Is Buying a Water Heater Timer Worth It?

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When it comes to making the home more energy efficient, your water heater should be a bigger concern than most people make it out to be. According to, your water heater accounts for as much as 12 percent of your home’s energy usage.

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Unfortunately, more time is spent encouraging people to buy new water heaters, install solar heaters, etc., and not much time is spent explaining the virtues of installing a water heater timer.

Types of Hot Water Heater Timers

Water heaters can be controlled using a wide variety of devices, ranging from a simple On/Off switch to controllers that can be accessed from anywhere using your smartphone. The type of timer used is often determined by the application, such as residential or industrial, but there are no hard and fast rules regarding which types must be used in which settings.

The most common types of water heater timers include:


While a simple On/Off switch is not technically a timer, it is an efficient, manual method of reducing energy costs related to your water heater. Since it takes a while for water to heat, this method requires more planning than any other, making it quite a bit less efficient.

Countdown Timers

This type of timer has to be activated similar to the switch method, but has the advantage of automatically turning itself off after your desired length of usage. This method is more efficient than a switch, but still requires forethought and manual execution.

Programmable Timers

For household use, a programmable timer is probably the most efficient method of all. This type of timer allows you to create various presets– the number is determined by the device installed– that control power to your water heater. For example, you could set one timer for weekdays when no one is home and another for the weekend when the whole family is using hot water.

best-water-heater-timerBox Timers

A box timer is the most common and in our opinion, the best water heater timer style. These digital and electronic water heater timers have the advantage of allowing you to set different usage periods based on the hour and day of the week or month.

Intermatic water heater timers are far and away the most well-known and trusted brand out there. For situations where the amount of hot water needed varies according to the day, a box timer is highly recommended in most situations.

>> See Intermatic water heater timers <<

WiFi and Z-Wave Timers

Smart homes rely on smart technology, and there are devices available to turn your water heater on or off, or even set a particular timer function, straight from your phone. This type of connected timer is more expensive than other types, but offers you total control over the system, no matter where you go.

Timers for Gas Water Heaters

Even if your water heater uses some type of gas as the primary fuel source, it probably relies on electricity to determine when to turn on or off. To this end, there are various types of timers available, up to and including WiFi and Z-Wave timers.

For more information on gas water heater timers, go to:

Benefits of a Water Heater Timer

A water heater timer will save you a bit of money under any circumstances, but offer greater savings on tanks that are not inside a heated area of your home, or in areas where utility costs are determined by peak usage rates.

You can increase the savings by adding insulation or moving the water heater inside the heated portion of the home, but a timer can still help you maximize the amount of hot water you need versus keeping the unit operating 24/7.

If your electric company charges more during evening hours for example, using a timer to turn the heater off during peak energy usage times will reduce the cost per kilowatt of using the water heater.

Installing a Water Heater Timer

Installation varies based on the type of timer being used. If your water heater uses a standard 110 or 240 volt AC plug, there are timers which can be quickly plugged in between the water heater and the wall outlet and are ready to use.

Other types of timers may require disconnecting the wiring where it enters the water heater and connecting those wires to the timer and then connecting the timer to the water heater. Even this type of installation should only take a few minutes and can be accomplished with a couple of screwdrivers in most cases. Be sure to check the way your water heater is wired and buy the appropriate timer.

Aren’t you sure about installation and want a professional plumber to do it for you? Check out how much this job would cost you.

Reducing the Costs of Water Heater Usage

There are other ways to reduce energy costs related to your water heater. By using a combination of methods, you can achieve the most efficiency. Here are some of the most commonly used ways to reduce water heater power consumption:

Install a timer

This can cut up to 25% of your annual water costs.

Take shorter showers

This has the advantage of reducing both hot water heater operation and overall water consumption in the home.

Lower the water heater thermostat

Reducing the temperature of the water you use, as with reducing your bathing time, saves power and reduces water consumption. By using cooler water, there is less need to mix cold water into the hot water flow, and that could cut water consumption by as much as 50% depending on your family size and typical usage.

See our recommended temperature guide for more info.

Insulate your water heater

Whether the unit is inside the home or out, adding a thick layer of insulation (usually in the form of a water heater blanket) helps keep your water hot longer, reducing the time that the water heater has to operate to maintain the desired temperature. Simple yet effective.

Water heater maintenance

Performing annual maintenance, including draining and flushing your tank or even replacing a heating element on an older electric model, will help your water heater operate more efficiently and prevent costly and unexpected malfunctions.

Replace the water heater

Unfortunately, water heaters are not designed to last forever. If your water heater is more than 10-15 years old, it may be time to replace the unit with a more efficient model.

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When shopping for a new water heater, compare energy star ratings, tank sizes, and options such as installing an on-demand water heating system. Choosing the right unit for your home gives you ample hot water and reduces energy usage.


A water heater timer will not save you as much as timer manufacturers may hint at, but it is a fantastic way to help you manage your energy usage more efficiently. A timer combined with a good water heater blanket can provide a significant amount of annual savings, but combining some of the methods above can cut your water heating bill be as much as 50 percent.

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  1. Thanks for the great suggestions buddy! I agree with you that water heater timer is really worthy. A timer can turns off your electric water heater at night or times when you don’t use it. You could also use it to turn off the water heater during your utility’s peak demand times.

  2. A water heater will only “turn on” when the water is being used. So if you use a timer the burners will be on the whole time until cooler water is replaced by hot water. Using a timer may help..but remember the burners will be on the entire time. You probably save more on electricity by using a larger tank–which will hold more hot water. Now if you go on vacation it’s probably better to turn off the hot water before you leave to save on electricity. Take shorter showers and I wash clothes strictly using cold water. Still, electric water heaters are VERY expensive to operate. Get the longest tank water heater warranty you can find.. They are generally better insulated.

    • Absent a timer, water in a heater cools off when not being used and the elements must refire to reheat it for on-demand usage. A timer stops this cycle of heat—-cool—reheat—-at times when one is not going to need the water on-demand.

      No offense, but I kind of thought the above is self-evident to anyone who has thought about how hot water heaters have hot water on demand.

  3. I have a Whirlpool 19 gallon tank that is rated at 1500 watts per hour. I grant you it makes taking showers, shorter but I do enjoy a hot-hot shower so I do bump the thermostat up a bit and use a “Navy” shower head for water conservation and add cold water to extend my time in the shower. I use a water heater timer and I have it set to run twice a day in one hour increments. Alabama Power doesn’t give residential customers many options; two of them and worse, they raise the base charge from $14.50 to $25 to those who make the attempt to save energy with their Time Advantage plans but you will save money if you are really serious about lowering you energy bill. For example if you use 1000 kilowatts your bill from October 1 to May 31 will be in and around $132 if you opt to use their normal Family Dwelling rate; if you use Time Advantage – Energy not their Time Advantage – Demand, you bill will be about $101 per 1000 kilowatt hours. They won’t advertise Bill Calculation Factors among their rates, so what appears to be 5.5196 cents is a lot closer to 10 cents per kilowatt hour so when summer rolls around the jump to 25.5196 cents per kilowatt hour is not really 5 times normal rate; it’s 3 times normal rate after everything is factored in. From 1 pm to 7 pm CT; you must use only 15% of your overall power usage to break even on this rate and it’s hard to do it during the summer, but the other 8 months; I save on average $40 a month; the timer makes a huge difference when I heat my water outside that window. I grant you what I wrote doesn’t speak to the timer itself, but the timer allows you to know what you’re using. Personally, if you opt to use a timer, you will save more money against the use of a tankless water heater if you limit the hours it’s on. One hour of water use through a tankless at best will use at least 9 to 13 kilowatts per hour; me, I use 3 kilowatts and sometimes 6 kilowatts per day; that’s it. A bigger water heater will of course use more. Strongly recommend you buy one of those Kilowatt devices that measure your usage throughout your home. I use timers on my window AC units for example. I’m looking at adding a whole house ventilator too; hope this helps.

  4. In my experience a timer is only useful if you have some sort of ‘time of use’ rates. In general, you pay to heat the water you use. Standby losses are actually quite small. Our basic electric water heater loses about 1C every 3 hours so even in 12 hours that is only 4C (from about 52 to 48C ) overnight – I don;t think I could tell the difference. But as rates are double during the day, it pays to heat the water at the low rate and use it during the day – assuming you have enough of course. For 2 retirees we use about 3-4 kwh/day – about $0.40 ($CAN) using the lowest rate. Savings are maybe $5/month or so.

  5. Great information. A gas water heater timer is effective on energy savings not to mention extending the life of your gas water heater. Many of the water heater manufacturers are offering timers with their models. If you were looking for a universal type gas water heater timer, there is one available that can be used with a simple appliance timer supplied with the unit, or you can use any wifi device of your choice. It is great for second homeowners as well.

    Tankless water heaters can save energy. There are problems with a tankless water heater such as high maintenance if you are on a well. Most plumbers do not carry parts for all of the models on the market thus, you may have a 2 tot 4 day waiting period until the repair is made and 2 trips by the plumber. The initial cost of installation is normally very expensive for a tankless water heater. It seems more practical to use a timer.

  6. Question. When using the over- ride on an electric water heater timer, does that heat the water to the level of the hot water tank thermostat, or does the override feature override the water tank thermostat ? Gerry

    • The timer essentially acts as an on/off switch for power to the water heater so no, it does not override the water heater’s thermostat.

  7. This article would have been a good venue for researching replacement of the anode which can lengthen the WH life.

    There are some misconceptions evidenced in the comments. The idea of the timer is to allow the water in the WH to cool when hot water is not needed. If the heat source is active all day it will continue to cycle on and off to keep the water at max temperature. Heating up the water from it’s cooler state instead of constantly saves energy. (Paraphrasing the Laws of Thermodynamics: the hotter something is the more heat it loses–regardless of insulation.)

  8. I replaced my water heater with a 40 gal Whirlpool ‘Energy Smart’ unit. I recently tried to install an ‘Intermatic’ timer to reduce my elec bill. After installation, I have had problems with no hot water in the morning. A call to support revealed that the ‘on-off’ cycling confuses the controller and could cause failure of the control board. Other sources state that it is OK to use a timer with no problems. Other than this desire to save a few more dollars I have no complaints about the water heater. Can someone please help me confirm?

  9. Electricity in Bermuda is about 50 cents a kWh. My water heater comes on at 0630 and goes off by 0830.
    Again in the afternoon from 430 to 730 so it is only on for 5 hrs a day. Saving 19 hrs a day. The saving here is huge. I had an energy detective on my electric panel and I used to watch the heater going in every 5 mins at 37 amps. I think my electric bill dropped by almost a $100 a month!

  10. We all have a device on our water heaters that mix hot water from the tank with incoming cold that gives us a constant output temperature.
    So, why not have a timer that enables us to heat the water higher during off peak electricity hours and lower temperature during the high peak period.
    Perhaps in the future we we’ll have hot water tanks that can store heat during the off peak period.

  11. Hi this stuff is all confusing to me I’ve thought it every way an what hot water heater to use from electric to gas to tankless ( changed from gas to electric 12 years ago because gas was to high than ) I’ve had blankets around tanks even thought about timers . Right now my water heater has been out for year an half (turned off) electric an my electric bill hasn’t went down an complained about it to ( bull crap ) I wanted to put back gas as before sence gas cheaper now again who the hell knows all these articles confuseing really . Price tankless to install is total ridiculous ( rip off ) I’ve read myself silly an know fair price should be an cost of stuff . One guy told me just charge flat rate that’s not fare ether as my pipes an wall right there not a big deal even told me need water softener though on city water none of the estimates have said prices if all stuff products , equipment ( out lined ) being used or cost of ( not listed itemized or explained on paper ) or even neat to even read so unprofessional an how do you hold someone or know what your getting . I’ve been in business myself an never did stuff like that . An these guys don’t show up or call back or can tell you after visit wast your time I live I’d a city of 70,000 ( Muncie , Indiana ) an it’s impossible really anymore to get honest reputable people not rip you off. I’ve been heating water on stove if it wasn’t for a friend coming visit soon I wouldn’t care ( lady ) it’s all joke anymore seriously tired getting ripped off the cost has surpass the means on everything now inflation has a Dever ething up till there’s nothing left and nobody wants to talk about it or do anything. God help us I’ve had it talking these guys. Rc

  12. My electric company has decided they are going to disconnect my devise. Saying it’ may be defective. It saved me $4 a month until they discontinued the program. Is running the heater all the time going to wear out the heater sooner?

  13. I have a new Rheem nat gas water heater with a powered vent that runs off 110V. I was thinking of putting it on a timer, i.e., without power it wouldn’t turn on and when timer come on it would reheat. Since so many devices have extensive electronics I decided to call Rheem to ask if this would be a problem. First person I talked with said it should be Ok, but then they asked another tech and the answer came back no. I’m thinking there really isn’t a problem and Rheem simply gave me the “safe” answer.
    Any thoughts on this?


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