Ways to Cut Down on Hot Water Use

October 28, 2015

In “The Top 7 Most Energy-Hungry Appliances”, we addressed the fact that the water heater is the second-most energy hungry appliance in the average American household, consuming about 15% of the annual energy bill. And it’s easy to see why: you use hot water for many daily activities, from showering and washing your hands to running the dishwasher and washing machine. But as with so many energy-hungry appliances in the home, the more you use it means the more opportunities there are to optimize its use. Here are some of the best ways to cut down on hot water use in your home.

  • Purchase energy efficient appliances. One of the best ways to cut energy costs over the long run is to invest in energy efficient appliances. Many older appliance models—particularly those made in the early 1990’s or before—are not optimized for energy efficiency. You can cut hot water use by investing in a hot water heater, dishwasher, and washing machine that are up-to-date and energy efficient.

    Rebates may be available for the following types of water heaters:

o   Gas water heaters

o   Electric water heaters

o   Oil or propane water heaters


  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Many water heaters can heat water much higher than that, but water above 120 degrees Fahrenheit is too hot for comfortable use. Dishwashers and washing machines don’t need it hotter than that to clean your dishes and clothes effectively. So to be sure you’re not heating water hotter than it needs to be at the source — the water heater itself — keep the temperature at 120 degrees.


  • Insulate your pipes. Insulating the pipes connected to your water heater or boiler helps keep water hot—thus maximizing the energy used to heat the water. A professional can help you choose and install the appropriate insulation for your needs.


  • Check for leaks. One of the best ways to cut down on hot water use is to make sure you’re not wasting any hot water. Have a professional check pipes and connections for leaks. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 a month. So if you have a few leaks, the cost starts to add up quickly.


  • Install low-flow fixtures. The most commonly known low-flow fixture is a showerhead . Since  the shower is a place where the average household consumes significant hot water every day, they are ideal for cutting hot water use. But low-flow fixtures can be installed throughout the house—from the kitchen sink to the bathroom sink.


  • Take showers Showers require less hot water than baths, so encourage everyone in your family to shower. Of course, another easy way to cut down on hot water use is by taking shorter showers. If anyone in your family tends to take long showers, encourage them to take shorter ones.


  • Use cold water for laundry. The washing machine is one of the most energy-hungry appliances, since it uses hot water. To cut down on hot water, use cold water for all—or most—of your laundry. Or even try using cold water for the rinse cycle and warm or hot water for the wash cycle. This will save huge amounts of hot water every month.


  • Use the dishwasher efficiently. The dishwasher is also a hot water guzzler. But you can optimize its use by always running full loads and never using pre-wash or extra rinse cycles—which require extra hot water—unless absolutely necessary.


  • Don’t let the water run. Whether it’s in the shower, when you’re brushing your teeth, or doing dishes, don’t let hot water run if you’re not using it. It’s a waste of water, heat and money.


These are general actions you can take to cut down on your hot water use. You likely know of ways you and your family use large amounts of hot water on a daily basis. Think about ways to change those activities to limit your household’s hot water use—and the money you spend on it.

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