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Dear Wattson: Could My Water Heater Be Hurting the Budget?

Hot Water Heater

Dear Wattson:

My husband insists on taking long, scalding hot showers, even in the summer. It’s not such a big deal in the evenings, but if I don’t beat him to the shower in the morning, well, there’s no hot water left.

I’ve tried to appeal to his frugal side, explaining that all that hot water is expensive. “It’s cutting into our budget!” I tell him. But he doesn’t believe me. He says the cost is minimal. Could he be right?


Circling the Drain

Dear Circling:

Heating water accounts for about 18 percent of the average American’s home energy costs. It makes up the biggest chunk after heating and cooling the air, in fact. But there are ways to reduce those costs.

Taking shorter showers is certainly at the top of that list. But dishwashers and washing machines can use a lot of hot water, too. Most laundry can be washed using cold water, especially during the rinse cycle. And make sure dishwashers have a full load before they are run.

Also, try lowering the temperature on your water heater. For every 10 degrees it’s dropped, you can save between 3 and 5 percent on your water heating costs. And try switching your shower heads and faucets to low-flow models. Some new designs use about half as much water.

Insulating your water heater can help, too, especially if it’s an older model. A good rule of thumb is that if you can touch your water heater and feel warmth, it needs to be better insulated. This is a relatively inexpensive project that could save you another 7 to 16 percent on your water heating costs. You’ll want to check that the first few feet of pipes leading into and out of your water heater are insulated, as well.

And, again, if your water heater is old, consider buying a new one. There are several types these days, all designed with different homeowner needs in mind. High-efficiency water heaters can be from 10 to 50 percent more efficient than older models.

Practicing one or more of these will certainly cut your water heating costs, and you might not even have to be the first one to the shower in the morning.



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