Water + energy = Watergy
The term “watergy” was coined by the Alliance to Save Energy to describe the strong link between water and energy in the context of helping cities save money by improving their water distribution systems. But, if you’d like to reduce your utility bills, it applies to you, too.
If your household is like most, you can reduce your water use by 35 percent by making a few simple changes, and — since many of these changes involve saving hot water — you’ll reduce your energy use and power bill at the same time.
The savings can add up since water heating is typically the second-largest energy expense in your home, after space heating and cooling. It usually accounts for about 15 percent of your utility bill.
If your water heater is more than 10 years old, the best way you can reduce your water-heating costs is by installing a new, higher-efficiency model. The energy right Program from TVA and your local power company includes a handy guide for choosing a new water heater.
If you aren’t ready to install a new energy-saving water heater, you can improve the efficiency of your current water heater by following these money-saving tips:
- Make sure your hot water storage tank is properly insulated. You can reduce the heat lost through the walls of the tank by installing an insulating jacket, available at most home improvement stores. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions that are packaged with the jacket, and be careful not to cover the tank thermostat. (Check the label on your tank. If you have a newer water heater, it may not need additional insulation.)
- Insulate your hot-water pipes. Foam pipe insulation also is available at most home improvement stores and is easy to install. It just snaps around your pipes. Cold-water pipes do not require insulation.
- Reduce your hot-water temperature by adjusting your water heater’s thermostat. (Unless your heater has controls that are easy to reach, read, and adjust, ask a professional technician to make the adjustment for you.) Temperatures between 120 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit are hot enough for home use. Some dishwashers recommend 130 degrees to sanitize dishes, but caution should be used with this setting as it could potentially scald someone. Electric water heaters often have two thermostats, one each for the upper and lower heating elements. These should be adjusted to the same temperature to prevent one element from doing all the work and wearing out prematurely.
- If you have an electric water heater, install a timer that automatically turns the hot water off at night and on in the morning. A simple timer can pay for itself in less than a year.
- Install a heat trap above the water heater. It’s a simple check valve or piping arrangement that reduces standby losses by preventing the tendency of hot water to rise up from the tank into the pipes.
- Drain a quart of water from your hot water tank every three months to remove sediment that collects in the bottom of the tank and lowers the unit's efficiency.
To save even more money, water, and energy:
- Take more showers than baths. You use 15 to 25 gallons of hot water for a bath and less than 10 gallons for a five-minute shower.
- Install aerators in faucets and low-flow shower heads. They may reduce your hot water consumption by half.
- Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full. Use warm or cold water settings on your washing machine whenever possible, and always rinse in cold water.