Monday, July 23, 2007

Day Twenty-Seven - We're in Hot Water

Turn Down (or Off) The Water Heater

Today's tip comes from my Dad, a self-proclaimed cheapskate who was "green" long before it was fashionable and probably taught me more about the environment than anything I could ever learn online.

Our water heater is generally set on "scald" due to the fact that my husband absolutely abhors anything less than third-degree generating hot showers. Today I snuck it down to second-degree level, let's see if he notices.

Most water heaters heat the water anywhere between 110 - 140 degrees. The optimal temperature for disinfecting and cleaning is 120 degrees. The extra heat does nothing for you except increase your risk of scald and corrode your pipes more quickly. So if you're cranked up to high, pull it back a bit. For each 10 degree Fahrenheit reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs each month.

My water heater doesn't have actual temperatures listed on the knob, just HOT, WARM and (I never even noticed this one before -- VACATION). You can bet I'll be using that setting the next time we leave for a long weekend! I moved my from HOT to somewhere between HOT and WARM and I'm hoping that's about a 15-20 degree difference.

Anyhow, my Dad's Big Tip is this: When he lived alone, he used to keep his electric water heater turned off the majority of the time. When he woke up in the morning, he would turn his water heater on and let it warm up (took him about 20 minutes, but I don't know how big his tank was). Once it was hot, he would go ahead and shave, shower, wash dishes, do whatever he needed hot water for and then shut it back off. He wouldn't use hot water again the rest of the day. That's a HUGE savings of about 95% in hot water energy costs!

While I personally wouldn't want to trot out to the garage each day to turn my hot water heater on and off, it would be easy enough to put it on a timer. I would probably set it to turn on about an hour before we woke up and then have it turn off a couple hours before bedtime, when I know I wouldn't need it. That's not exactly a 95% savings, but assuming it's off for eight hours, that would be a 30% reduction in energy costs.

Of course, the whole timer idea is blown for me since 1. my hot water heater is gas-powered and 2. the hot water heater is also the heat source for our house. But if your hot water heater is electric, give the timer thing a try and let me know how it works for you. Dad claims his electric bills were never over $20 a month.


For me, it should result in roughly a 4% reduction in monthly energy savings. That would be about 24kWh per month. At my new cost of roughly $0.10 per kWh, that also nets me $2.40 a month in another kind of "green". Keep it coming, baby!

Difficulty Level - 1 out of 5

Pretty easy to adjust the thermostat. Would be more difficult if I put it on a timer, but even that would only be a 2 for me, since my hot water heater is easy to access. Your difficulty level might be higher if your hw heater is in a hard-to-reach or spider-infested spot.

Thanks for the tip, Dad! If anyone else has any green ideas, I'd love to hear them!


Mary Elizabeth said...

My husband loves the scald setting, too, I'll be interested to hear if your's notices;)

Eric Blund said...

My advice to conserving water is to install a Hot Water Lobster under the sink farthest from your water heater! I got a Hot Water Lobster Instant Hot Water valve a few months ago and it's awesome! It’s a recirculation system that needs no electricity or pump! I don't waste water down the drain waiting for the water to get hot anymore in the shower. It's quite convenient to not have to stand waiting for the kitchen water to warm up too! I think it will pay off pretty quickly. I paid only $179.95 at their website. It was super easy for me to install! I think everyone should get one if you want to save water, time, and energy! One unit was enough to work for my whole house! Here's their site... Check it out: