Energy: Hot Water Heaters

Energy, we are sucking it up faster than Mother Nature can produce it. We guzzle fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) by the second without caring that it took the earth over one hundred million years to create them. Once we have sucked the very last drop of these energy sources out of the earth it will take another one hundred million years or so for a refill. What will we do in the interim? Imagine a magnificent Pterodactyl swooping down on its flitting prey. Do you think the idea of extinction ever crossed his mind?

Much of the energy we consume, and waste as the two go hand-in-hand lately, is in the home. What’s on in your house right now: lights, television, refrigerator, air conditioner, or heat? Certainly, your computer is on. Do you have any idea which items in your home use the most and least electricity? If you would like to know, check out my article, “Is Your Household a Waste of Energy?” For now, let’s concentrate on the most energy-consuming and expensive item you use, your water heater.

Hot water heaters use about 10 to 20% of all of the energy consumed in a typical home. This amounts to approximately 5,300 kWh/yr or $440/yr out of your pocket. An additional $66 in standby losses brings the total cost of your hot water heater to over $500/yr.

What can you do about this expense? After all, you need hot water for so many things: baths, showers, dishwashing, household cleaning, laundry, and more. You cannot very well give up sanitation and cleanliness just to conserve energy and save money. What if you could have it all? Here are five easy steps that will allow you to save money and conserve energy without sacrificing a thing:

1. Lowering of the heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees F reduces the losses from those experienced at higher temperatures and still provides water at a sufficiently high temperature for household use.

2. Insulation may be added to the tank. This is especially effective with an electric water heater where there is no flue but less effective for standard gas water heaters. Insulating links can also be added to the connections of the pipes to the heater, and the hot water pipes can also be insulated.

3. Reduction of the amount of hot water used obviously saves energy. This becomes automatic with the use of flow-restricting shower heads and faucets.

4. Electronic igniters can eliminate the waste of energy due to the pilot light.

5. A flue damper can be installed. For a fail-safe arrangement, this damper must be designed to open whenever the flame comes on.

Imagine that is all it takes, just five simple, inexpensive steps and you could be on your way to saving money, not to mention conserving energy, tomorrow. So, what are you waiting for? Run and check your hot water heater, today. Unless you would rather your beautiful great grandchildren-to-be face the fate of the Pterodactyl?

Source: “Energy and the Environment” by Robert A. Ristinen & Jack J. Kraushaar, Copyright 2006, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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