• Heating Water in the Home

    Posted on September 29, 2012 by in Energy Efficiency & Conservation, Green Home Purchase, Tips for Home Buyers, Tips for Home Sellers

    Keep Your Energy Bills Out of Hot Water. Insulate your water heater to save energy and money, or choose an on-demand hot water heater to save even more.

    Water heating is the second largest energy expense in your home. It typically accounts for about 18% of your utility bill.


    There are four significant ways to cut your water heating bills:

    1. use less hot water,
    2. turn down the thermostat on your water heater,
    3. insulate your water heater,
    4. or buy a new, more efficient model.


    • Install aerating, low-flow faucets and shower-heads.
    • Repair leaky faucets promptly; a leaky faucet wastes gallons of water in a short period of time.
    • Set the thermostat on your water heater to 120°F to get comfortable hot water for most uses.
    • Insulate your electric hot-water storage tank but be careful not to cover the thermostat. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
    • Insulate your natural gas or oil hot-water storage tank but be careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat, or burner compartment. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations; when in doubt, get professional help.
    • Insulate the first 6 feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.
    • If you are in the market for a new dishwasher or clothes washer, consider buying an efficient, water-saving ENERGY STAR® model to reduce hot water use. See the Appliances section for more information.
    • Install heat traps on the hot and cold pipes at the water heater to prevent heat loss. Most new water heaters have built-in heat traps.
    • Drain a quart of water from your water tank every 3 months to remove sediment that impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your heater. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
    • Although most water heaters last 10-15 years, it’s best to start shopping now for a new one if yours is more than 7 years old. Doing some research before your heater fails will enable you to select one that most appropriately meets your needs.


    • Buy a new energy-efficient water heater. While it may cost more initially than a standard water heater, the energy savings will continue during the lifetime of the appliance. Look for the ENERGY STAR® and EnergyGuide labels. You can find the ENERGY STAR label on efficient water heaters in the following categories: high-efficiency gas non-condensing, gas condensing, electric heat pump, gas tankless, and solar.
    • Consider natural gas on-demand or tankless water heaters, which heat water directly without using a storage tank. Researchers have found energy savings can be up to 30% compared with a standard natural gas storage tank water heater.
    • Consider installing a drain-water waste heat recovery system. Drain-water, or greywater, heat recovery systems capture the energy from waste hot water — such as showers and dishwashers — to preheat cold water entering the water heater or going to other water fixtures. Energy savings vary depending on individual household usage.
    • Heat pump water heaters can be very cost-effective in some areas. They typically use 50% less electricity to heat water than conventional electric water heaters. If your water heater is located in your basement, it will also provide de-humidification in the summer months. However, this technology can pose some installation challenges, so you should consult with an installer before you purchase one.


    Any investment into energy efficient upgrades needs to be carefully considered.   Everything needs to be evaluated; insulation in the home and around pipes, individual usage, local utility rates, tax incentives and so forth.  Most energy efficient upgrades pay-off over time, but can be very difficult to recoup at the point of sale.    Here are some tips to maximize your energy efficient upgrades when selling your home:
    1. Use a GREEN certified REALTOR who has the expertise to educate future buyers on the merits of the upgrades
    2. Keep copies of utilities to show before and after savings to quantify any upgrade into savings per month and prominently advertise these savings
    3. Quantify the reduction in carbon output even if there isn’t a dollar amount associated with it and promote this activity
    4. Invest early in home ownership to capture the highest return on your investment
    5. Buy homes that others have already invested energy-efficiency upgrades into



    Activity Gallons per Use
    Clothes washer 7
    Shower 10
    Automatic dishwasher 6
    Kitchen faucet flow 2 per minute
    Bathroom faucet flow .05 per minute
    Total daily average 64

    Source: Federal Energy Management Program Energy Cost Calculator, March 2010


    Tankless Hot Water Heater ~ A Green Home Feature


4 Responses so far.

  1. Moumen says:

    This could be a very good heater optoin for some people, if the features fit what you need. It takes up relatively little floor space, and the pedestal design puts the heater up a little higher, if that suits your needs. (A regular tower heater might be fine for lots of people, though.) It’s 30 tall and the base is a 12 circle. The top part is about 7.5 wide at the top (the widest part). Pros: – High 1500W (5118 BTU) and low 900W (3070 BTU) settings. And two fan speeds to go with that the fans runs more slowly and quieter on low which is a feature that’s missing on many heaters for some inexplicable reason. – Quiet for a heater with a fan, especially on the low setting. (But that can’t be used with the auto thermostat setting, see below!) – Well built, and well packed. – The light weight and convenient handle, at the top of the back, make it easy to carry and move around. – The controls are well placed, easy to read, and make sense they do the things you’d think they should. – The LCD shows the room temperature and the thermostat setting, exactly no guessing on a dial with marks around it! Both seem very accurate it matches a digital thermometer I have in the room. Cons: – The biggest one by far for me the auto setting (to maintain the temperature you set) only uses high heat. Low auto isn’t an optoin. – No automatic shutoff if it tips over. Maybe the overheat protection would take care of it, and it doesn’t really get that hot but I’d think they’d want to have that in a heater with this design. – The base looks a little big 12 across but I suppose it has to be to make the pedestal work. There’s no auto low setting which was the main reason I wanted this heater, to have something quiet that could maintain the temperature in a bedroom at night. That would also mean it would switch on and off fewer times, and draw less peak electric current. Big oversight on the manufacturer’s part. Though otherwise, it’s about as quiet as fan heater could be, I imagine. If you need something quieter, look at something like the very quiet, but the heat circulates only by convection (hot air rising), which might not work for all situations. This heater requires some assembly of the pedestal and base. Just tightening some screws, really, but it’s a little cumbersome since the top piece can’t rest anywhere given the shape. Just plan on it taking ten minutes or so. The manufacturers website, laskoproducts.com, has more info and you can download the owners’ manuals in pdf form. There are multiple model number versions of this heater 5355, 5365, and 5350 and as far as I can tell they vary only in the colors and what stores sell them. You can read lots more comments on a similar version of this heater at the HomeDepot website.

  2. Daun says:

    From what I understand, the first two suggestions contradict each other. If you turn down your thermostat, you will use more hot water for a shower (which appears to use the most water in the chart shown later). This is because the amount of water coming through the pipe will be constant no matter what your thermostat is set at, but if the hot water is a lower temperature, it will be mixed with less water from the cold tap. So, a large family that takes a lot of showers would use less heated water if the thermostat were set higher. But a single person taking just one shower per day may benefit from turning down the thermostat.

    • Daun, the idea here is that it takes considerably more energy to heat that water to a higher temperature. But there are other issues and this subject can be very complicated due to both poor choices available to the consumer as well as inadequate choices for the consumer. Add to that the fact that there are health and safety issues to consider and it becomes a balancing act. Life style can greatly impact both use and choices. Conservation is always going to be a critical part of the puzzle and even changes to life style can be worthwhile.

      First of all lets get the health and safety issues out of the way—because they will actually dictate some of the reasons why some choices may be better than others in terms of what type of heater to buy.

      The water temperature delivered to fixtures should never be over 120 degrees F. If your tank type heater is to be set at this temperature iit will have to be sized accordingly. Typically for an electric heater this would likely be around 52+ gallons for a family of 3—adding about 10 gallons per person to the size from there. For gas you might start at 42+ gallons and extrapolate from there. Other factors that are going to affect this are any “unusual” hot water needs like giant whirlpool baths etc.

      t around 130 degrees

  3. Jana says:

    Hi Daun, thanks for the input. I was prepared to explain this in a way that made sense to me, but as I did I ran into a problem with my rational. (That’s why I love these discussion, thinking makes my brain work) I found a great blog on the topic and as luck would have it, that blog referenced a blog by one of my favorite inspectors. Here are the two blogs:
    http://buellinspections.com/what-is-the-actual-water-temperature-in-my-home-really I will ask Charles Buell more about the mixing values and see if he can help us figure this out. Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate you.

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