Set the temperature so that water at the tap is 120 degrees (usually between the low and medium setting). This saves energy and helps prevent scalding. Each 10-degree reduction in temperature can save you 3 to 5 percent on your water heating costs. If your water heater has two heating elements, set them at the same temperature. Be sure to turn off your water heater at the circuit box before adjusting the temperature.
Install high-efficiency showerheads and sink aerators to cut down on the amount of hot water needed throughout your home. Older showerheads often use 4 to 5 gallons per minute, while newer ones range from 1.5 to 2.5 gallons per minute. You’ll save water and energy!
Insulate your water heater with a hot water heater blanket if your water heater is warm to the touch. Be sure to follow the instructions, leaving thermostats and valves accessible.
If your water heater is located in a place that is not heated in the winter, insulate the hot water pipes to limit the amount of heat lost in the pipes.
If you’re going on vacation, either turn down the water heater or turn it off altogether to save electricity while you’re gone. If you turn it off, it will take about four hours to reheat once you turn it back on.
Repair leaky faucets promptly. If you have a hot water leak, it’s costing you money in water and energy.
Drain a bucket of water from the drain valve at the base of your water tank every 6 to 12 months to remove sediment that can reduce holding capacity. Be sure to follow manufacturer instructions for this process, as each water heater is slightly different.
Look for the EnergyGuide label to evaluate the energy efficiency of the model you are interested in. Water heaters are required to list an energy factor (EF), following guidelines set by the government. Look for electric water heaters with EFs 2.0 or above and gas water heaters with EFs of .67 or above.
Consider life-cycle costs when buying a water heater. The EnergyGuide label includes an estimated annual operating cost. Models that cost less to purchase often cost significantly more to operate over the life of the product.
Consult a plumber to determine what size water heater you need. Your water heater capacity should be based on your peak household water usage. Start with the following rough guidelines:
one to four people: 30 to 50 gallons
four to seven people: 50 to 80 gallons
seven or more: 80+ gallon
A water heater typically has a life span of 10 to 15 years. Consider asking a plumber about the useful life left in your water heater and replace it before it breaks rather than as a result of an untimely failure. If you plan ahead, you are more likely to get the right water heater for your needs.