Replacing Your Hot Water Heater

Home water heaters quietly consume a healthy chunk of a typical household’s energy and needlessly generate a few tons of carbon dioxide every year.

If you want to chip away at the size of your annual carbon footprint, here are some ideas to consider.  Green Blizzard previously reviewed a plan of suggestions to reduce your carbon around your home, these ideas focus on your water heater.

If your water heater is as old as the hills, you may be wondering about replacing your hot water heater.

Today’s water heaters are designed better allowing you to recover the up-front replacement cost in a few short years through the monthly savings from lower utility bills.  Lower bills mean a smaller monthly carbon footprint.

Say for example, that you live in a single family home and you have a few kids and family members who prefer long hot showers.  Let’s assume that your water heater is 10-15 years old, maybe even older.  The conventional large gas water heaters with a capacity of 70+ gallons and keep the water always ready between 120-130 degrees.  If you were to replace it, you’d recover your up-front cost in a few short years.

To help you assess the payback of replacing your water heater, use this calculator to estimate how much it will cost to purchase and operate a new water heater.  It will also tell you how much you might save on energy bills compared to your old water heater as well as how many pounds of carbon you’ll avoid sending up into the atmosphere.

Regardless if you replace your hot water heater, you should try to do the following to save energy…

Turn down your water heater. Ouch, not so hot! Lower the temperature just a few degrees.  No one will notice. This not only saves energy, but it reduces the chance of scalding. A 10° F reduction in temperature saves about 13% of your water heating costs. For an average family this amounts to savings of $30 if you heat water with gas or $60 with electricity – per MONTH. A temperature setting of 120° F is fine, unless your dishwasher doesn’t have a booster pre-heat setting, but most do these days.

Insulate your water heater. Wrap and reap (the energy savings). Wrapping your water heater with an insulating blanket can save $20 annually if you have gas hot water or $50 if you have electric. To see if your tank needs an insulation blanket, place your hand on the tank. If it feels warm then you need a blanket.  Consider a few of these blanket options:  Duck Bonded Logic, or M-D Building Products.

Insulate water lines. . If the pipes that supply hot water throughout your house are hot to the touch, then heat is being lost. By insulating hot water pipes you can reduce this loss. Start at the water heater and insulate all of the accessible pipe. If the pipe where cold water enters the water heater also feels warm, then you should insulate that pipe as well.   

Don’t let the water run. Minimize water use while brushing teeth, shaving, and washing hands in bathroom sinks.  Favor sinks that are closer to the heat source.  No use running water all the way to that distant cold faucet, waiting for it to get warm enough to do some good.  Once you’re done washing your hands, all that warm water sitting in the feed lines, just cools off.

Fix drippy faucets. . A faucet that leaks one drip per second can waste 400 gallons of water a year. If the water is hot, that 400 gallons will cost you about $8 if you heat water with electricity or $4 if you heat water with gas, plus the cost of the water itself.

Upgrade your shower head. Federal standards limit new shower heads to no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, because the energy and water savings are enormous. Replacing older shower heads with low flow units could save a family of four as much as 15,000 gallons of water per year, reducing water heating costs by over $150 for electric hot water and over $60 for gas.

Making a few of these adjustments now can start you on your way to saving money and the every day additional build-up to your carbon footprint

Be sure to also read: Gift Ideas For A Green Handyman, What is Phantom Electricity?, Green Cleaning Products, Savvy Green.


About the author

Keith Blizzard

A life-long environmentalist, Keith set out on the never ending journey of adjusting his lifestyle to a more sustainable one, with a goal of annually shrinking his carbon footprint. When he looked around for a dependable source of meaningful carbon footprint reduction ideas, it was pretty lame - so he launched Green Blizzard loaded with eco-friendly lifestyle tweaks. When he's not managing Green Blizzard, you'll find him on the trails around Mid Coast Maine with his trusty trail companion mutt, Moose.