Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We're All in Hot Water When We Waste Energy!

Americans rarely connect their flowing hot water to their energy consumption. Like children (and probably more than a few adults) who think that meat comes from the supermarket, not from the steer, we all take heated water exceedingly for granted - hot water comes from the tap. In fact, unless you have a solar water heater - which fortunately is not as rare as in former days - or live in Iceland where thermal electricity fuels appliances, fossil fuel is consumed to keep our water hot. The water is being kept hot all the time, whether you use it or not. The controls to water heaters are not user friendly, and most of us avoid heading down to our basements unless there is a pressing need, so basically we're wasting a lot of energy heating water that sits around in a tank.

Afshin and Meenal, the founders of Green House Detectives, are committed to helping clients rethink outmoded energy consumption habits, formed in an earlier era characterized by cheap energy, without sacrificing the comfort to which we are accustomed. Energy costs are sky-rocketing, as is the pace of climate chaos. Times have changed. More and more people are motivated to pay attention to their energy efficiency. An easy place to start is simply by wasting less energy. Here are a few tips for lowering your hot water heating costs. These actions will take a little effort, but will not sacrifice comfort.
In order from simple, one-time fixes to whole new daily action:

  1. Lower your hot water heater temperature. Some of your appliances, like the dishwasher, have built in capabilities for heating water to a higher temperature, so you really just need the hot water to be comfortable, not scalding.
  2. Wash your clothes in cold water. Warm or hot may be the default, so train yourself to do this.
  3. Turn your water heater off when you're away. No need to heat water when you're on vacation.
  4. Turn off your hot water when not in use on a daily basis. This is for the more ambitious. Analyze your hot water needs. For a typical family, they are likely to be morning shower, evening dinner dish washing, evening bath for the kids. That means you could manually turn off the water heater for a significant chunk of each day. It only takes 15-30 minute to heat up to a comfortable consuming temperature. Even more clever - set your water heater to a timer to do this for you.
The mission of Green House Detectives is for us all to be smarter about energy, system by system, while maintaining comfortable life styles. Each change may only be a small, even tiny, difference, but they will all add up.
The picture above, by the way, is for a neat gizmo: a shower timer, so you don't forget to come out of the shower!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting ... I wonder, does turning off a gas water heater create any problems with risk of gas leaks?