Tips To Improve Water Heater Energy Efficiency

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,846
    Jim Connors from Rheem explains the top tips to improve water heater energy efficiency.

    Jim Connors: Hi! I'm Jim Connors from Rheem Water Heating. Today, I'm going to show you how to improve the energy efficiency of your tank type water heater.

    Water heating can account for up to a third of a home's total energy usage. An old inefficient or improperly maintained water heater can be very costly. Before we begin, remember to always consult your product owner's manual and take proper safety precautions when working on or around your water heater.

    Also consider consulting a plumbing professional or a contractor before taking on any project. Let's take a look at a few ways to improve the efficiency of your water heater.

    One of the easiest ways to lower the water heater energy usage is to turn down the thermostat. Most manufacturers recommend a setting of 120 degrees. A comfortable shower for most people is 102-106 degrees. Households with small children, disabled, or elderly persons may require 120 degree setting or lower to help prevent potential scalding.

    The thermostat on a gas water heater is located on the front of the tank at the bottom. Look for a large dial with Hot, Warm, and Vacation settings. Set the water heater on Warm. If you determine that's not warm enough, increase the setting in small increments until reaching a desired setting.

    Before adjusting the temperature on an electric water heater, turn off the power at the circuit breaker. Most electric water heaters have two heating elements and two thermostats. The thermostats are located under the panels on the front of the tank. Use a screwdriver to remove the panels. In most cases, you will need a screwdriver to adjust the temperature on the thermostats to the desired setting. Make this adjustment to both thermostats.

    A water heater's tank can act as a settling basin for solids normally suspended in the water. This sediment accumulation can coat the gas thermostat or electric heating elements and decrease the energy efficiency and life of your water heater. Consult your owner's manual about ways to eliminate the sediment buildup.

    One of the most effective ways is to periodically drain a few gallons of water from the bottom of the tank; in areas with heavy sediment, it maybe necessary to do this every few months.

    First, shut off the water heater's incoming water supply, and turn off the gas valve, or circuit breaker depending on your model. If you have an electric water heater, turn off the circuit breaker.

    Second, attach a hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank, run the hose to a location outside the home. Remember, the water maybe very hot. So, keep the hose off the lawn and away from children.

    Open the drain valve and release a few gallons of water, turn off the drain valve, disconnect the hose, and open up the incoming water supply valve to refill the water heater.

    Remember to leave kitchen or bathroom tap running while the water heater refills to get any air out of the system.

    Once the tank is completely full, turn the gas or electricity back on. Performed regularly, this is one of the best ways to increase the efficiency of your water heater.

    Why heat water when you aren't there? The thermostat dial on the gas water heater has a setting called Vacation. Turn the dial to the Vacation setting. This will keep the water heater pilot light on, but prevent the burner from operating while you're away. When you return, just turn the dial back to the Warm setting. In 45 minutes to an hour, you'll have a full tank of hot water.

    Turning off an electric water heater is even easier. Just turn off the breaker. There should be a dedicated labeled circuit breaker for the water heater, so it's easy to identify. When you return, flip the breaker back on, and in about an hour, you'll have a full tank of hot water.

    Repair leaky faucets or pipes immediately. Even a small constant leak can increase the energy expense to operate a water heater over time. Replace old showerheads with new low flow showerheads. Most new fixtures can provide just as good as shower in a lower two-and-a-half gallons per minute flow rate, plus these new fixtures will also decrease your water bill.

    Tank type water heaters have stand by heat loss and so do uninsulated water pipes. Imagine how much heat is lost in 20-30 feet of uninsulated pipe. Pipe insulation is readily available, easy to install, and saves energy.

    Finally, some older electric water heaters may benefit by adding an insulating blanket. Consult your owner's manual for safety precautions and follow the installation instructions for the blanket.

    We don't recommend blankets for gas water heaters. They might cover the gas valve or could block the air intake. As with all of these tips, be sure to consult your owner's manual or contact a professional plumber before beginning the project, and to determine what might be the best option for you.