Specific ways to become more energy
efficient in the bathroom, laundry room, and kitchen
Water heating is the second biggest energy consumer in the average home,
second only to space heating. Any measures that can be taken to improve
the efficiency of your water heater, or force you to use less hot water
are definitely worth your time and money. In general, water heating
energy savers are inexpensive and unlike many space heating conservation
measures, those used in relation to plumbing are effective all year
round. Today’s best water heaters are far more energy efficient that
those even a few short years ago. But there are other measures you can
take to conserve.
If it’s time to replace your water
heater, see Water Heaters in our online catalog for pricing and
specifications, or call us at (phone number) for more information.
Lower the Water Heater Thermostat
Your water heater is one of the biggest energy wasters in your house or
business. That is why one of the often-repeated ways to save on energy
costs has to deal directly with your water heater. Since the water from
your water heater is used primarily for keeping yourself and your
belongings clean, there is no need for you to use water that is heated
to 150 degrees Fahrenheit or above. However, most elements on electric
water heaters are pre-set to at least 150 degrees. Not only is this
dangerous, but it is also a waste of energy and money. We recommend you
reset your electric water heater to 120 degrees.
To do this, first turn off the power to
the water heater (most power sources are located at a master fuse box).
Next, remove the cover plate that conceals the lower thermostat. This
will reveal a covering of insulation. Behind the insulation is the
thermostat. Locate a seam in the insulation and pull it back. This will
reveal a protective covering over the thermostat. Remove the protective
covering and adjust the temperature on the thermostat to120 degrees by
turning the screw with a screwdriver. Repeat the procedure for the upper
element on the water heater. Replace the cover plates and turn the
electricity back on.
The setting of a gas fired water heater
is a little more complex. This kind of water heater only has one element
and the temperature control is in plain sight on the outside of the
unit. However, the temperature dial is not calibrated for degree
settings. Usually it is labeled with something like “Low, Normal, Extra
Hot.” In order to get the proper setting, use a cooking thermometer and
determine the present temperature of the water. From here, it is simply
a game if hit and miss until you find either the 120 or 140 degrees
mark. This could take a lot of patience and even a couple of days to get
right, but will be worth your trouble. The Department of Energy says
that lowering the setting just 10 degrees will save 6% of the energy
used in heating your hot water, and if the setting is reduced to 120 or
140 degrees, you could save 18% more!
Should you happen to run into a “hitch”
in resetting your system, or would prefer to have a professional
technician do it for you, call us at (phone number) to set up an
Drain Your Water Heater
Another way to save with your water heater is by draining it on a
regular basis. Unless you have soft water, it is important to drain a
couple of gallons of water from the bottom of your water heater at least
two times a year. This is because hard water deposits can collect on the
bottom of your water-heating unit, surround the heating element and
reduce efficiency. This amounts to a layer of insulation around the
element, which forces it to work harder to heat the water. However, by
simply draining a couple of gallons, you will wash out any deposits and
allow your water heater to operate more efficiently.
Water Heater Timer
Have you ever considered the idea that you are paying to keep the water
in the tank at a high temperature all night long? You will be able to
save a great deal by investing in a timer for your water heater. Since
most of today’s water heaters are of the fast recovery type, and since
the water in the tank will retain most of its heat through the night
anyway, set the timer to turn the electric water heater off, somewhere
around the time you normally go to bed. Then set it to come on again
between a half hour and an hour before you get up. This should give the
water heater enough time to bring the water temperature back the few
degrees it will need to reach its normal temperature. Installation of
the timer is straightforward, and it will pay for itself in a relatively
short period of time.
Insulate the Whole Heater
An additional way to save with the water heater is by insulating the
entire heater. There are two ways to accomplish this energy saving
performance. You can purchase the fiberglass blanket insulation and some
duct tape and insulate the unit on your own, or you can buy a retrofit
kit. Both will work about the same, although, in the end, the kit will
probably look more pleasing to the eye.
If you have an electric unit, insulating
your water heater will pay for itself in about one year. If it is a gas
unit, it will take two or three years. It is a one-time investment and
studies have shown that the insulation will outlive the water heater and
can be used again if you need to replace your present unit later on.
If your water heater is gas fired, the
Department of Energy recommends that you use the kit. This is only a
recommendation and you can insulate your unit without the kit if you
don’t insulate the top or bottom of the heater. In insulating a gas
fired water heater, it is crucial to keep the air intake ports at the
bottom of the unit clear of insulation, and keep the exhaust flue at the
top clear as well. The extra insulation added to a gas fired or
electrical water heater will serve to help keep water warm as well as
for longer periods of time.
Insulate Your Pipes
While mentioning insulation, it is also wise to insulate your pipes. By
insulating any exposed pipes, you’ll save a lot of energy and a lot of
money. This will prove to be the most useful during the late spring,
summer, and early fall when the interest is in cooling the house,
instead of heating it. The heat from exposed pipes will escape and
produce a double energy problem. Not only does it make it more difficult
to keep the water hot, but it also makes it more difficult to keep the
house cool. By insulating the pipes, both inefficiencies will be
overcome. This measure is inexpensive and the payback period is usually
less than a year.
One of the hot water saving devices that will pay big returns is a flow
restrictor for the showerhead. These are so effective, some are often
known as an “energy-saving showerhead.” Flow restrictors can cut the
water flow from around seven gallons a minute in the heaviest volume
showers, to as little as a gallon and a half a minute. On average, they
will cut your total energy expenditure for hot water by about 44 %. That
can translate to as much as 10 % of your total energy bill! Flow
restrictors can be as simple as a four-bit washer installed just behind
the showerhead, to as elaborate as the new massaging showers on a hose.
An alternative that falls between these two, is a metal valve that is
installed just behind your present showerhead and may have a knob you
can twist to regulate the flow of water. This allows you to shut it off
altogether while you lather up or shave your legs or what not, and then
turn the flow back on at the same temperature and pressure when you are
ready to rinse. All flow restrictors cut the amount of water you use,
without cutting back on pressure.
Other devices that can help to conserve energy in the plumbing aspect of
your house include aerators. The aerator simply reduces the amount of
water in the flow, which saves the energy that should have been
necessary to heat it. There will be a slight reduction in flow pressure,
but it will barely be noticeable. To install aerators on your faucets,
simply screw the aerator onto the end of your tap. Some of the faucets
found in older homes might not be able to accept an aerator. If you find
yourself in this situation, wait until you have to replace the tap or
until you are ready to remodel.
Using soft water can save you energy and money in a number of ways. You
can either purchase a soft water unit, or lease one from a water
softener company in your area. If you contemplate getting a water
softener, it is important that you do not just look at the energy
savings that it will produce. Not only will it save around 20 to 30% of
the energy and money it takes to heat your hot water, but it will also
save on plumbing repairs, the money you spend on laundry and other
cleaning products, and it will extend the life of your water heater.
The reason soft water saves energy is
because soft water won’t leave any deposits on the element at the bottom
of your water heater. It actually accomplishes the same purpose as
draining a gallon or two of water out of the unit a couple times a year.
However, soft water is more efficient at getting rid of those deposits,
because those minerals won’t even reach the tank in the first place. Due
to the dollar savings only amounting to about two or three dollars a
month on your energy bill, it may appear as if the water softener is
costing you money rather than saving you money. However, the soft water
will also make the water heater last up to 50% longer. With other
savings possible in water using equipment and supplies, you should be
able to save more in a month than the cost involved in buying or leasing
a water softening system.
One of the most obvious ways to conserve energy and money in regards to
your plumbing is to be aware of leaks. Check your plumbing and fix any
leaks or leaky faucets you have on a regular basis. The cold ones will
help to conserve water for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and other
uses, but he hot ones are the money wasters. One drippy faucet may waste
as much as 50 gallons of hot water a day. That is enough water for
almost 600 baths throughout a year. This is literally money down the
drain. The majority of leaky faucets only require a rubber washer, which
probably costs no more than a quarter, to make repairs. Repairing leaky
faucets is a do-it-yourself job that only requires a screwdriver and a
wrench and the help of a good book on home plumbing or maybe even some
personal coaching for the first time through.
Many energy saving strategies apply to
specific areas of the home. The following will focus on three specific
areas of the home where new habits can have a lasting effect on the
amount of energy and money that are spent each day. These areas are: the
bathroom, the laundry room and the kitchen.
Many of the daily activities performed in the bathroom can be very
energy expensive if no thought is given to conservation. For example,
consider the fact that it takes 30 gallons of water to fill the average
bathtub. If you shower, instead and have an average flow of about four
gallons a minute, a five-minute shower only uses 20 gallons of water. In
addition, if the water is a half and half mix of hot/cold water, you
will save five gallons of hot water every time you substitute a shower
for a bath. If you substitute one shower for one bath a day, you would
save about 2000 gallons of hot water a year. That would completely fill
your hot water heater about 40 times.
Let Bath Water Cool
If you decide to take an occasional bath, also take advantage of the
warm water. Allow the warm water to cool before you drain it. A hot tub
of water could give off enough heat to warm your whole house for an hour
Shampoo in the Shower
For those with long hair, shampooing should be done while in the shower
instead of a separate time in the sink. This is a simple way to save
energy and money, not to mention time.
For those that shave, be sure to plug the drain while shaving and only
draw enough hot water to get the job done. This will save a few dollars
on fuel bills over a year. However, a better conservation idea is
electric shaving. Of course it runs on electricity, but an electric
shaver can run for a year on the energy it takes to heat water for a
month of blade shaves. In addition, money will be saved from the regular
purchasing of new razors and shaving cream.
The Laundry Room
One of the best ways to save a sizable amount of energy and dollars is
by using your washer and dryer less often and more efficiently. You can
start doing this by not washing clothes at all unless they need it. Just
wearing an item doesn’t necessarily make it dirty. You can probably wear
most clothes two or three times before they need to be washed.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is save up your laundry until you can
wash nothing but full loads. Doing this, you will use your laundry
appliances less often, and you will use them at peak efficiency. Even
though most washers have settings for different sized loads, the full
load approach is the best way to go. This envelops the simple concept of
using less energy with fewer uses. Except in this case, less is actually
Also, try to use cold water for most loads and always use cold water to
rinse. Doing this will save a lot of hot water and the money it takes to
heat it. Hot water is a better cleaner than cold water, but there are
several things that can be done to help your cold wash do a better job
First, pre-treat spots and stains before
they go into the washer. If you use a powder detergent, dissolve it in a
bottle of warm water before adding it to the wash water. Also, increase
the length of the washing time to the maximum provided in the cycle you
are using. The machine will use more energy if it works longer, but not
as much as it would take to heat the hot water you are saving. When cold
water simply will not work on certain soiled materials (such as a
mechanic’s coveralls), be sure to at least rinse in cold water after the
clothes are cleaned.
Some washers have special suds saver features. If your unit has one, you
should definitely use it. It will allow you to use one tubful of hot
water for two or more loads of laundry. The suds savers leave about an
inch of water in the storage tub in which the dirt and soil from the
previous load has settled.
Hand-Wash Your Dishes
The average dishwasher uses 14 gallons of hot water per load. Given
energy costs, which continue to go up, that in itself is a pretty good
argument for using the old fashion sink and hands method. If you get in
the habit of washing your dishes just once a day, you could cut hot
water usage as much as 50 to 70% by hand washing alone.
Full Load the Dishwasher
However, for those who are used to the automatic dishwasher, going back
to washing dishes by hand might be asking for a major lifestyle change,
especially for families. So, if you decide to go ahead and use the
dishwasher, at least make sure you only use it when it’s full. It is
going to use 14 gallons whether you have one or 50 dishes in it, so you
should get all that you can out of it.
Scrape Before Loading
Be sure to scrape the dishes before loading them. This will allow you to
skip the hot rinse. And if you scrape right after you are finished
eating, you can probably get away with scraping them in cold water. If
you wait until the debris has dried, however, you will have to use hot
water to get it off.
Do Not Use the Rinse-hold
You will be able to save three to seven more gallons of hot water if you
don’t use the “rinse hold” setting on you dishwasher. This setting is
not necessary in most cases, so there is really no loss or discomfort
for not using it.
Air-Dry the Dishes
Also, let your dishes air-dry. If you don’t have an automatic “air dry”
switch on your dishwasher, then turn it off after the final rinse. Then
prop open the door. Your dishes will dry faster and the heat and
moisture will flow out into the room, which will help warm and humidify
the room, especially during the winter. Doing this will save both energy
and money two ways.
By employing these strategies and making the minor adjustments that have
been suggested, you will be able to help conserve energy, protect the
environment, and begin saving money immediately. These energy saving
tips have been proven to successfully cut back on energy costs,
resulting in lower monthly utility bills and a more efficient way of
living. (R.A. Biel Plumbing hopes these strategies will help you find
success in your energy conservation and money saving efforts.
Furthermore, if there are questions prompted by this report or if there
are matters in which you seek assistance outside of this report, please
contact us in Farmington at 327-7755 or in Durango at 385-1588.