Your water heater is designed to give you at least 10 to 15 years of use, but only if it is properly maintained for the duration. Similarly, it is designed to perform at a variety of optimal settings so that it will work for many different applications. What many homeowners fail to take into consideration is that adjusting the settings and providing regular maintenance will also reduce the costs of monthly utility bills, and that is a savings that will definitely add up over the life of your unit.
Conserving our natural resources has become a global concern, and the tips presented here will help you fulfill your obligation as a global citizen, reduce your energy costs, and prolong the life of your water heater.
- Adjust Thermostat – Very few people use their hot water at full heat nor should they as it can easily cause severe burns. Unless you have a specific need or desire for extremely hot water, try turning the thermostat down a few degrees to reduce your energy consumption. Make sure you read about how to set your water heater to the optimal temperature.
- Flush Tank – Flush the holding tank of your water heater annually. This will reduce deposit buildup on the heating element and other parts, giving you more efficient operation. Some areas may get away with flushing the tank at longer intervals, but it’s a simple thing to do so why take the risk. Knowing how to clean a water heater is one of the easiest things to learn.
- Insulate the Water Heater – Poorly insulated water heaters may be losing as much as 20% of their heat to the surrounding area. An inexpensive insulation blanket will pay for itself fairly quickly. Those in colder climates where the water heater sits in an unoccupied area (garage, basement, attic) will want a nice heavy blanet (R-11 or higher). When it comes to insulating the tank and pipes, insulation will reduce heat loss, providing hot water on demand and reducing water usage.
- Manage Hot Water Use – If you do not need hot water for a particular task, use the cold water valve instead. You might be surprised at the number of people who routinely turn on the hot water valve to rinse an item and turn it back off again. This causes the water inlet of the water heater to open and results in the entire contents of the tank being re-heated. The addition of a hot water recirculating pump does wonders for larger households. Also, consider installing a water heater timer to automatically program water heater usage by day or even hour. Think of the money you could save by not having to heat the water in the tank during the middle of the night or while you’re at work.
- Mixing Valves – If you need hotter water at one location than at others, try installing mixing valves to pre-mix your hot and cold before it reaches the faucet valves. Remember, when you take a shower, you are in essence using a mixing valve at the shower. When you add a mixing valve at the water heater, you can set the water heater thermostat higher so less hot water is needed from the tank. This allows you to control the heat — and therefore the comfort of users — for a variety of household needs.
- Plumbing Maintenance – Even a slow leak in a pipe can waste as much as a gallon of water per day. In a hot water line, this results in increased water use as well as causing the hot water to cycle on far more frequently. Uncorrected leaks will not fix themselves and tend to grow over time, so fixing them as soon as possible will save money and prevent expensive water damage.
- Prepare for Emergencies – Know how and where to shut off your water heater and the pipes leading to it. Since you can never know the nature or conditions of an emergency situation, knowing how to shut down all of your home appliances quickly and safely could save your life. This is one of those things you should do today instead of worrying about during an emergency.
- Regular Maintenance – Regular maintenance will do more to keep your water heater operating at top efficiency than anything else. If you notice any increases or fluctuations in your water and energy bills, give your unit a checkup, make sure all connectors and joints are sealed, flush the tank and take a temperature check to compare with previous readings.
- Showers vs. Baths – A luxurious bath is nice now and then, but a shower cleans you more effectively and uses up to 10 gallons less water per use. Also, consider taking cooler showers in the summertime, helping keep your body temperature cool and putting less stress on the water heater.
- Tub Size and Water Use – Large tubs use dramatically higher amounts of water than smaller ones. Unless you have a medical reason for using a garden tub, save it for treating yourself on special occasions and you can cut a percentage of water and energy bills in the process.
- Prompt Repairs – When you notice something different in your hot water system — even strange sounds coming from the tank or pipes — investigate. Take a look at some common water heater problems, and compare your symptoms with possible causes. Never ignore water heater problems, they can become costly as well as dangerous very quickly.
- Upgrade Your Water Heater – Components of your water heater will fail over time, even with proper care. Additionally, newer models tend to meet changing environmental and code regulations and operate much more efficiently. The good news is that you have many options available.