How Much Energy Does a Water Heater Use?

Your faucets, showerheads and plumbing appliances use a lot of hot water. In fact, the Department of Energy reports that water heating is the second-largest utility cost behind space heating and cooling, accounting for roughly 18% of your monthly bill. Learn how much energy a typical water heater uses and helpful tips to scale back your water heating costs.

How Much Electricity Does an Electric Water Heater Use?

The total cost to run an electric water heater depends on the square footage of the unit, how much you use it, its power needs and what you pay for electricity. As an example, a medium-sized, 40-gallon water heater that uses 4500 watts and is active for two hours a day at a rate of $0.13 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) costs about $1.17 to operate per day, which arrives at $35 each month or $426 annually.

How Much Natural Gas Does a Gas-Fired Water Heater Use?

If your water heater uses natural gas, you have to consider the size of the unit, how much you use it, its power draw and what you pay for natural gas. For instance, a medium-sized, 40-gallon water heater that uses .205 therms per hour and is active for a couple of hours a day for a price of $1 per therm costs about $0.62 to operate per day, which comes to $18.60 each month or $226 annually.

Gas vs. Electric Water Heater Costs

As you can see from the examples above, gas water heaters generally cost less to use than equivalent electric models because natural gas prices tend to run lower than the price of electricity. Refine the calculations with your exact energy usage and rates to get a more accurate picture of gas vs. electric water heater expenses.

Tips to Reduce Your Water Heating Bills

Whether your water heater runs on electricity or gas, you can cut your utility costs with these money-saving tips.

Change Your Hot Water Habits

Remember that each time you turn on a hot water tap, you need to pay to heat it. Modify your day-to-day habits to reduce costs. Here’s how:

  • Take faster showers. 
  • Only use the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. 
  • Avoid pre-rinsing dishes before placing them into the dishwasher.
  • Wash your clothes in cold water whenever possible.

Repair Plumbing Leaks

Leaky faucets, showerheads and pipes can waste large amounts of hot water. For example, one drip per second can waste as much as 1,600 gallons annually. Eliminate this waste by handling plumbing leaks as soon as you identify them.

Install Low-Flow Faucets and Showerheads

Modern rules require new showerheads to consume 2.5 gallons per minute (gpm) or less while kitchen faucets are limited to 2.2 gpm. A new set of bathroom faucets must have flow rates below 1.5 gpm.

You can find quality, low-flow kitchen and bathroom fixtures for approximately $10 to $20 each, resulting in as much as 60% savings on water use. Try to find the ENERGY STAR® WaterSense label to increase efficiency without negatively influencing performance.

Turn Down the Water Heater Temperature

The standard setting is 140 degrees. Lower this to 120 degrees to save on water heating costs and minimize the possibility of scalding at the tap. Just don’t go any lower than 120 degrees to prevent microbial growth within the tank.

If the water heater doesn’t include a temperature readout, determine the setting with a thermometer at the bathroom or kitchen tap. Adjust the water heater’s dial, wait two hours and test the water’s temperature. Repeat this process until the thermometer shows 120 degrees.

Add Insulation

Both electric and natural gas water heaters can be insulated with insulated jackets available at home improvement stores. Be mindful to install the jacket correctly to avoid creating a dangerous operating situation. If you're unsure how to proceed, ask a professional for help. After the tank is insulated, add insulation to your hot and cold pipes coming from the water heater to help things heat up faster at the faucet.

Buy More Efficient Equipment

If the water heater is approaching the end of its life span, consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-rated model. A tankless water heater is another option. This upgrade can save up to 34% on your water heating bills by producing hot water on demand and getting rid of standby heat loss. Save even more by replacing your hot water appliances with high-efficiency models, including your dishwasher and washing machine.

Schedule Water Heater Services with an Expert

Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning is your source for dependable, affordable water heater services in North America. Our highly trained technicians can fulfill any water heater repair or replacement request that comes our way. We offer top products from today’s best brands, including conventional tanks as well as tankless models, to suit your needs while staying in budget. To find out more, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office today.

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