Save Money On Hot Water

February 10, 2011

Water faucetDid you know that water heating is the third largest energy expense in the home?  It can make up 12% of your utility bill!  There are four ways to save on hot water: use less, turn down the thermostat on the water heater, insulate the water heater, or buy a new, more efficient heater.

Use Less

According to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), washing a load of clothes uses 32 gallons of hot water.  Showering and bathing use 20 gallons.  Dishwashers take 12 gallons per load, and washing dishes by hand uses 4 gallons.  Here are some ways to reduce hot water use:

  • Install aerators and/or low-flow faucets and shower heads.
  • Repair leaky faucets promptly.
  • Take more showers than baths.  It takes 15-25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 for a five minute shower.
  • When buying clothes washers or dishwashers, purchase a water-saving, efficient model.

Turn Down the Thermostat

  • Water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings.  120 degrees F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.

Insulate the Water Heater

  • Insulate electric hot water heaters with blankets made for this purpose, but be careful not to cover the thermostat.
  • Insulate natural gas or oil heaters similarly, being careful not to cover the heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment.
  • Insulate the first six feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.
  • Install heat traps on the hot and cold pipes at the heater to prevent heat loss.  Some new heaters have built-in heat traps.
  • Drain a quart of water (following manufacturer’s instructions) from your water tank every three months to remove sediment that lowers the efficiency of the heater.

Buy a New Heater

  • Buy a new, energy efficient water heater.  The energy savings will continue throughout the life of the equipment.  Use natural gas if possible, and look for the EnergyGuide label.
  • Consider a drain water waste heat recovery system (uses heat from water going down the drain to heat new water coming in).  Energy savings can be 25-30% using such a system.
  • Consider demand or tankless water heaters.  Savings can be as much as 34% when compared to a standard electric heater.
  • If feasible, look at heat pump or solar water heaters.
  • Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy web site to see if tax credits or other incentives are available in your area.

Information courtesy of EnergySavers.gov.

Photo by Dottie Mae through a Creative Commons License.


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Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.  
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