Suggestions for hot water savings

Ever feel like you’re sending money down the drain? We all take showers and baths, wash the dishes or clothes and use water in other ways, so we all send heated water literally down the drain. Considering those activities typically represent 80 to 90 percent of the energy used to heat water in a home and more than 18 percent of a family’s total utility bill — the second largest expense after space heating and cooling — it’s no wonder it starts to feel wasteful.

It’s not always easy to purchase a new water heater to heat water more efficiently, but everyone is in a position to use less water and save on energy and water bills right away.

Take showers instead of baths
Your savings here depend on your family’s habits, but a long, hot shower uses a lot more hot water than a bath. Even a bath with only a few inches of water can use a lot of water if you have a jetted bathtub.

A 10-minute shower can use up to 25 gallons, but a bath will use up to 70 gallons. While a warm bath is a nice luxury, stick with a short shower for normal days. It’s even better to turn off the water while shampooing or shaving.

Reduce shower time
Keeping your shower to less than five minutes will save up to 1,000 gallons a month per person. It’s also easy to install an inexpensive low-flow showerhead that can save your family more than 500 gallons a week — that’s money saved on water and water heating.

Lower the water heater temperature
Lower the temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees. For every 10-degree reduction in temperature, you can save 3 to 5 percent on your water heating costs.

Use cold water
Technological advances in both machines and detergents have made washing clothes in cold water a highly effective option. It’s also a money-saving option considering more than 90 percent of the energy consumed while running a load is used to heat the water.  

Use a dishwasher efficiently
Wash only full loads, choose shorter wash cycles and activate the booster heater if your dishwasher has one. Running the dishwasher only when it’s full could save 1,000 gallons a month. It’s also more efficient to run the dishwasher than to run the water and water heater constantly when washing dishes by hand.

Fix leaky faucets
A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month. That may not seem like much, but at 60 drips per minute, you waste 8.64 gallons per day, 259 gallons per month and just more than 3,153 gallons per year. That’s a lot of water and money going down the drain.

Insulate a hot water tank
Just like insulating your walls or roof, insulating a hot water tank is an easy and inexpensive way to improve energy efficiency and save you money each month. If your water tank is new, it is likely already insulated.

If you have an older hot water tank, check to see if it has insulation with an R-value of at least 24. If not, consider insulating your water tank, which could reduce standby heat losses by 25 to 45 percent and save you 4 to 9 percent in water heating costs — and should pay for itself in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $20. If you don’t know your water heater tank’s R-value, touch it. A tank that is warm to the touch needs additional insulation.

For a natural gas or oil hot water tank, be careful not to cover the water heater’s top, bottom, thermostat or burner compartment. For electric tanks, be careful not to cover the thermostat but you might consider insulating underneath the tank to prevent heat loss into the floor. Always insulate the first few feet of the hot and cold water pipes connected to the water heater.

For even bigger savings, consider purchasing a new energy-efficient water heater. A water heater’s energy efficiency is determined by the energy factor (EF), which is based on the amount of hot water produced per unit of fuel consumed over a typical day. The higher the energy factor, the more efficient the water heater. When purchasing a new water heater, it’s important to consider its estimated energy efficiency, annual operating cost and purchase price to determine its energy savings and payback period of investment.

Zero percent interest loans for some energy efficiency home improvements like replacing old appliances with energy-efficient ones are available to Conway Corporation homeowners through its Energy Smart program. To find out more about the loan program or to learn more energy saving tips, contact Conway Corporation at 501.450.6000 or visit