Cut your water-heating costs

Cut your water-heating costs

After heating and air conditioning, your water heater is the single largest energy expense in your home. It could account for up to 20 percent of your utility bill.

Below are a few simple ways to cut your water heating costs. Also go to for a handy chart that tells you how many gallons of hot water are used for showers, washing clothes and dishes, etc.

Select a water heater with as small a tank as possible to meet your family’s needs — Start by looking at the EnergyGuide label on a heater for the First Hour Rating in gallons. That’s the amount of hot water in gallons the heater will supply per hour (starting with a tank full of hot water). Then estimate how much hot water your family uses in a peak period, such as early morning. Use the link above to help you figure that out.

Lower tank temperatures, and add extra tank insulation — Heat lost through tank walls is called standby heat loss and can account for 20 to 60 percent of the total cost of heating the water. Lowering the tank temperature to about 120 degrees and adding extra tank insulation will cut these losses.

Use less hot water — The Missouri Department of Natural Resources offers these simple ways to reduce your hot water use:

  •     Install high-efficiency showerheads so that less water needs to be heated for showers
  •     Install low-flow faucet aerators for the kitchen
  •     Take shorter showers – Even a 5-minute shower with an energy-efficient showerhead can use 12 gallons of water; compare that to 24 gallons for a 5-minute shower without an efficient showerhead
  •     Use dishwashers wisely instead of washing dishes by hand
  •     Set washer cycles for the lowest temperature and water amount that will get clothes clean
  •     Rinse on cold water setting; a hot wash/warm rinse laundry uses 30 gallons of water compared to only 19 for a hot wash/cold rinse or 12 for a warm wash/cold rinse
  •     Set water heater temperature at 120 degrees

Reduce heat losses from distribution — Distribution costs occur in pipes when hot water flows through them. Insulate pipes and short runs to plumbing fixtures. Fix leaks in pipes. Install a heat trap at the water heater to stop convection of hot water into the hot and cold water pipes above the water heater. A heat trap is a valve or loop of pipe that allows water to flow into a tank but prevents unwanted hot water from flowing out of the tank, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. You can save $15 to $30 on your water heating bill with the installation of a pair of inexpensive heat traps. Be sure to have a professional installation. 

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