When we first started looking for hidden energy guzzlers in our house I was asked to list (what I thought) were the top three energy guzzlers. Here’s what we listed:
1. Air conditioner – this was, in fact, the number one guzzler at $80 per month.
2. Clothes dryer – This was not as big a culprit as we thought. We’ll discuss this in our next blog.
3. Hot water heater – This was more expensive than I thought it was going to be, as you’ll see.
Our hot water heater is electric, is a 50 gallon tank, and is around 8 years old. We discovered that our average usage runs around 375 kilowatt hours per month. At $0.17 per KWH, that puts our monthly average at around $68.00 a month, which makes it the number two energy-guzzler in our house. I remember buying it based on one thing: its price tag. What I found was this:
Every appliance has two price tags. The first is the price you pay when you purchase the appliance (I went cheap). The second is the cost of operating the appliance over its lifetime. You might be surprised if you consider how much it costs to operate an appliance compared to what seemed to be a good deal when you purchased it. I thought I got a good deal, but found that I’m paying through the proverbial ‘nose’ each month.
The utility guy said that there are a number of things I could do, which included spending $500 on a new, energy efficient unit. Not being inclined in that direction, I asked what we could do to reduce the bill on the unit we have. Here’s a list of things that he suggested:
1. Repair leaky faucets & showerheads. He said to check the faucets and showers in all three bathrooms for leaks. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month. This doesn’t sound like much, but can add-up.
2. This was interesting. He asked if we used hot water when running the garbage disposal. We always used hot water. He said to use cold water to operate the garbage disposal. Cold water use saves energy and is the recommendation of most disposal manufacturers. Didn’t know that.
3. When washing dishes by hand, he said to use a sink stopper or dishpan so water – hot or cold – doesn’t rush down the drain. Remember, too, that hot water running needlessly not only wastes water, but it wastes energy as well. This was news to us, since we often washed dishes by hand so as not to use the dishwasher (see last week’s blog).
4. Set our water heater to 120 degrees, which will produce plenty of hot water and still save energy. I ran down to the basement and saw that ours was set at 160 degrees, which I promptly changed.
5. Wrap your water heater with a water heater blanket, and insulate the pipes where we can. We got these ready-made foam tubes that worked well and were easy to cut-to-size. He said we’d save around 10% on our bill just by doing this.
6. Conserve hot water by installing water-saving showerheads.
7. Last, but not least, this was the big eye-opener. He said to put a timer on the heater that shut it down at night. Candidly, I didn’t buy this. I thought we’d be showering in cool water in the morning, which I wasn’t excited about. Not to worry, he said, because the water in the tank would still be warm, and it wouldn’t take much to heat it up. He said that by turning off the water heater for 8 hours each day, we could save as much as 30% on our bill. To prove it to us he brought us outside the house to where the electrical meter was. He asked us to watch the dial, which was spinning quite fast. He then went into the basement and flipped-off the breaker for the hot water heater. Amazing. The dial (which measures the kilowatts being used) slowed-down to half of the speed as when the heater was on.
His point was this: Why continue to heat water at 120 degrees when no one is using it? A well insulated tank will keep water warm for quite a while. So we put the heater on a timer and decided to turn it off from 11pm to 6am, and from 9am to 4pm, when we are away at work and school. That’s 14 hours that we won’t be heating water at 4500 watts. We also decided that there won’t be any more 20 minute showers. Sorry ladies…