Creating a more energy-efficient home is the best way to save money on your utility bills by reducing the amount of resources consumed. But it isn’t just about replacing older fixtures and appliances; much of the saving can begin today with simple, do-it-yourself tasks.
In Part 1, we laid out four main areas of energy efficiency improvements for the home, which included: air leakage, insulation, and HVAC; water heating and conservation; appliances; and windows, doors, and lighting.
In addressing the first area – air leakage, insulation, and HVAC – we detailed a logical progression starting with sealing cracks and holes, to reinforcing or replacing insulation, and upgrading to energy-efficient heating and cooling systems.
Finally, we discussed the importance of developing a whole-house energy efficiency plan to enable a collaborative effort from all parts of the home. A whole-house energy efficiency plan accounts for all areas of the home that require energy in order to function, and ensures that the dollars you invest to save energy are spent wisely.
In Part 2, let’s take a look at how improvements in water heating and water conservation can contribute to the success of your whole-house energy efficiency plan.
Improvements for Water Heating and Conservation
As the third largest utility expense in the home, water heating accounts for about 12% of energy bills in the U.S. Perhaps you’ve already taken the steps to reduce your hot water usage, and these improvement ideas can enhance those actions. Or, if you’re just starting out, then you can greatly benefit from following these four steps:
- Water heater insulation
- Tank draining
- Reduced-flow fixtures
- Energy-efficient products
Water heater insulation
Insulating your water heater eliminates heat from escaping the tank, and uses less energy to keep the water heated. You can purchase a water heater blanket from your local home center. Electric water heaters can be covered from top to bottom while gas water heaters cannot be covered on top or along the bottom. No matter what type of water heater you have, be sure not to cover the end of the pressure valve or the temperature relief valve pipes.
Drain about a quart of the water from your water heater’s tank every three months. This helps eliminate sediment buildup from hard water minerals and debris, which can lower the efficiency of the heater and impede heat transfer.
If your faucets and showerheads were installed pre-1995, consider replacing them with newer models that meet modern flow rate standards. For example, aerating faucets add air to the water, making the flow seem fuller while using less water. Reduced-flow showerheads reduce flow from 6 gallons per minute to 2.5 gallons per minute; a significant difference considering that half of all hot water used in a home is for bathing.
There are many ENERGY STAR rated appliances that will lower your utility bills over their lifetime, including dishwashers, washing machines, and water heaters. Many states offer incentives to homeowners that install energy-efficient models, so check with your local construction firm for more information.