15 Ways to Reduce Your Use of Hot Water
Modern living provides us with many conveniences and indulgences, including easy access to hot water. But as a homeowner, hot water comes at a two-fold price—our consumption of water and our use of energy.
In addition to reducing the cost of operating your home, using less hot water also benefits the environment.
According to the US Department of Energy, water heating represents about 18 percent of homeowners’ total energy bill. Beyond heating and cooling the air in your home, reducing your use of hot water may be the best way to trim your bill.
Here are 15 ways to do it.
Make Small Changes to Your System
1. Lower the temperature on your water heater.
Tank-style water heaters store and deliver a supply of hot water whenever you want it. But the setting on the tank may be higher than necessary. Try turning it down to 120 degrees or less.
If you’re leaving for an extended trip and no one needs hot water while you’re gone, reduce the temperature further to the system’s lowest setting. Some units have a vacation mode.
2. Insulate the water tank.
Does the outside of your tank feel warm to the touch? If yes, you can improve its heating efficiency by adding an insulating blanket designed for your water heater.
Make sure you select the correct type of material and size so the cover fits your tank and doesn’t create a fire hazard or other safety problems. In addition, it’s essential not to cover certain components, especially with gas-powered tanks.
3. Insulate exposed pipes too.
It’s not practical to insulate all your hot water lines, but it is a good idea to add inexpensive pop-on insulating foam sleeves to the first three feet or so coming out of your water heater.
Just make sure your insulating material is at least six inches away from the flue if you have a gas-powered tank. For more tips on insulating water pipes, visit energy.gov.
4. Install heat traps.
Heat can also escape at the points where the cold and hot water pipes enter and leave your water tank. Newer water tanks include heat traps at these points. But if your unit doesn’t have them, consider installing these inexpensive components, which will quickly pay for themselves in energy savings.
5. Install low-flow fixtures.
Manufacturers have improved the performance of showerheads and faucets so you can conserve substantial amounts of water without compromising on water pressure. If you have older, water-guzzling fixtures, consider replacing them with newer low-flow models.
6. Install a timer on your water heater.
If you have a tank-style system, consider using a programable timer so your unit can take a break from maintaining a hot water supply while you sleep, or while you’re away at work.
Change Your Habits
7. Wash your laundry in cold water.
Using a lower temperature on your washing machine can put a big dent in your water heating bill. It’s easy to find laundry detergents that will keep your clothes sparkling clean in cold water. Plus, washing clothes in cold water helps them last longer.
One exception is when you want to eliminate germs from fabrics like towels and bedding. Use hot water on these loads.
8. Only run full loads in your dishwasher.
Hold off on running your dishwasher until you’ve filled every space so you can get more dishes clean with the same amount of water and reduce the number of hot water cycles.
If you’re concerned that the residue on dirty dishes will become harder to clean while waiting, try running a short rinse cycle to keep these items damp until you’re ready to run a regular wash cycle.
9. Time your showers.
Sure, it feels delightful to linger in a hot shower. However, every minute of shower time equals roughly two gallons of hot water down the drain! Try curbing your use by setting a timer.
10. Turn down the temperature.
While in the shower—or at the kitchen or bathroom sink—opt for a lower temperature too. Dishes, for example, can be rinsed in lukewarm or cool water, which is easier on your energy bill and your hands!
11. Back off on the pressure too!
It’s easy to develop a habit of blasting the water to rinse dishes, wash your hands, or brush your teeth. But it’s completely unnecessary! Backing off on the water pressure is one of the easiest ways to consume less.
12. Don’t leave the water running.
Speaking of tooth brushing, do you let the water run while brushing yours? Eliminating this habit and others—like letting the water run while waiting to shower or while doing dishes—are more ways to make small but meaningful reductions in your hot water usage.
Maintain Your Hot Water System
13. Repair any leaks immediately.
Are you ignoring a water faucet that drips occasionally? Don’t! The smallest of leaks can add up to substantial water down the drain over time. And if the leak is hidden inside a vanity base or behind a wall, it can also require expensive repairs and safety issues, potentially including mold.
If you’re curious about the cost of a leaking faucet, check out the American Water Works Association’s drip calculator.
14. Remove the sediment in your water tank.
Over time, your water tank accumulates sediment, reducing your unit’s performance and shortening its life.
Periodically draining the tank to remove the sediment is a quick and straightforward task. Manufacturers’ recommendations vary, but every six months is a good rule of thumb.
It’s important to note that tankless water heaters also require periodic maintenance. Minerals accumulate on the system’s heating elements, which must be removed annually or semi-annually, depending on whether you have hard or soft water.
Invest in New Equipment
15. Purchase a new Energy-Star rated water heater.
A new, highly energy-efficient system may be your best option to reduce your water heating costs, especially if you plan to stay in your home long enough to recoup the costs.
Also, investments in energy-saving home appliances can pay off when you’re ready to sell your home and want to showcase these features to future buyers.