Water Heaters

Water Heater Efficiency

Get the best performance out of it

No amount of upgrades on an old water heater will make it work as well as a new energy-efficient model. But if the heater isn't near the end of its life, you're going to see less financial benefit through replacement. If you have to get a new one anyway, an efficient water heater is the only way to go. Innovative technologies like solar water heaters and increased insulation are just two ways you can end up saving money.

Add insulation

One way to make your water heater more efficient is to insulate both the tank and the pipes:

  • Tank - Insulation comes unseen on most water heaters. It's between the water reservoir and the outer casing. Unless the manufacturer specifies otherwise, you can help it out by adding an insulating jacket - for about $10 in most cases. People with gas water heaters have to be careful not to restrict any air inlets and might not be able to do this at all. Benefits - This reduces standby heat loss by 25 to 40 percent and saves 4 to 9 percent on water heating bills.
  • Pipes - Insulating pipes in unheated areas can prevent water from cooling as it travels to your taps. Not only is a lot of energy going down the drain, but running the tap while waiting for hot water to come out is a waste of water, too. Insulating water pipes will also reduce standby losses (when hot water is turned off and then back on within an hour). Turning the thermostat up might solve the problem but increases energy consumption at the same time. Insulation, while not a cure-all, will make a big difference.

Ideal temperature settings

While most water heaters can be set anywhere from 120 to 180 degrees farenheit, it's often suggested they be set between 120 and 140 F (closer to the lower number). A 10-degree-farenheit reduction can save 3 to 5 percent on your next bill. Set the thermostat to its lowest setting or turn it off altogether (not in winter) if you won't be home for several days. Just make sure you know how to start it back up if it's a gas water heater.

Water conservation

The best way to ensure water heater efficiency is simply to use less hot water. It sounds difficult, but simple changes, like a water-saving shower head and faucet aerators can cut hot water use in half. Upgrading to water-efficient appliances helps even further.

Energy factor

The higher the number, the more energy efficient (although it doesn't always mean it's the cheapest). An electric water heater can have the highest efficiency (up to .95) but still cost more to operate than some of the other water heater types if electricity is several times more expensive.

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