhead uses about 2.5 gallons-per-minute (gpm), compared to a low-flow showerhead that uses a flow rate of 1.7 gpm or less. The purchase price ranges anywhere from $10 to $50 dollars and your payback is substantial. Plus, installation should be a snap.

Here’s a quick test to see if you would benefit from this type of showerhead. Set your shower to a normal pressure, then hold up a bucket to catch all the water. If it takes less than 20 seconds to catch one gallon of water, a low-flow showerhead may be a wise investment.

Another way to save on hot water is to adjust the water heater’s thermostat setting to 115 degrees. However, if your automatic dishwasher does not have a temperature booster, the ideal setting is 140 degrees. The factory preset on most new water heaters is usually 140 degrees or above. Bear in mind, higher hot water temperature settings may pose a safety risk for some people, particularly seniors and young children. Set the temperature according to your household needs.

Consider insulating an older electric water heater, especially one purchased prior to those with the yellow “Energy Guide” label. Newer models will be much more energy efficient and are designed with built-in insulation. Older models probably need insulation.

Other Hot Water Tips:

  • Repair all leaky faucets. According to the U.S. government, a leak of just one drip per second can cost $1 per month.
  • Simply turn the faucet off while shaving or brushing your teeth and try taking short showers instead of long showers or baths.
  • Install a water heater timer and set it according to your family needs.
  • Wash your clothes with cold water.
  • Periodically drain the hot water tank. This will prevent a buildup of sediment that puts a strain on the heating elements.

If you are in the market for a new water heater, there are many choices available. Varieties include heat recovery units, heat pump exchange units, solar water heaters, and tankless water heaters. Study and compare these to determine what is best suited for your budget, bearing in mind long-term usage cost. If you are not sure, ask an energy expert at your local cooperative which type is best suited for your home.