Here’s a little factoid to convince you to participate in today’s Green Around the House Challenge: Water heating accounts for up to 15.5 percent of the energy used in your home—second only to HVAC systems in regard to residential energy consumption, according to ENERGY STAR®.
Part of the reason is that although you probably use hot water infrequently (for hand-washing, bathing, and dish-washing), your water heater is always hard at work keeping water warm so it’s ready for you on demand.
Fortunately, slashing your water heater energy consumption is easier than you might think. Here are three moves you can do this weekend, plus info on water heater upgrades that will save you considerably in the long run.
Turn down the temp. This is the easiest green move on the list. Head to your water heater, figure out where the temperature setting is, and turn it down to “normal” or 120 degrees. For every 10 degrees you reduce your water heater temperature, you can save 3 to 5 percent on energy costs according to the U.S. Department of Energy. (Bonus: Turning down the water heater to 120 degrees is a smart safety move that prevents scalding.)
Buy a blanket. Wrapping your water heater in an insulation blanket can reduce water heating energy consumption by 4 to 9 percent. Not sure if your water heater needs the extra insulation? Touch the tank. If it’s warm to the touch, it’s time to insulate. (It’s also a good idea to check your owner’s manual first, however, as some specifically state that the tank shouldn’t be insulated.)
You can purchase a pre-cut jacket or blanket for $10 to $20 from your local hardware or home improvement store. Some utilities sell them too—and may even install them for you. If you’re tackling installation yourself (don’t worry, it’s a piece of cake), the U.S. Department of Energy provides a handy guide that shows you how.
Insulate your pipes. While you’re in insulation mode, why not take care of your water heater pipes too? It’s an incredibly easy way to improve energy efficiency. All you do is measure the circumference of the intake and outtake pipes. Then head to the hardware store and buy insulation (usually $2 to $4 per strip), a utility knife, and acrylic or duct tape. According to Greenyour.com, the process is as easy as cutting the insulation to fit the length and diameter of your pipes, slipping the insulation onto the pipes, and securing the insulation every foot or so with tape. Pretty darn doable, eh?
Buy ENERGY STAR. If you’re in the market for a new water heater this year, you’re in luck. As of January 1, 2009, you can purchase ENERGY STAR® water heaters. There are five different technologies that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating and, depending on which technology you choose, you’ll reduce your heating bills anywhere from 7.5 to 55 percent. Here’s a rundown on each, thanks to information from the U.S. Department of Energy.
- High-efficiency gas storage water heaters work much the same as standard gas storage water heaters but benefit from improved insulation, heat traps, and efficient burners.
- Gas condensing water heaters are similar to gas water heaters, but to increase efficiency heat from the combustion gases is transferred to the water instead of being vented outside.
- Whole-home gas tankless water heaters heat water similarly to standard gas water heaters. The big difference: they don’t have a storage tank. That means that water is heated only when you need it—a big energy saver over standard water heaters that lose energy during standby operation.
- Heat Pump Water Heater (HPWH) technology uses liquid refrigerant to move heat from the surrounding air to the water in an enclosed tank rather than generating heat directly.
- Solar water heaters use the sun’s thermal energy to heat water and can be used alone or with a backup conventional water heating system. Learn about the different types of solar water heaters here, then make sure the one you ultimately choose has an ENERGY STAR label to guarantee even more savings.
Happy energy saving!
The Home Know-It-All