How To Cut Your Hot Water Bill
Nothing beats a hot shower. It is a wonderful way to relax and can be beneficial to your health. The hot water can improve circulation and ease muscle and joint pain. The steam can loosen chest congestion and help clear stuffy nasal passages.
Water heaters in the U.S. account for about 12% of total household energy use, on average. But we’re not recommending you give up the pleasure of a good hot shower. Even if you aren’t able to upgrade to solar water heating, there are many ways to cut your hot water bill. Follow these strategies to keep your water bills down and reduce energy use.
Don’t Leave the Water Running
Many of us leave the water running when looking for soap, grabbing a few dirty dishes, or brushing our teeth. Combined, this adds up and wastes a lot of water and energy. To conserve water and energy, turn off the faucet when not in immediate use. Also, when you’re using water, keep the faucet turned low, when possible.
Install Low-flow Plumbing Fixtures
Using water-efficient showerheads and faucets can cut your water use by 25% to 60%. Replace your water-hogging showerhead with one that uses 1.5 gallons per minute (or less) and install aerators in your faucets to slow the flow of water while improving water pressure.
Take Shorter Showers
Filling the tub requires a lot of hot water. The best way to save both energy and water for bathing is to take short showers.
Lower the Temperature of Your Water Heater to 120° F
By lowering the temperature on your water heater to 120° F, you can save 4% to 2% a year on energy annually. For most homes, 120° F is the ideal. Turning down the water heater temperature also reduces mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes.
Fix Leaky Faucets
One drip per second wastes about 1,660 gallons of water a year. If the faucet is leaking hot water, this can drive up both your energy and water bills. You can fix most drips simply by replacing the washer.
Wash Clothes in Cold Water
Although many think it is better to wash clothes in warm or hot water, cold water washing is gentler. Warm or hot water can cause some stains to set. Also, hot water tends to shrink and fade clothes. Whenever possible, use cold water for the wash and rinse cycles. Also, when it’s time to replace your old washer, consider an Energy Star rated front-loading model. Energy Star rated washers use less energy than average washers, and front-loading models use a lot less water on average than top-loaders.
Use an Efficient Dishwasher
Washing dishes by hand can use 27 gallons of hot water per load versus an efficient dishwasher, which can use as little as 3 gallons per load. Fill up the dishwasher all the way for greater efficiency and use a short wash cycle when possible. When rinsing dishes or recyclables, use cold water to save energy.
Hand Wash Dishes Efficiently
If you are not using a dishwasher, don’t wash dishes individually. Instead, wash a stack of dishes at a time. Fill up a basin with hot, soapy water and turn the tap off. Wash the dishes and then rinse them in standing water.
Insulate Water Heater Pipes
By insulating the first three feet of the hot water pipes on the water heater, you can raise the hot water temperature by 2 to 4° F. This also helps deliver warm water faster to plumbing fixtures. This project is different than insulating water supply pipes to prevent freezing in cold climates.
Insulating the cold water supply (to prevent condensation and humidity issues) and the hot water pipes on the water heater is a simple, low-skill weekend project that most people can do themselves. On gas hot water heaters, keep the insulation at least six inches from the flue.
Originally published on June 4, 2019, this article was updated in January 2023.