The hot water heater usually doesn’t cross someone’s mind until something goes wrong. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating water – whether you use your local electricity provider or natural gas company – accounts for about 12 percent of the average utility bill. The best way to save money on your average electric bill or use less natural gas when it comes to heating water is to simply use less hot water.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to save on high energy bills is to install low flow faucets and shower heads. By switching from a standard, 2.5 gallon per minute shower head, to an ultra low flow 1.5 gallon per minute model, you could save as much as 50 bucks a year just in the cost of electricity to heat the water. That’s on top of the nearly 30 bucks you’ll save in water, and that’s just for one shower head over the course of a single year.
When it comes to appliances that use hot water, your washing machine is, by far, the biggest culprit. It can use over 30 gallons of hot water per load. One way to cut the amount of hot water it uses is to simply wash everything in cold water. But, old habits die hard and many people still insist on washing in hot, or at least warm, water. If that’s the case, when it comes time to replace your washing machine, replace it with an Energy Star rated unit.
While your dishwasher doesn’t use as much hot water as your washing machine, only 12 gallons per use, it also doesn’t have the option of washing only in cold water. If you run the dishwasher, it’s going to use hot water… period. Again, your best option is replacing an old, inefficient model with a newer, efficient Energy Star rated unit. Much like a low flow shower head, newer units use air pressure to reduce the amount of water they use.
A quick, easy and cheap way to save money on your average electric bill is to wrap your water heater in insulation. Just a little insulation around the body can greatly reduce the amount of heat lost. Just make sure you don’t cover the top, bottom, thermostat or the burner compartment if it uses natural gas. That’d be a fire hazard. Also, insulate the first six feet of pipes going in and out of the water heater. This keeps the cold water coming into the unit from being too cold in the winter, reducing the amount of work it has to do, as well as reducing the amount of heat – and money – lost.