Here’s something that may come as a surprise. Did you know that water heating is the second largest energy-related expense in your home? While it’s an unavoidable expense, that doesn’t mean it’s out of your control. Here are some helpful tips on how to reduce your energy bills and take control of your water consumption—without forcing your family take one-minute showers.
Install Low-Flow Faucets and Showerheads
Low-flow devices decrease the volume of water but increase the pressure. This means you’re saving water, but your shower or dishwashing experience doesn’t feel any different. Look for the Watersense label on faucets and showerheads, and take a glance at gallons per minute (gpm) of each product. The lower the rating, the less water it uses.
Turn Down the Water Heater Thermostat
The standard temperature on a water heater is 140 degrees fahrenheit, but it doesn’t have to be this hot to effectively wash dishes or provide a comfortable shower. Turn your thermostat setting to 120 degrees—you probably won’t even notice a difference until it’s time to pay your bill.
Wash with Cold Water
Approximately 75 percent of the energy used in a warm load of laundry comes from the “warm” part. And while this may shock people who have been doing laundry for decades, warm water isn’t the end-all-be-all of stain removal. In fact, it can cause some stains to set in further. Some items, like dirty cloth diapers or a deeply soiled sports uniform, will need warm water to bounce back. But everything else can be washed in cold water just as effectively. You’ll want to use liquid detergent, since powders usually need warm water to dissolve. There are plenty of detergent options that work well with cold water, though, so just make sure the product you’re using works before you make the switch.
Check for Leaks
Make sure there are no leaks in your hot water pipes, and don’t let a leaky faucet continue to drip—little problems like these waste more water than you think. And if it’s the water that’s leaking, you’re wasting energy to heat it in the first place.
Insulate Your Pipes
For a simple and affordable update, insulate the first three to six feet of the pipes connected to the water heater. Insulating your water pipes can raise the water temperature, which allows you to adjust to a more energy-efficient setting. You could call a professional to do this, but you may spend more money than you recoup in energy savings. DIY the job yourself if you can, or ask a professional to do it while they’re already there working on another aspect of your water heater. You can also insulate the hot water storage tank for added energy savings.
Replace Your Water Heater if Needed
Before you go shopping for a new water heater, consider what repairs or upgrades might make your current one more efficient. It may cost you more to buy an energy-efficient water heater than it would to make the one you have work better for you. However, if it’s time to select a new water heater, make sure you get the right size (bigger isn’t always better), accurately estimate its operating cost, and choose the right kind for your home. You options include: traditional, tankless, solar, heat pump, and indirect. Research each thoroughly before you make your decision.
Buy Energy Star-Certified Appliances
Again, you don’t have to spend all of your money buying brand new energy-efficient appliances if yours at home are perfectly functional. If your dishwasher or clothes washer is only a few years old, clean and maintain it properly to get the most out of it rather than replacing it entirely. Booting out a perfectly good appliance in favor of one that’s more energy efficient one is neither environmentally friendly nor much of a bargain for you. However, if your dishwasher or washer is nearing a decade old or is having trouble, look for Energy Star-certified replacements. These appliances use the latest advancements in technology and—most importantly—rely on less energy and water.
Cut Down on Water Use
You can make a dozen upgrades around the home that make your hot water system more efficient and less wasteful. But you can save even more by changing small habits. Start turning off the water while you’re brushing your teeth, cut back on those unnecessarily long showers, and make sure you’re always washing full loads on laundry day. You will be surprised at how far plain old discipline will get you when it comes to conserving energy in your home.
What steps have you taken to save on energy costs at home? Let us know in the comments below!