If you’re a home owner, chances are good you’re looking for any way possible to improve energy efficiency in your home. When it comes to saving on utility bills, every little bit helps.
With that in mind, you may want to consider installing a hot water heater blanket around your tank. It has the potential to easily pay for itself and save you money going forward. Here are a few things you might want to know when deciding if a water heater blanket is right for you.
What is a Water Heater Blanket?
Very simply, as the name implies, it is an insulated blanket to cover your water heater. Often times this product is also referred to as a water heater cover, wrap, or jacket. It’s the same principal as to why we insulate walls, floors, ceilings, doors, and around windows in our homes.
In terms of a water heater, the idea is to keep heat in so the water heater doesn’t have to work so hard to keep water inside the tank warm. You could also compare it to an insulated thermos that keeps your coffee hot.
How Does It Work?
Your hot water tank holds a reserve of water that it heats up to a set temperature. When you turn on a hot water tap, water is released from the tank supplying you with hot water from the faucet. However, the tank must keep its reserve warm at all times to ensure that water is hot when you turn on your tap.
A water heater cover acts as insulation for the tank to prevent heat from escaping so that your water heater does not expend as much energy keeping water warm for you.
How Do I know it Would Benefit Me?
Newer hot water tanks are better insulated than their predecessors. That being said, the majority of the tanks currently installed in homes are not as well insulated as the newest models. And even this year’s models can improve in efficiency with a little help.
But generally speaking, the older the water heater, the worse insulation it has. Even the best water heaters are not 100% efficient as far as heat loss goes.
The best way to tell if your water heater would benefit from a hot water heater blanket, is to touch your tank. If the tank is warm to the touch, it could definitely benefit from more insulation. The warmth that you feel is an indication that heat is escaping.
Those living in colder climates will of course benefit more than those living in the South since more energy (mainly in the form of electricity or natural gas) is needed to keep the water in the tank at a desired temperature.
What Kinds of Hot Water Heater Blankets Are There?
It is recommended that a water heater wrap offer an R-value of 10 or higher. R-value is a common industry term referring to the thermal resistance — or the insulation effectiveness — of the wrap. The material used as well as its thickness and density all contribute to determining the R-value.
Most blankets are made of fiberglass with a vinyl or reflective aluminum barrier. Although, if you’re looking for a slightly more green product, you can find wraps with recycled denim insulation.
How Do You Install a Water Heater Blanket?
Most heater covers come with a kit that is complete with easy to follow instructions. When installing a cover on your water heater, there are parts of which you will have to be careful. In the case of an electric water heater, be careful not to cover the heating element control or thermostat, the water heater drain valve, temperature pressure relief valve and overflow or drain tube.
If you’re working with a gas water heater, in addition to the parts already mentioned, you should be careful not to cover the flue or the draft diverter, and be careful not to obstruct the air flow to the gas burner.
Most heater blanket installations are pretty straight forward and can be done on your own but if you are not comfortable or at all unsure about any of this, by all means, contact a professional.
Is a Blanket Worth the Money?
The less insulated your water heater is or the colder the climate you live in, the more an insulated water heater jacket can save you. Even with a newer, better insulated tank, a blanket can offer some savings.
It’s estimated that with the typical tank, a cover can save you up to 17% on your energy bills. As most covers are around $30, that can be a worthwhile investment.
Tip: Another place heat is lost from hot water is the pipes. To get maximum savings, insulate your pipes as well as your tank. Pipe sleeves can be found in any hardware or home improvement store. Also, see other ways to save money on your water heater usage.