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How to Improve Your Water Heater's Efficiency

hard water effect on pipes

Everyone is feeling the energy pinch. Utility bills are rising across the country, with rates exceeding more than double the rate of inflation. This has left many of us looking for ways to cut the costs.

Since water heating accounts for as much as 18% of your home’s energy bill, improving your water heater’s efficiency is bound to have a big impact. In this post, we offer some practical tips for getting the most out of your water heater and reducing your expenses.

Lower the Heat

Most water heaters have a default setting of 140 degrees. However, this is a higher temperature than necessary, which means that you’re paying for extra heat that’s unneeded. For the best balance of savings, safety, and comfort, the Department of Energy recommends setting your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees. This is still hot enough to kill bacteria and provide ample warmth for showers. You may see savings up to $400 annually.

water heater temperature

Inspect for Leaks

If your water heater has been running up the bills, it’s possible that it’s been quite literally leaking all of that heat away. Leaks in your water tank can cause dramatic energy losses, not to mention water damage, which comes with its own potential costs.

You’ll need to check your water heater for any signs of leaking. Look around the floor for signs of pooled water or evaporated puddles. This is usually evident by unsightly staining and rust. Most often, the source of leaks is the drain valve, but the tubes and pipes connecting to the top of the heater can be a weak point as well.

Tightening components may be all it takes to stop the leak, but in some cases, you may need to replace them or the tank altogether. The latter is usually necessary when no leak can be detected at the other points, but the sound of leaking is still audible when listening to the tank’s interior.

hard water damages plumbing

Add Insulation

Water heaters can waste more than $60 per year in the form of standby heat losses. This is most likely to occur when your insulation is insufficient. Ideally, both the tank and the connecting pipes should be well insulated to protect heat from radiating out.

To insulate the tank, it’s recommended to buy a water heater blanket (or “jacket”) with an R-value no less than 8. This will provide the minimum amount of insulation needed, in materials that are safe for direct contact with the tank’s exterior. After wrapping the blanket tightly around the tank, it will need to be taped in place. Making this upgrade can cut your costs by as much as 16%, depending on the quality of the blanket you choose.

Finally, you’ll need to get all of your connecting pipes snuggled up in some insulation of their own. This is actually a fairly simple (and even fun!) process, since the foam tube insulation needed is quite cheap and easy to install.

Simply cut the tubes to length as necessary. Open them up and snap them around the pipes. Tape or bands may need to be added to keep the insulation clung to the pipes and close any gaps. Adding this pipe insulation can help water reach your shower and other appliances 2-4 degrees warmer, requiring less hot water usage overall.

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Curb Consumption

Your water heater may be doing the best it can, but if your household demand is high, it’s going to struggle. Evaluating your usage can help you identify habits that are costing more than necessary. The following are some of the most common points of hot water waste:

  • Laundry: Many of us feel the need to use hot water to get our clothes truly clean, but most of today’s detergents are engineered to work well in cold water.

  • Long Showers: Having the hot water on blast the entire time we’re luxuriating in the shower may feel great, but there’s a price to pay! Lowering the water pressure or turning it off altogether while you’re busy shaving or shampooing can make sure that less of that precious hot water goes down the drain.

  • Dishwashing: Hand-washing dishes is a water-intensive process, especially if you leave the water running while you work. Try turning off the faucet between rinses, or fill up a bucket to use for the initial washing. If you have an old dishwasher, upgrading to a new Energy Star appliance can reduce your overall water usage to just 3 gallons per load - 24 gallons fewer than the average hand-washing session!

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Install a Volt Timer

How often is it that you take a steamy hot shower at 3am? Or wake up in the middle of the night feeling an intense need to wash your pots and pans? For those of us that are human, the answer is probably not often! So why should your water heater run all night long?

Setting your water heater to only be active when you are is a great way to reduce energy costs. If your utility plan charges more for usage during peak hours, having your timer turn off your heater during this period can also help you avoid those surcharges. This is especially recommended if your water heater is located in a cold garage or entirely outdoors, where it may have to work extra hard to keep up to temperature in this frigid Indiana winter.

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Hamm and Sons Water Heater Services

Hamm and Sons Plumbing has been helping the residents of Indianapolis find the best solutions for their water heaters and other plumbing needs for over 30 years. Our team is ready to help you optimize your water heater by making upgrades and repairs, or installing full replacements.

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We Service, Install, Repair & Replace