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Save Energy While Enjoying Hot Water

Water heaters manufactured today are much more efficient then their predecessors. In addition to replacing an old water heater with a more efficient model, here are some other measures you can take to save energy while enjoying plentiful hot water for your home.

Find Performance Certified Water Heaters

Get a Quality Installation
One of the easiest ways to save energy from your water heater is to install a new one and have it installed properly. Newer water tanks are better insulated and make hot water more efficiently. Find a qualified heating contractor.

Reduce Use
To conserve hot water, you can fix leaks, install low-flow fixtures, and purchase an energy-efficient dishwasher and clothes washer.

Lower the Temperature
To conserve energy and prevent scalding, lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120ºF. For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save 3 percent to 5 percent in energy costs.

Insulate the Tank and Pipes
  • Check your water heater tank’s R-value of insulation; it should be at least R-24. If you touch your water tank and it is warm to the touch, it probably needs to be better insulated. Adding insulation can reduce standby heat losses by 25 percent to 45 percent and save you around 4 percent to 9 percent in water heating costs.
  • Insulate all accessible hot water pipes, especially within 3 feet of the water heater. It also a good idea to insulate the cold water inlet pipes for the first 3 feet. Insulating hot water pipes can help you lower your water temperature setting by reducing heat loss and can raise water temperature 2ºF to 4ºF. It also can reduce the time it takes for hot water to arrive at your faucet, which helps conserve water.
  • Safety Warning:For gas water heaters, be sure to keep insulation at least 6 inches from the flue. If pipes are within 8 inches of the flue, use fiberglass pipe-wrap (at least 1-inch thick) without a facing. You can use either wire or aluminum foil tape to secure it to the pipe.

Consider an ENERGY STAR® water heater

Beginning in 2009, highly efficient water heaters will be able to earn the ENERGY STAR label to help consumers make efficient choices.

Learn about Water Heater Energy Usage
Use this AHRI worksheet to help you determine peak water heater usage rates and times.

Maintain Your Water Heater
Most people don’t think about their water heaters until they fail. But this important appliance does need occasional maintenance to keep it operating safely, reliably and efficiently. Here are some tips from AHRI on maintaining your water heater.
Know its age. Most water heaters have an expected service life of 10 to 13 years. Preplanning for the end of your water heater’s life is important to helping you make the best and most economical choice for your home.
Refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations on maintenance. Not all water heaters are the same, so when it comes to routine maintenance read the manufacturer’s recommendations in your user manual. For storage water heaters, the manufacturer will likely recommend that you check the pressure relief valve every six months and flush the tank every six months, especially if you live in an area with hard water.

Maintain your water heater safely. Contacting a qualified heating contractor for regular maintenance is the safest way to maintain your water heater. But if you want to perform your own maintenance, always wear gloves, goggles and other protective clothing while performing maintenance on your water heater.

Check the pressure relief valve. The pressure relief valve and drain are conveniently placed for maintenance. Gas and electric storage water heaters have a safety device called a pressure relief valve. In the event the tank over-pressurizes, the relief valve opens and releases the pressure. If the valve does not operate correctly, the tank can over pressurize and explode. To check the pressure valve:
  1. Turn off the electricity to the water heater or turn the gas switch to pilot.
  2. Shut off the cold water inlet to the water heater.
  3. Position the bucket to catch water from the pressure relief valve.
  4. Pull the trip lever on the valve. You should hear a slight rush of air or see some water and vapor exit through the pressure relief valve. If you don't, drain the tank and replace the valve.
Flush the tank every six months. Sediment build up in the tank can reduce your water heater's energy efficiency and also clog your water lines. Avoid these problems and increase the life of your unit by flushing the tank each time you check the pressure relief valve. To flush the tank:
  1. Turn off the electricity to the water heater or turn the gas switch to pilot.
  2. Shut off the cold water inlet to the water heater. Water Conservation Tips.
  3. Connect a garden hose to the tank's drain valve.
  4. Locate the draining end of the hose in an area that won't be adversely affected by the scalding hot water.
  5. With the pressure relief valve open, you can now open the drain valve and allow the tank to drain completely. Draining the tank completely ensures that you have removed all possible sediment.
  6. Close the tank drain valve, disconnect the hose from the valve and close the pressure relief valve.
  7. Open all the hot water faucets in the house and turn on the cold water inlet to the tank.
  8. Close each hot water faucet as water begins to flow from it. After all the faucets are closed, turn on the electricity to the water heater or turn the gas switch to "run."