There are tons of ways to reduce your energy consumption. As we head into the thick of the winter, I’ve taken some free or inexpensive steps to conserve energy in my home to save money. The Department of Energy has a ton of tips on their website, but I’ll focus on low cost ideas that I’ve done myself. I’ve already seen savings on my utility bills. Today I’ll focus on water heating.
Water Heating Tips
During the winter months, water heating becomes much more expensive than in the summer time. There are two main reasons for this – the water temperature and the air temperature. Your water heater works harder when the water coming into it is colder. It will also take longer to heat the water, causing traditional “tank” water heaters to have a longer recovery time. The air where you keep your water heater (typically in your basement or a closet) is also lower, causing more heat loss from the appliance. Here are a couple ideas to help save money and energy that I’ve done to my home:
Water Heater Blanket – This is simply a layer of fiberglass insulation that surrounds your water heater tank. It’s available at home improvements stores for around $20-$30 and can save 5-10% on your water heating costs. The blanket should more than pay for itself within one year’s use in most climates.
Insulate the Pipes - Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss. This can raise the water temperature about 2ºF–4ºF, allowing you to lower the temperature on the heater or use less hot water. Pipe sleeves made with polyethylene or neoprene are available for about $1 per six-foot length or pre-cut for about $2.50 for 12-feet (four 3-foot pieces). Fiberglass wraps are also available and are recommended for use with Gas water heaters. Mostly target the pipes coming out of your water heater, but be sure to stay 6-inches clear of the flue on a gas water heater. This will pay for itself within the year if not much sooner.
Turn Down the Water Heater – The easiest way to save is to lower the temperature of the water heater. Each 10ºF reduction in water temperature can save you between 3%–5% in energy costs. Most households usually only require the water heater to be set at 120ºF. If you’re going away for more than three days, consider turning down your tank water heater to the lowest setting or turn off an electric water heater completely.
Water Heater Safety Reminders
Safety is the #1 priority at AmeriGas. Here are some things to remember about water heating:
Scalding Water - Water heated at 140ºF or above poses a safety hazard from scalding. Not only does setting a lower temperature save money, but will prevent any scalding accidents.
Pilot Light Safety – If your pilot light happens to go out, it’s best to call AmeriGas. This could be the result of running out of gas or a problem with the appliance. If so AmeriGas will come and perform a safety check to make sure your appliances are working correctly and that there are no leaks in your system.
Install a CO Alarm – Carbon monoxide is an odorless, invisible gas that is emitted from burning gas or oil appliances. If your appliance isn’t working correctly it could emit this gas into your home, putting you and your family at risk. Alarms can be $20-30 and could save your life.
Upgrade Your Water Heater
Of course you could also upgrade your water heater to an Energy Star rated, propane tankless water heater. While the upfront costs are typically 2-3 times that of a standard tank water heater, tankless unite last much longer and only heat the water on demand, saving up to 30% compared to an electric water heater.
There are ways to save by choosing a propane water heater. There are rebates available for Energy Star rated appliances. Many state or regional propane agencies have rebates typically of around $200. AmeriGas is offering up to a $700 rebate towards the purchase and installation of a propane water heater if you’re replacing an electric water heater. Contact your local AmeriGas office today for more information about our water heater programs.