14 Clever Ways of Saving Money on Hot Water

For the past two months we have kept the hot water heater turned off all day long, all except for 2 hours in the morning for showers and dishes.

I wish I could tell you this has saved us some money, but in all honesty we didn’t see any difference in our power bill.

So, unfortunately, this ended up not being a frugal tip at all! I think if we lower the temperature on the water heater, that would most likely make a difference in our bill. I’ll have to follow up on that theory as well!

In our effort to save money and reduce our hot water usage, I decided to look for some other ways to lower our expenses. Here are some of the tips I came up with!

Lower the Thermostat On Your Water Heater

An easy way to lower your expenses, probably without you even noticing it, is to lower the thermostat on your water heater.

Most manufacturers automatically set the thermostats at 140 degrees (60 C), but you’ll be comfortable with only around 120 degrees (48 C).

Take a bath after you’ve lowered the thermostat to 120 (48 C) – you probably won’t even notice the difference.

This tip not only can help you cut costs, but it will reduce the likelihood of you scalding yourself, too. It can also increase the longevity of your pipes and heater because it can slow down corrosion and mineral buildup.

Don’t Let the Water Run

I’m guilty of this one – sometimes, I leave the water on when I am brushing my teeth. Or I let the water run over my dirty dishes, rather than just washing them and getting it over with.

Make sure you aren’t letting water run unnecessarily.

Upgrade Your Appliances

If you’re using appliances that are more than a decade old, there’s a good chance that they aren’t as energy-efficient as they could be.

Now, I’m not saying to go out and completely overhaul your entire house. However, there are tons of new designs on the market tat not only use less water but are much more efficient when it comes to electricity, too.

If it’s time for an upgrade, consider new appliances with those features.

The same goes for your water heart itself. You will want to replace your heater that is more than ten years old, especially if it has any noticeable flaws or damages. Heaters that are old are not only inefficient but they could also cause serious damage if they happen to burst or leak.

If you’re ready for an upgrade, you might want to consider a tankless water heating system. This kind of system works by only heating water when it’s actually required.

It can save you nearly $100 per year, which doesn’t sound like much, but will add up over the course of the heater’s life.

Another option is a solar water heater. These can help you save a ton of energy. The most common systems involve liquids passing through tubing that is located in panels on your roof.

The liquid is then transferred to an insulated, sealed tank that contains copper coils. Your water will pass through those coils and then be fed to the boiler or water heater.

It will preheat the water and reduce the energy needed to bring the water up to temperature.

Take Quick Showers

Shorten your showers as much as possible. A lot of people wonder whether it’s more energy- and hot-water efficient to take a bath versus a shower. The savings depend on your habits.

For example, a long, hot shower might use more hot water than a bath. In most cases, though, a warm bath is going to use more water than a quick shower.

Install Heat Traps

Heat traps are included on many modern water heaters, but if you have a heater that is more than a decade old, you may want to install a heat trap.

This might not be a realistic option if your water heater is already on its way out, but if it’s in good condition, you can extend its life by adding a heat trap. You may need to have a plumber take care of this task, though.

Run the Dishwasher Efficiently

If you aver a dishwasher, use it intelligently. Only wash full loads and select shorter wash cycles. If you have a booster heater, use it.

Also, you don’t need to rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. If there’s a ton of stuck-on food, yes – rinse first. however, in most cases, you are wasting hot water because you’re using it twice – once to rinse and then once in the dishwasher.

Prerinsing can also make your dishwasher work harder. It will cause the sensor to misread how dirty your dishes are and will adjust the settings to a lighter wash.

Don’t use the rinse hold on your machine, either – it will use up to seven gallons of hot water each time.

And while you’re at it, consider upgrading to an Energy Star dishwasher. Dishwashers with the Energy Star seal of approval use up to 33 percent less water and energy than standard dishwashers.

Plus, new dishwashers have those soil sensors that will determine the best wash cycle for optimal cleaning.

Consider Grey Water Heat Recovery

Grey water heat recovery involves running your hot water through thin copper pipes that encircle your shower drain. The water coming into your hot water tank is already preheated by the hot water going down.

It’s not worth installing this kind of system for baths, as the heater will fill up before the hot water drains. However, if you predominantly shower, it’s a great way to save money on hot water.

Up Your Insulation

This is a great tip, especially if you have an older house with an older storage tank. Make sure it’s insulated!

You’ll need to follow all manufacturer guidelines, like not covering the burner, thermostat, or top and bottom of your unit. However, insulting your tank can reduce heat loss and will prevent the heater form having to kick on as frequently.

You should also insulate your pipes – or at least, the first six feet of cold and hot water pipes. This can prevent fire hazards and will also help to conserve heat. Your tank won’t have to work as hard to reheat the water it has already heated.

Repair Leaks

Leaky faucets might just seem like minor annoyances, but the reality is that they can lead to a ton of hot water wasted.

Make sure you repair a leaky faucet immediately – if you have a plumbing leak, you could waste up to 90 gallons a day of water!

Install Low Flow Fixtures

Federal regulations require faucets and showerheads to have low-flow rates, meaning they’ll use about half as much water.

If you have older fixtures (those dating before 1992) you may want to upgrade. You can save up to 60%!

Use Cold Water

Whenever possible, use cold water. I know, you’re probably thinking, “I don’t really want ot take a cold shower every morning!” Luckily, you don’t have to – at least, not if you’re willing to use cold water for other uses.

For example, lots of us use hot water when we really don’t need to. Most types of laundry don’t require hot water, nor do basic grooming tasks, like brushing your teeth or washing your hands.

Switching to cold water can really put a dent in how much energy you use for these tasks.

When it comes to laundry, you can really save some serious money by using cold water. Did you know that a quarter of your hot water use is just for laundry?

Wash in cold water alone – use a special cold water detergent if you’re worried that your clothes won’t get clean enough – and use the least amount of water possible.

Not only is this better for your hot water bill, but it makes your washing machine more efficient and is easier on your clothes, too.

Drain Your Water Heater

Once a year, get in the habit of draining your water heater. Sediment in the tank can easily impede hat transfer and lower your unit’s efficiency.

This is an easy procedure, but you may want to call a water heater professional or follow the instructions given by your manufacturer.

Set Up a Timer

Most water heater tanks are always running. This is a huge waste of electricity and hot water. Set up a timer to turn your heater off at night, or during other periods when people aren’t using it.

That way, you’ll save energy and you could also add years to the life of your tank.

Time Your Hot Water Use

For those of us who are still heating our water with a standard water heater, here’s a great tip that comes straight from some little old ladies who know just what it’s like living on a tight, fixed income.

To save money on your water heating expenses, plan all of your hot water usage at one time during the day.

Whether morning or night, do all of your hot showers, dish washing, and laundry as closely together as possible. Once your hot water chores are finished for the day, turn the hot water heater off at the breaker box.

Do this consistently for a month and you ought to see a significant reduction in your power bill.

When I heard this idea I instantly thought it genius. Why in the world would I want to pay to keep that whole water tank hot all day long when I only need it several times a day?!

The trick is going to be planning. My husband likes a hot shower first thing in the morning. So either I’ll have to leave the hot water heater on all night, or get up 30 min. before he does to turn the heater back on for him. Hmmmm….

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updated 05/30/2020 by Rebekah Pierce

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18 thoughts on “14 Clever Ways of Saving Money on Hot Water”

  1. I live in a very hard water area and read that it can affect the function of a tankless hot water tank, because the lines can build up so fast. Not really sure. I hadn’t heard about something Andrea said, needing the furnace to be on to use one? The tank ‘covers’ do help a LOT in insulating your already heated tank water, I think you would do well to invest in one. My daughter had to replace her gas water tank this last week, because it was gas she was required to have a plumber install it. The new tank was 480 and the plumber was 462. MERCY!

  2. I know this is old – I’m reading through your old posts 🙂 – but the reason this doesn’t help is that a standard water heater is only actually actively running for 3 hours a day (newer ones even less). Standby losses only account for 20% (ish) of the energy use. You’ll get much more bang for your buck by using less water in total (low-flow showerhead, aerators on faucets, wash laundry in cold, shorter and less frequent showers, etc.)

  3. We have our elect water heater on a timer system and it does save us money. My husband is an engineer and we were actually able to meter the electric to just the water heater for several months. In a nutshell, it cost us about 45 cents a day to run it 24/7. and about 27 cents a day to run it for 4 hours every day (2 hr in the morning and 2hr in the afternoon).

    If you don’t want to go to the trouble of turning on and off everyday, at least turn it off when you are gone on vacation for more than a day.

  4. We save $50 dollars a month by using a thermal cover for our water heater. Its silver thermal insulation, we double wrapped the water heater with it (gas water heater) and have consistently saved $46-$51 dollars every month for the last 11 months.

  5. I might be able to tell you when we get September’s bill in October, but so far Sept. has been cooler than average plus our rates went up in January so its going to be hard to tell. I doubt that its too significant, but I figure every dollar helps.

    BTW, congrats on your baby. We have a 3 week old daughter (she has 3 older brothers).

  6. I bought a timer for our water heater and installed it at the beginning of this month. I have the heater turned off from 10am to 1pm and from 11pm to 5am. Surprisingly enough, the water is still quite hot. I used a tester to see if the power is off to the heater and it is. Maybe the extra insulation around the heater is keeping it warm. I dunno.

    I have seen whole house tank-less electric heaters beginning to appear in stores and they were about $700 dollars. That’s the direction I would like to go eventually.

  7. You know I used to work for a water heater and furnace company. The main problem with turning off an American water heater is that it takes more electricity or gas to heat the tank than it takes to keep it warm once heated. This is true for American tanks because we have 40 50 and 100 gallon tanks. If we were like everyone else who have smaller tanks it would be different. The tankless water heaters are where the savings are. When you finally have to replace your heater, switch over. It’s a little more expensive in the beginning, but the savings are remarkable over time.

    • Keep in mind that a tankless water heater means NO HOT WATER the moment the power goes out. My limited experience at a workplace was that water out of tap was too hot or cold. They don’t seem to work as well with low flow rate.

  8. I have been following your site for a while now. Really enjoy it. Love when you visit your frugal friend and learn from her. I wanted to introduce you to a very interesting lady. Her name is Jackie Clay and she and her family live in the wilderness in Minnesota. Her site is part of Backwoods Home website. She lives off the grid. Cans almost everything, including milk, cheese, and butter. She uses generators to provide her power to write her monthly column on her computer. She has several animals and shares so much information. I’m sure she would be an inspiration to you on so many levels. She loves her chickens and has great stories about how to care for them. I subscribed to the Backwoods Home magazine, but also check the site a couple times a week to see what she has been doing. It’s BackwoodsHome.com, then click on the Ask Jackie part. Hope you have a chance to look at what she has to offer. There are other great authors too. I really enjoy your site and love the renovations to your home. Great job! Rose

  9. Along the lines of lizzykristine, when I lived in Singapore, all the tiny water heaters (one 5-10 gallons one in each spot) had a wall switch that could be turned off. It only took about 15 minutes to heat, so I got the children trained to turn it on as soon as they got up in the morning. By the time the used the bathroom, picked out clothes, etc, it was ready. Then the switch was turned off before they went to school and stayed of until the next morning.

    I wish houses were built with a similar system here. I have even looked for the switchable outlets like we had over there to no avail. It was perfect for those outlets that got infrequent (or no) use.

  10. A tip for saving water in general:

    Put a 20oz bottle, filled with sand, in the water tank of your toilet. You’ll save water and money with every flush. 😉

  11. I have a tankless hot water heater (which means the furnace turns on and off all day long to keep the system ready for hot water usage). Yeah…last year when heating oil was over $4/gal, I decided to do basically the same thing. I turn off the furnace (I have a switch at the top of the stairs). Water stays warm for about 4 hours. I turn it on to do the kids’ baths, dishes and showers and try hard to coordinate these things Even though the oil is half the price this summer, I am doing the same thing. Of course, this doesn’t work in the winter but I figure every gallon saved is an extra couple of dollars I am not spending–and I am doing something good for the environment at the same time…it’s a win-win!!

    Good tip for those with water heaters!

  12. I started washing all (unless really really dirty or germy) clothes in cold water a little over a year ago, I didnt have to wait but one gas bill to see the BIG difference it made for us. ( I have a gas hot water heater)

  13. When I lived in Ireland, I noticed that all the water heaters were on timers. You get yourself on a routine, and then set the timer accordingly. It would come on half an hour before your morning shower, a few minutes to wash dishes at each meal, and a little bit to wash your face or shower at night. SOOO clever. (Why don’t we do that over here in the USA?!)


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