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Domestic Water Heating

Domestic Water Heating!  Insulate your tank.

written on 5/25/04

        Often overlooked, domestic water heating can account for as much as 20% of a homes energy usage.  We use hot water for a variety of every day tasks including: hand washing, bathing, washing dishes and laundry.  There are many ways to generate hot water, but nearly all homes use either electric resistance or gas heating.  By taking several simple measures you can save energy and reduce your water heating associated cost.

        The easiest way to save on hot water cost is to reduce the water temperature to 120F.  This is the temperature recommended in most energy codes.  Not only will it save on standing losses, it reduces the possibility of hot water scolding.  Another simple fix is to install low flow shower heads.  Less water used for showering, means less water to heat.  Find our Oxygenic Shower Heads here.

        While more expensive initially, gas water heaters generally cost about 1/3 as much as their electric counterparts to operate.  The extra upfront cost can pay off in about a year.  If you have the availability of gas in your neighborhood, it will save in the long run to install gas appliances.

        Another way to cut water heating cost is to eliminate the storage tank losses.  These losses are those associated with reheating and maintaining hot water in the storage tank.  "Tankless" or "On Demand" water heaters do not utilize a storage tank.  Instead they produce hot water only when needed.  When purchasing a tankless heater, look for flow rates to match your requirements.  Again, you will pay more upfront, but save in the long run.

        Standing tank losses can be reduced by adding insulation to the outside your tank.  Water heater tank blankets can be installed on both gas and electric tanks and are available at hardware stores like Home Depot and Lowes, and generally cost $20-25.  Alternatively, you can purchase a Radiant Barrier Jacket here.  The extra insulation or jacket reduces heat lost from the tank.  If your tank is located in an unconditioned space, simply installing a tank jacket can save as much as $5.00 a month.  Be sure to install them according to the manufactures instructions, and do not block openings required for combustion air and exhaust gasses.

Click to see our insulation kit
        Hot water circulating systems are gaining in popularity.  This system has a hot water loop which continually pumps hot water throughout the house.  While convenient and saving on water wastage, these systems are costly.  As the water is pumped through the piping, it acts like a large radiator loosing heat.  This causes the water heater to operate more so it can reheat the circulated water.  One case I am familiar with made use of a circulating pump on an electric water heater.  Installing a $30 timer on the circulating pump saved the homeowner nearly a $100 a month.  The timer was set to only circulate the water for several hours in the morning when the occupants would be showering and using hot water.  In addition to heat losses, there were electricity savings from reduced pumping cost.  Why circulate hot water 24 hours a day anyway?

In review, these measures will reduce domestic water heating cost.

  • Insulating your tank
  • Installing low flow shower heads
  • Lowering the set point temperature to 120F
  • If possible, choose gas over electric
  • Using a tankless water heater
  • Installing timers on circulating pumps

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