How to Make an Electric Water Heater More Efficient

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The most common type of electric water heater stores hot water in a tank, releasing the water whenever a faucet is turned on. Heaters are available in varying capacities; most heaters for residential use are between 20 and 80 gallons. "Standby loss" refers to energy wasted to keep this water hot when it is not being used, and also to heat lost due to lack of tank insulation. An electric water heater is responsible for a significant percentage of the electric bill, so improving efficiency can save money.

Things You'll Need

  • Water heater jacket
  • Water heater timer
  • Bucket
  • Water pipe insulation
  • Razor blade
  • Acrylic tape
  • Cable ties
  • Wire

Improving Water Heater Efficiency

  • Check the water heater manual to see whether the manufacturer advises against adding an insulating jacket. If the manual approves, purchase a water heater jacket from a home improvement store or hardware store. Install the jacket according to directions.

  • Turn down the thermostat on the water heater to 120°F, or midway between low and medium, for a few days and see if that suits the needs of everyone in your house. If not, turn the temperature up 5 degrees, or slightly higher than where you had set it between low and medium, and try again.

  • Install a water heater timer to switch the appliance off when you don't need hot water, such as when everyone is at work or school. The timer can be set to switch the heater back on before people start arriving home. Some utility companies offer incentive programs for installing a timer they can control during peak usage, but be aware you'll need to follow their schedule, which might conflict with your own.

  • Turn the thermostat down to the lowest setting if you'll be going away for several days, or turn the heater off altogether.

  • Drain a quart to a gallon of water from the heater tank into a bucket every two or three months to remove sediment.

  • Insulate water pipes where hot water flows from the heater into the house. Measure the diameter of these pipes, then buy matching-sized foam pipe insulation from a home improvement store or hardware store. Cut the insulation with a razor blade to fit pipe lengths. This insulation is slit down the middle so you can easily slip it over the pipes. Secure the foam to the pipe with acrylic tape, cable ties or wire.

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