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Water Heaters: Use & Care



Use and Care 

Whether purchasing a new water heater or upgrading your existing one, you can save a significant amount of energy by altering your water use patterns and improving your water heater’s efficiency. You can make significant improvements on your own of course, and one of the easiest ways to lower your energy bill is to cut down on your hot water use!

Go with the Low Flow

Replace older water fixtures with new low-flow showerheads and sink aerators. This can decrease your water usage and heating costs up to 50%. Replacing your old dishwasher and clothes washer can significantly reduce energy usage as well, with some new models using up to 50% less energy.

By Degrees: Lower Your Thermostat

Turn down your water heater thermostat to 115°F to 120°F, or between the low and medium setting on your thermostat where applicable. You can potentially save up to 5% of your water heating energy use for every 10°F you lower your thermostat.1 This will not only save energy, but helps to prevent scalding and is easier on your water heater.

Wrap Up: Pipe Insulation

Make sure that your tank and water pipes are properly insulated. Your water heater should be insulated to at least R-8, and the jacket should be away from the drain and flue with a clear path for airflow to the burners. Also be sure to insulate at least the first 6 feet of water pipes.2

Timing Is Everything

If you have a water heater other than gas (on which pilot lights must always be lit), install timer controls which can save 5% to 12% more on water heating energy.3 Time controls are used to turn your water heater off at peak daytime hours (usually 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.), and times of little use, such as at night.

Floor It: Bottom Boards

If you are installing a new electric storage tank water heater, consider installing bottom boards which can help to prevent heat loss into the floor. This can save up to an additional 4% to 9% of water heating energy.4

Heat Trappings

Anti-convection valves and loops are generally affordable (typically between $10 to $30 per valve) and are used to trap heat and prevent loss through the inlet and outlet pipes. If properly installed these often can pay for themselves within the first year of use.

Recover & Reuse

A great option for any type of water heater is a drain-water heat recovery system, which helps reuse water-heating energy and some models can save 25% to 30% of total water-heating energy.5

Buyer’s Guide

Before you shop for efficiency upgrades, visit the Water Heater Buyer’s Guide for easy facts and figures that can help you choose the best appliance for your home, needs and budget.


If you’re thinking about making efficiency improvements, the Water Heaters Overview is a great place to get acquainted with the basics and your options, before you buy or install a water heating system in your home. 

1Goorskey, Sarah, Yang, G., Smith, A. (2004). Home Energy Briefs: #5 Water Heating. Snowmass, CO: Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved from http://www.rmi.org/rmi/pid217 (p. 2).
2Department of Energy. (2012). Energy Saver: Tips: Water Heating. Retrieved October 4, 2012, from http://energy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-water-heatingenergy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-water-heatingenergy.gov/energysaver/articles/tips-water-heating
3Goorskey, Sarah, Yang, G., Smith, A. (2004). Home Energy Briefs: #5 Water Heating. Snowmass, CO: Rocky Mountain Institute. Retrieved from http://www.rmi.org/rmi/pid217 (p. 2-3).
4Ibid (p. 3). 
5Ibid (p. 5).

This program is funded by California utility customers and administered by Southern California Edison under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission.


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