Hot Water Heater Efficiency Tips

Water use and electricity go hand in hand. Heating water can account for 14 percent to 25 percent of the total energy consumed in a typical home. What’s more, systems used to clean public water supplies and deliver it to homes require large amounts of electricity. If your home receives water from a well or spring, the pump also draws power. So when we use water, hot or cold, we’re also using energy.

Techniques for trimming water use in your home are surprisingly simple. For one, you can significantly reduce hot water consumption by simply repairing leaks in fixtures—faucets and showerheads—or pipes. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month.

You can also reduce water heating costs in a matter of seconds by lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater. For each 10º F reduction in temperature, you can save between 3 percent and 5 percent in energy costs. Reducing the setting also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes.

Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140º F, most households usually only require them set at 120º F. However, if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, you may require water temperature within a range of 130º F to 140º F for optimum cleaning.

Adding insulation to your water heater can save around 4 percent to 9 percent in costs. To determine if you need to insulate your water heater, touch it. A tank that’s warm to the touch needs additional insulation.

Insulating your water heater tank is fairly simple and inexpensive, and will pay for itself in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $10 to $20 and install it yourself. Choose one with an insulating value of at least R-8. In addition, don’t set the thermostat above 130º F on an electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket—the wiring may overheat.

Installing insulation on gas- and oil-fired water heaters is more difficult. For these appliances, it’s best to have a qualified plumbing and heating contractor perform the work.