When we think about ways to save on our electric bill, many of us reach for the light switch or the thermostat. But one of the biggest energy users in your home is churning away quietly just out of sight — your water heater.
Don’t wash money down the drain! Use these tips from PEC Senior Energy Service Advisors Brian Curtsinger and Chris Denison to manage your water heater for maximum savings all year long.
Install a timer
Standard water heaters keep their tanks heated all the time — even when you’re asleep or at work. And you’re paying for it.
The average water heater in a household of three to four people costs about a dollar per gallon in tank size to run each month. For a family of four, a 50-gallon water heater can contribute about $50 to the electric bill. Installing a timer on your water heater so it runs only when you need it, like the morning and evening, to wash dishes and run the shower, can significantly reduce that cost.
“Timers are really where you’ll see the biggest savings,” Denison said. “They can save $10 to $20 per month on your electric bill, meaning a standard $50 timer will pay for itself in a matter of months, and then keep saving all year long.”
Set your water heater to 120 degrees
Your water heater temperature can be set as high as 140 degrees, Curtsinger noted, but 120-125 degrees will serve most households — and you’re not wasting energy to heat your water hotter than you need it.
Insulate your pipes
Make sure to insulate exposed water lines to prevent heat loss, Denison advised. “Most new homes do this, but it’s always worth it to double-check,” he said.
Pipes aren’t protected from the freeze prevention system inside your water heater. Wrap your external pipes with heat tape, fiberglass, or polyethylene wrap for the best protection. This will also provide some protection from dreaded frozen pipes that can happen during cold weather.
Reconsider demand-type heaters
Demand-type, also known as tankless, heaters provide hot water only when it’s needed. At first glance, this may seem like a solution to the problem presented by traditional water heaters, which burn energy to keep water hot 24/7. But it’s not quite so simple, Curtsinger warned.
“Electric on-demand systems are not effective for an entire home for the cost,” he said, “but a gas on-demand system is very efficient.”
Denison explained this is because gas heats with combustion: a flame that heats the water quickly. Electrical systems use heating elements, which are relatively slow to warm the water and expend a great deal of energy to do so.
Know about hot water circulating pumps
Hot water circulating pumps keep hot water flowing through the pipes of your home at all times. They can save a great deal of water — think about the gallons that flow down the drain while you’re waiting for your shower to get hot — but increase your electric bill, Denison said.
Plus, in the warm months, the added heat in the floors and walls makes your air conditioner work overtime, pushing your electric bill even higher.
“A circulating pump means that you’re using heat constantly. You may use two to three times as much energy as you would with a traditional system,” Denison said. “Really, the best way to save is to get a timer.”
Love these energy-saving tips? Check out more at pec.coop/savings.