Heating the water in your home accounts for approximately 18 percent of your home’s energy usage, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. While you won’t eliminate that percent entirely, unless you go without hot water, there are ways to reduce how much energy your water heater uses. Here’s what you can do.

Lower Your Water Heater’s Thermostat

The default temperature setting for most hot water tanks is 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but this is usually much hotter than people actually need their hot water. Specifically, it’s about 20 degrees hotter than is necessary. The Department of Energy suggests setting the tank’s temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and this meets the needs of almost all households.

A 20-degree reduction in your hot water heater’s temperature will result in a 6 to 10 percent reduction in its energy consumption, and that savings could be substantial depending on how much hot water you use and how efficient your hot water heater is.

For example, a reasonably efficient electric water heater that had a thermal efficiency of 0.90 might cost $781 to operate each year. A simple reduction in its temperature from 140 to 120 degrees could net a savings of anywhere from $46.86 to $78.10 per year. The savings would be even greater if the efficiency was lower, such as a thermal efficiency of 0.80.

Additionally, the change in temperature will also provide a couple of peripheral benefits. For example, the lower temperature won’t scald people while a 140-degree temperature can. This is an especially important consideration for families that have young children.

Place Insulation Around the Water Heater

If the exterior of your water heater is warm to the touch, you can substantially reduce standby heat loss with insulation. Standby heat loss refers to the heat that’s lost while simply keeping water in the tank warm.

Depending on your tank and the insulation you get, you can expect to reduce this form of heat loss by 25 to 45 percent and total and heating costs by 7 to 16 percent, according to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.

If you’re currently spending $781 per year for the electricity your hot water heater uses, this could net a savings of $54.67 to $124.96. The savings would more than pay for an insulating cover over time, and these savings are in addition to any you realize by lowering the thermostat.

Change Your Water Usage Habits

Some simple changes in your own water usage habits can have a profound effect on how much energy your water heater consumes. Every gallon of hot water you don’t use is one gallon that the water heater doesn’t need to warm up.

Instead of using hot water for everything, use cold or lukewarm water whenever possible. You can wash clothes in cold water, take less-hot showers and baths, use cold water when cooking, and wash dishes with lukewarm water.

Moreover, cold water provides some peripheral benefits. Cold water can:

  • Help burn calories when you drink it
  • Make your skin glow when you wash with it
  • Keep your hair shiny when you shampoo with it
  • Ease pain when you soak an affected area in it
  • Improve your immune system when you shower with it

Even a small amount of exposure, in many cases only a few minutes, can provides some of these benefits.

Install a High-Efficiency Water Heater

If your current hot water heater is old, a newer unit that’s energy efficient will use much less electricity or natural gas. Energy-efficient models have heat traps that stop already heated water from the tank, and they warm up the water more efficiently. Most also have built-in insulation, so you don’t have to purchase a separate insulating cover for the tank.

Any energy-efficient water heater will have a thermal efficiency of at least 0.90, and the best models have a thermal efficiency of 0.95. Older, less-efficient models can have thermal efficiencies of 0.75, which means they lose 15 percent more heat than 0.90 high-efficiency models.

If you need a new hot water heater, contact the professionals at Lakeside Heating & Air Conditioning.