Keep plenty of warm water on hand while keeping your electric bill under control with the following tips:
Lower the temperature setting of your water heater; this not only saves energy, but it reduces the chance of scalding injuries. A 10° F reduction in temperature saves about 13% of your water heating costs. For an average family this amounts to savings of $30 if you heat water with gas or $60 with electricity. A temperature setting of 120° F should be fine, unless your dishwasher doesn't have a booster heater.
Wrapping your water heater with an insulating blanket can save $20 annually if you have a gas water heater or $50 per year if you have electric. To see if your tank needs an insulation blanket, place your hand on the tank. If it feels warm to the touch then you need a blanket to keep the warmth in.
Insulate water lines; if the pipes that supply hot water throughout your house are hot to the touch, then heat is being lost. By insulating hot water pipes you can reduce this loss. Start at the water heater and insulate all of the accessible pipe. If the pipe where cold water enters the water heater also feels warm, then you should insulate that pipe as well.
Don't let the water run. Minimize water use while brushing teeth, shaving, and washing hands in bathroom sinks.
Fix drippy faucets right away. A faucet that leaks one drip per second can waste 400 gallons of water a year. If the water is hot, that 400 gallons will cost you about $8 if you heat water with electricity or $4 if you heat water with gas, plus the cost of the water itself.
Upgrade your showerheads. Federal standards limit new showerheads to no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, because the energy and water savings are enormous. Replacing older showerheads with low flow units could save a family of four as much as 15,000 gallons of water per year, reducing water heating costs by over $150 for electric hot water and over $60 for gas.
Install a water softener unit in-line before the water heater; this will prevent sediment from building up in the bottom of the water heater. Your water heater will then heat more efficiently, and the elements and tank will last longer.
Replace your water heater if it is over 10 to 15 years old as newer models will save considerable energy.
The key to saving energy with a conventional water heater is to find one with a high Energy Factor (EF) rating. The best new electric water heaters have an EF rating of .90 or higher and have nearly 4 inches of foam insulation keeping in the heat, as opposed to older fiberglass insulated tanks that had an EF rating of only .80. The extra money you spend up front will come back in savings over the life of the unit.
Howell-Oregon Electric Cooperative is currently offering a water heater rebate to members who purchase a qualifying energy-efficient water heater.
Thinking about buying a new tankless "on demand" water heater?
Read the frequently asked questions below for some important considerations before you decide.
Q: What is an electric tankless water heater and how does an electric tankless water heater work?
A: An electric tankless water heater is a small device that can be mounted on a wall. It heats water as water passes over electric coils.
Q: I hear electric tankless water heaters will save money on my electric bill, is that true?
A: Electric Tankless Water Heater manufacturers have claimed a consumer will save 30% to 50%. But according to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an electric tankless water heater could save an average consumer about $30 per year on electricity. Unfortunately, the average electric tankless water heater needs at least 120 amps to operate and the average household’s total capacity is 200 amps. This means you will have to upgrade your electrical system to accommodate for the larger load demand, which could cost you up to $1,500. Also, electric tankless water heaters require additional equipment to be installed by the Cooperative at the meter base. This added equipment costs approximately $2000 more than the equipment needed at a member’s household using a conventional electric water heater. To be fair to all members, this cost must be covered by the member installing an electric tankless water heater system. In addition, conventional tank-style water heaters have increased in efficiency in recent years to up to .94 energy factor ratings, making an electric tankless heater not as attractive of an option when it relates to energy efficiency.
Q: Will an electric tankless water heater work on my current electric system?
A: Electric Tankless water heaters usually require substantial and expensive upgrades in your system. The Seisco Model RA-28 for instance has four 7,000-watt elements for a total electrical load of 28,000 watts. This extra load requires at least 120 amps. The average home has a total capacity of 200 amps, which means an upgrade would be needed. As stated earlier, it is possible these upgrades could cost a member up to $1,500. Also, electric tankless water heaters require additional equipment to be installed by the Cooperative at the meter base, which could cost approximately $2000. To be fair to all members, this cost must be passed on to members installing an electric tankless water heater system. It is typical for lights to dim or blink when an electric tankless water heater kicks on which is also a problem.
Q: Are electric tankless water heaters easy to maintain?
A: Electric tankless water heaters are so new, it could be difficult to find a technician to work on one.
Q: Does an electric tankless water heater system always produce hot water on-demand?
A: The simple answer is no. An electric tankless water heater only works on-demand if the heater is installed close to the faucet that you are using. Another concern is that an electric tankless water heater needs a water flow rate of .5 gallons to 2 gallons per minute to heat water, so your faucet has to be turned on high to produce hot water. Also, when incoming water is colder during winter, or as the amount of water flowing through the unit increases, the temperature of your hot water will decrease. For instance, if you are washing clothes and using your shower, you may not have hot water at both places.
Q: Will an electric tankless water heater match the performance of a tank-type water heater?
A: According to the Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH), and supported by Housing and Urban Development (HUD), further testing is needed to determine if electric tankless water heaters will match the performance of tank-type heaters. A known fact is that traditional tank-style water heaters now have efficiency of up to .94 energy factor ratings, making an electric tankless heater not as attractive of an option when it relates to energy efficiency.