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Water Heating Tips

Water heaters consume much of their energy just to keep a supply of hot water ready and waiting in the tank. The heat gradually leaks out of the tank until the heater turns on again to heat the water back up. To minimize this heat loss, ready-made kits for insulating water heaters and hot water pipes are available at hardware stores and building supply stores. Your utility company may also provide these at a discounted cost or offer a rebate on your purchase. Be careful not to cover the thermostat when insulating your water heater.

Lower the thermostats on your water heater to 120 degrees F. Electric water heaters often have two thermostats-one for the upper heating element and one for the lower heating element. These should be adjusted to the same level to prevent one element from doing all the work and wearing out prematurely.

  • Other ways to reduce your water heater's energy use:
  • For electric water heaters, install a timer that can automatically turn the hot water off at night and on in the morning. A simple timer can pay for itself in less than a year.

  • Install a heat trap above the water heater. A heat trap is a simple piping arrangement that prevents hot water from rising up in the pipes, thereby minimizing standby losses.

  • Drain a quart of water from your hot water tank every 3 months. This will remove sediment that prevents heat transfer and lowers the unit's efficiency.

  • Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period.

  • Insulate your electric hot-water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the thermostat.

  • Insulate your gas or oil hot-water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the water heater's top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment; when in doubt, get professional help.

  • Install aerating low-flow faucets and showerheads.

  • Buy a new water heater. While it may cost more initially than a standard water heater, the energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance.

  • Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it's best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.

  • Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 115°F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.

  • Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. The type of water tank you have determines the steps to take, so follow the manufacturer's advice.

  • If you heat with electricity and live in a warm and sunny climate, consider installing a solar water heater. The solar units are environmentally friendly and can now be installed on your roof to blend with the architecture of your house.

  • Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. You use 15-25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 gallons during a 5-minute shower.

  • Consider the installation of a drain water waste heat recovery system.

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