Heating water accounts for a large percentage of household energy usage. A general way people attempt to save on energy consumption is by turning off electrical appliances when not in use, which is actually a great idea.
In the United States of America, water normally flows into residences at about 50°F depending on latitude and season. Hence, the water needs to be heated up before use in most cases.
Heating water and spaces take a lot of energy and the typical American household uses about 12% of the total energy consumption on heating.
Storage tank heaters maintain the temperature of the water within it according to your settings. The water in the tank is repeatedly heated as it cools, even when there is no demand for hot water. In a bid to save on energy costs, homeowners often ask whether their water heaters should be turned off. Our answer to that question is a yes! But only occasionally, this will help people use energy more efficiently and save on bills.
Before we go ahead to tell you some of the ways of managing your water heaters to help you save energy, we would like to fill you in on some of the water heater types available.
- Tank water heaters – The more popularly used water heaters are the tank water heaters that are powered by gas or electricity. The gas water heater uses a burner at the base to heat the water while the electric water heater boils up the water in the tank with the help of electric resistance elements located at the bottom and top of the storage tank
- Tankless or instantaneous water heaters – This high-powered water heater instantly heats water that flows through the device and does not retain water apart from that which is in the heat exchanger coil. This may be installed around the house at points of use. Conversely, you can install a larger centralized type that will supply hot water to the entire household
- Heat pump – This water heater uses an air heat pump for transferring heat from surrounding air into the storage tank. This can either be a tank or tankless type
- Solar powered water heaters – There are two major types of solar-powered water heaters
- Electric storage heater –This is an electric heater which stores thermal energy at night usually when electricity is available at lower cost (off-peak) and releases the heat during the day as required. This type of heater focuses on warming up spaces in the home instead of just heating up water like the others stated above
- The Solar thermal models which use integrated collector storages (ICS). As the name implies, they have storage integrated with the solar energy collector (panel). This approach is created with the assumption that heating water directly is more efficient than using heat exchangers
- The Indirect or closed-loop system does not allow water through the solar energy collector, rather it pumps a heat transfer fluid over the panels. After heat is accumulated in the panels, the heat transfer fluid then moves through an exchanger that eventually carries its heat to the water
Even though your water heater is well insulated, a certain amount of heat is still lost when it is on. This heat loss can add up to 10 percent of your bill which is why it is a good idea turn off your water heater. That way, you can save that 10 percent by preventing energy loss.
The amount of energy that is needed to heat a cold-water tank to 120 degrees in one cycle is not as much as you need to keep the water hot through repeated heating cycles.
Another point is that heat is lost through the tank walls in proportion to the temperature of the water in the tank. So, keeping your tank hot all through is losing heat all through. You can conserve some energy if you turn off the water heater and let it cool off during those periods hot water is not in demand.
If you’re using an electric storage heater, you’re in some luck because you get to save more energy by turning off the heater at idle times. For those with gas-powered heaters, you will save on energy too only not as much as the electric variant.
There are timers you can easily install on your electric storage heaters. This device will help automate the on and off cycle.
You only need to set it to maybe turn off the electric heater during the night when asleep or during the day when no one is at home. This will greatly save you on electricity bills and you won’t have to make routine trips to the heater’s control panel to turn it on and off every time.
It is recommended that you turn on your water heater about half an hour before you need it so it can heat up and turn it off just before you begin using the hot water.
This is a smart way to save energy simply because if you wait till when you are done using the hot water before turning off the heater, the replacement water in the heater will be heated and you will have a tank of hot water you don’t need. Remember we said earlier that heat is released through the tank walls in proportion to the temperature of the water in it. Now, that is some extra loss of energy.
However, if you would be leaving home for a while, it is not advisable to just shut off the water heater. During those winter months, the pipes might freeze up causing clogging. Bacteria growth is another issue that may arise if you just shut off the water heater when you leave home for long.
In cases like this, you could just use your stay away from home to drain and sanitize your water heating system. You can then shut off both the water heater and water itself.
A great solution for those times you want to go away for a while is to use the vacation setting on your water heater which turns down the temperature. This way, you don’t run the risk of your water pipes freezing up nor have bacteria growth in your tank.
Now you can squeeze out some more savings off your energy bills with our ideas on how to manage your water heating system.