Expert Advice: Hot Water Heaters

Published on
March 2, 2023

In the first ‘Expert Advice’ series, Adam Hines, General Manager at H&H Plumbing and Mechanical Ltd., shares the following information on steps you can take to monitor your water heater, its consumption, and save money:

The use of water heaters makes up almost 20%of your total electricity bill, making it one of the major expenses for your utility spending. Since your electricity bill is a key monthly expense, it is important to rethink the usage of major appliances in the home and get smart about savings for your monthly energy charges, starting with your water heater.

Adjust the thermostat

“120F is the ideal temperature for hot water, at this point bacteria can no longer thrive. This is the industry standard.”

Adjust the heater’s thermostat: Most heaters are set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit by default. Implementing a small decrease in the can save you around 6to 10% annually.

Monitor the temperature and adjust to what is comfortable for your home. For those who are immunocompromised, consider your health condition before lowering the water temperature. On an electric water heater, the thermostat is located behind the access panel. After opening the panel, you can adjust to your desired temperature.

Check your device instructions or find an online resource for correct and safe instructions on how to adjust the thermostat.

Install a Timer

“A timer is the simplest & most cost-effective way to save, you can set the heater to the times the house is most active for showering & keep the thermostat at 120F.”

It is unnecessary to keep your water heater on throughout the day. Instead, install a timer for the hot water heater to be on during peak times like in the morning or evening hours. Turn it off at night or when you leave for work or school. Set the timer to turn on 30 minutes before your usual arrival time home in the evening and turn off at the time you usually finish your evening routine. You may even consider purchasing a smart timer which can be programmed remotely through an app on your phone.

The following graphics show consumption results from a tester who installed a timer on their water heater.

With the timer, the usage fell by 2.65 kWh per day, from 23.97 kWh per day (previous month) to 21.32 kWh per day (current month).
Continued use of the timer in the next month showed comparable usage (21.33 kWh per day) with the previous month (21.32 kWh per day).

Invest in a Smart Thermostat

“A smart thermostat monitors the temperature of the heater and controls when the heater needs to power up the elements to heat the water, once the water is heated the thermostat shuts off the power to the heating elements.”

A smart thermostat allows consumers to remotely control the water heater’s operation from their phone. This can drastically reduce energy consumption as you turn on and off the heater to your liking. it’s useful when you need hot water at moment’s notice and still set the heater to turn off during the night. Other features include maintenance alerts, automatic overheating shut off, and see how much hot water is available.

Turn it on manually

If you do not have a timer or smart plug, manually turn on your water heater on 30 minutes before you need hot water. Because the water is already heated, after you unplug the heater, you’ll notice the water remaining will be hot for a good period, and can do tasks like washing the dishes and laundry.

Insulate if possible

“Insulating the piping to the plumbing fixtures on new construction is a big help. We always recommend this when possible.”

The water heater can also be insulated. Wrap an insulated blanket around the hot water heater to trap in the temperature. When the heater is first turned on, a portion of heat is lost to surrounding elements, and the blanket will prevent heat loss.

The location of your hot water heater determines if it’s best to insulate. Water heaters inside your home may not have significant benefit. However, if your water heater is outside or a shed, it will have less insulation, but it can also be wrapped in a blanket to gain more insulation.

Optimize to an energy-efficient model:

The more updated your hot water heater is, the most efficient the usage will be. If your device is over 10 years old, it is a good idea to consider purchasing a new one. Investing in a newer version ensures less likelihood of experiencing bursts or leaks.

When looking for a new water heater, consider the size for your home. Smaller heaters are not always efficient because the burner is constantly running. Getting the right size for your home’s needs will save you money.

An increase in electricity rates is a compelling reason to make some adjustments, and doing an assessment of your water heater and making low-cost to larger investments will save you money in the long run. Start with some of the suggestions in this article to notice actual savings and read about other energy savings tips to do without losing comfort.