Want to save energy? Start with the water heater

One way you might not have thought about when you’re figuring out ways to lower your energy bills is that heating water can cost a lot.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that water heating accounts for approximately 18% of all the energy your family consumes in the home.

Here are five water-based energy-saving tips:

  1. Lower the temperature of your water heat to “warm,” which is 120 degrees. This will save energy. A bonus: A lower water temperature lowers the risk of scalding, especially for elderly bathers and children.
  2. Upgrade your water heater to a newer, energy-efficient model. If yours was made before 2004 when new federal energy-efficiency regulations too effect, you’re spending more than you need to heat water.
  3. If you’re buying a new water heater, choose one that “fits” your home. That is, a water heater that’s too small for your family’s needs will be overworked, so its burner is constantly running. A larger one doesn’t need to run the burner nonstop.
  4. Take shorter showers. Doctors say a five- to 10-minute shower is just enough. Any more, and the hot water can dry out or even damage the surface of your skin. Any less might not be enough time to get clean and hydrate your skin.
  5. Insulate the water heater and pipes. Pick up an insulating “blanket” made from insulating material to prevent heat from seeping into the air instead of the water.