Your Water Heater – The Energy Guzzler

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Aside from the furnace, your water heater is probably the biggest energy guzzler in your home, assuming you haven’t just gone out and purchased a brand new, super-efficient model. If your water heater isn’t brand new, but isn’t ready to be replaced yet, there are a lot of things you can do to make it more efficient, saving you money and the planet precious fuel. Let’s take a look at steps you can take:

The biggest step you can take to reduce energy use via the water heater is to reduce your household’s consumption of hot water. By doing all or most of your laundry in cold water, installing low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators and taking showers instead of baths, you will reduce your hot water usage.

Check for and repair any leaky faucets or hot water pipes. Even a small leak can waste gallons of water each day, raising your gas or electric bill, and water bill as well.

Turn the thermostat on the water heater down a notch. If it’s at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and nobody in the house complains that the water is not hot enough, you’re fine. This will, of course mean that the hot water is going to run out quicker when you are showering, but if you are taking shorter showers to save water, that shouldn’t be a problem. Note that some dishwasher manufacturers recommend that water temperature be at 140 to effective clean your dishes. Check the owners manual and also check to see if the dishes do come clean at the new, lower temperature.

A water heater requires periodic maintenance just like your furnace does, especially if it is a gas water heater. If it isn’t burning fuel correctly, you’re wasting energy and money and the unburned fuel ends up going up the flue and into the air (not good).

Drain sediment from your water heater. Your water heater develops a layer of sediment over time and this sediment ends up between the heating element and the water in the tank. If you have hard water in your area, the sediment will build up more quickly. If your water heater is relatively new, you should be able to place a pail under the faucet and drain off a few gallons every month or two. But if the heater is several years old, you could get the faucet open and find that you cannot close it because of corrosion. This means calling a plumber to fix the problem. The plumber’s bill may end up being more expensive than the amount of money you will save by draining off sediment, meaning that you may want to let sleeping dogs lie if your water heater is old.

If you are leaving for vacation in the summer, set the water heater control to “Off” or “Pilot”. If you are leaving for an extended period in the winter, set the control to a minimum heat to prevent freezing, but not to “Off”.

Insulate your water heater. If the water heater is relatively new, you may not need to, but if it’s older, buy a ready-made water heater blanket. Be sure to tape the seams closed. You can also insulate exposed pipes, but if you are using heat tape on the pipes, be sure not to overlap the tape and the insulation.

There it is – your complete step-by-step program to making your water heater as energy efficient as possible. With a bit of work and maybe coaxing your family to take shorter showers, you will see lower gas or electric bills and enjoy knowing that you are not wasting precious energy.

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