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There are many steps you can take to increase the efficiency of your hot water heater. Here are a few things you can do to make sure you’reĀ getting the most out of your system.

Insulate the tank

Unless your water heaters storage tank already has an insulation value of at least R-24 or greater, adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25-45 percent, which can reduce water heating costs by 4-9 percent. An easy way to determine if your water heater tank needs insulation is to simply touch it. If it feels warm, it needs more insulation. Insulating your tank is relatively easy and inexpensive.

A pre-cut jacket usually sells for $10-$20 and will pay for itself in energy cost savings in a year. Be sure to choose insulation that is rated at least R-8 or greater. Read and follow installation directions carefully, and leave the thermostat access panel uncovered. On an electric water heater with an insulating jacket, do not set the thermostat above 130 degrees F, since this could cause the wiring to overheat.

A piece of rigid insulation or bottom board under the tank can help prevent heat loss to floor, potentially saving another 4-9% of heating energy. Generally, this is easiest to install when the tank is first installed.

Gas water heaters

Generally, its best to have a qualified plumbing and heating contractor add an insulation jacket or blanket to a gas water heater due to the difficulty of the task. If you want to install it yourself, read and follow the directions very carefully. Keep the jacket or blanket away from the drain at the bottom and the flue at the top. Keep the airflow to the burner unobstructed, and be sure to leave the thermostat uncovered. Do not insulate the top of a gas tank, since the insulation is combustible and can interfere with the draft diverter.

Insulate the pipes

Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and allows lowering the temperature setting on the water heater by 2-4 degrees F. Insulate all accessible hot water pipes, especially within the first three feet of the water heater. Also, cold water inlet pipes should be insulated the first three feet. On gas water heaters, keep insulation at least six inches away from the flue.

Timers (electric heaters only)

For electric water heaters, installing a timer can save an additional 5-12 percent of energy. Water in the tank can remain hot for more than eight hours while the water heater is not in operation, depending on the insulation and age of the system. It is usually best to set the timer during hours when the hot water use it lowest, typically at night for most buildings. Timers may have to be readjusted if your home experiences a shortage of hot water.

Timers can cost more than $60, but usually pay for themselves in about a year, and you can install them yourself. For gas water heaters, timers are not cost effective due to their pilot lights.

For more information on increasing the efficiency of your water heater, call Approved Comfort today!