Do yourself a favor. Go touch your water heater. Yes, right now. Don’t worry, I’ll wait …
*drumming fingers on the desk*
Did you do it? Good. Was it warm to the touch? A little warm or very warm? If it was warm, you’re wasting energy. If it was very warm, you’re wasting a lot of energy, and a lot of money.
There is insulation inside your water heater to trap the heat in. After all, that’s where you want the heat — not radiating out into the air where it’s wasted. The better that insulation is, the cooler your water heater will feel on the outside.
Because no insulation can trap in all of the heat, though, you could make your tank more efficient — and save energy and money — by adding more insulation to the exterior of the tank. This is an inexpensive and easy project that any homeowner should be able to handle.
Most hardware stores sell pre-cut insulation kits that include a fiberglass blanket, a piece to go under the heater, and some sleeves for the inlet and outlet pipes.
First, measure both the height and circumference of your tank, then head out to buy the kit that will fit your tank. Kits cost anywhere for $20-$30, but can save you as much as 10% in energy costs.
Before you install the insulation, though, there’s one more thing you can do that could save you an additional 10%. Check the temperature setting on your hot water heater. Most manufacturers set this at 140° F, but the U.S. Department of Energy recommends a setting of 120° F. The reason is, almost no one uses water at 140° – in fact, that temperature can increase the risk of scalding — and 120° is still hot enough to kill most bacteria, making it the safest temperature for the majority of the population. There is one caveat, though. If you have a compromised immune system or a chronic respiratory illness, you may still want to set your water temperature at 140°. So, before you put on the insulation, change this setting if needed.
Once you have the kit, and you’ve checked the temperature, simply follow the installation directions on the package. The job itself should only take a few minutes, and soon you’ll be on your way to energy savings.