DIY Water Heater Tips

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Nothing feels quite as relaxing as a long, hot shower. But don’t take your hot water for granted. To make your water heater work more efficiently and extend its life, follow these simple do-it-yourself maintenance tips.

  • Lower your water heater’s temperature – Many manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140ºF, but most households usually only require them to be set at 120ºF. Lowering the temperature slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes and helps to avoid scalding.
  • Savings from turning down your water temperature are based on reduced standby losses (heat lost from water heater into surrounding basement area) and consumption (from water demand or use in your home). When the temperature is set too high, your water heater can waste anywhere up to $61 annually in standby heat losses and more than $400 in demand losses.
  • If you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, it may require water up to 140ºF for optimum cleaning. While there is a very slight risk of promoting legionellae bacteria when hot water tanks are maintained at 120ºF, this level is still considered safe for most people. If you have a suppressed immune system or chronic respiratory disease, you may want to keep your hot water tank at 140ºF. However, this significantly increases the risk of scalding. To minimize this risk, install mixing valves or other temperature-regulating devices on any taps used for washing or bathing.
  • Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2°F–4°F hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing you to lower your water temperature setting. You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead, which helps conserve water.
  • Paying for someone to insulate your pipes doesn’t make economic sense. So, if you can insulate during new construction, during other work on your water heater or pipes, or doing it yourself, it’s well worth the effort. However, in special cases, such as when the fuel used for heating water is very expensive, the distance traveled by the pipes is far, the pipes are exposed to very cold air, or if the household uses a lot of water, much higher energy savings can be obtained. In these cases, cost savings may offset paying for someone to do the job for you.
  • Insulating your water heater 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 probably already insulated. But if you have an older tank with an R-value less than 24, consider insulating your water tank. This could reduce standby heat losses by 25%–45% and save you about 4%–9% in water heating costs. It could easily 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. If it is warm to the touch, it needs additional insulation.
  • Remove sediment – Drain a quart or more of water from your tank (until the water runs clear) every month or two to remove sediment that can build up in the bottom of the unit. This sediment impedes heat transfer and lowers the efficiency of your water heater.

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