Water heating is the third largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 14% of your utility bill.
There are three or four ways to cut your water heating bills: Use less hot water; turn down the thermostat on your water heater; buy a new, more efficient water heater; and on older models, insulate your water heater. A family of four, each showering for 5 minutes a day, uses 700 gallons of water a week; this is enough for a 3 year supply of drinking water for one person. You can cut that amount in half simply by using low pressure flow showerheads and faucets.
Some Water Heating Tips
Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period.
Insulate your older electric hot water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the thermostat.
Insulate your older gas or oil hot water storage tank and pipes, but be careful not to cover the water heater's floor, top, thermostat, or burner compartment; when in doubt, get professional help.
Install aerators in faucets and low flow showerheads.
Buy a new water heater which comes with a thick, insulating shell. It may cost more initially than one without insulation, energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance.
Although most water heaters last 10 - 15 years, it's best to start shopping for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.
Lower the thermostat on your water heater; water heaters sometimes come from the factory with high temperature settings, but a setting of 115°F provides comfortable hot water for most uses.
Drain a quart or more of water from your water tank (until the water runs clear) every month or two to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. The type of water tank you have determines the steps to take before, so follow the manufacturer's advice.
If you heat with electricity and live in a warm and sunny climate, consider installing a solar water heater. The solar units are environmentally friendly and can now be installed on your roof to blend with the architecture of your house.
Take more showers than baths. Bathing uses the most hot water in the average household. You use 15 - 25 gallons of hot water for a bath, but less than 10 gallons during a 5 minute shower.
This article has been contributed in part by Michigan State University Extension