How To Make Efficient Use of Your Home’s Hot Water Heater

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If you’re trying to create a more efficient (and wallet friendly) environment in your home when it comes to power consumption, you may have noticed that your hot water heater isn’t the most cooperative partner. Whereas many home appliances, such as washers and dryers, come with obvious energy saving options, standard water heaters and storage tanks require a more hands-on approach.

Heat Hogs

Imagine your hot water heater as a window or door forever left cracked open. Since the purpose of the water heater is to provide hot water whenever desired, it moves through an unending cycle of heating and reheating your water. Water cools when it rests, so unused hot water eventually cools down, signaling the heating element to activate. This cycle never stops.

Accounting for approximately 14%-18% of energy use in the home, water heating is the second largest energy consumer in your home ($400-$600 yearly). So let’s explore some steps we can take to take some control back from our water heaters.

Turn That Thermostat Down!

Hot water heaters and their thermostats are notoriously untrustworthy. Try measuring the hottest water temperature at the sink or other source farthest away from your water heater. That faucet needs to be at 120 degrees or whatever you find most comfortable. Adjust your water heater’s thermostat accordingly, wait two hours, and check it again. This is one of the easiest ways to save money with your heater.

Use Less Hot Water

Ok, so this isn’t shocking news, but it might be surprising places you’re using hot water without entirely realizing it. Washing big loads of laundry on ‘hot’? Constantly running a semi-full dishwasher on the heaviest cycle? Husbands, make sure to read this aloud to your spouse – stop pre-washing dishes! Today’s dishwashers can handle that lasagna. Scrape what’s left in the trash, bypass pre-washing, and toss that dish in the machine.

Have a family of four? If each of you takes one five-minute shower per day, that’s 700 gallons of hot water in one week . . . which is also how much water one of you will drink in three years.

Consider installing low-flow faucets and shower-heads. Not only will you increase hot water efficiency, your water bill will taper off as well.

Drain the Tank

A good honey-do list chore; Turn off the water and power to the unit and set the burner/heating element to “pilot.” Attach a hose to the spigot at the bottom of the tank, release the tank’s pressure-relief valve and turn on the spigot. Draining approximately one quart of water every three months will help your tank run more efficiently, helping you avoid repairs while also lowering the cost of operating the machine.