Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Keep your energy bills out of hot water

Whether your utilities be gas, electric, oil, or propane.  We can agree all types do cost much more these days.  If you are low incomed then too much usage and too little money to pay for it often results in loss of the utilities.

I think about my utility usage quite often.  Not just the dollar amount I pay but the amount I use.  I’m always looking for ways to cut down on the usage even if its just a tiny amount saved. The less I use, the less I’m paying for.  A penny saved is a penny earned.

One way to cut usage is with your water heater.  A water heater can be a terrible usage waster.  Mine is gas operated and I have it wrapped with an insulation jacket. The extra insulation helped cut back on the gas usage but I wanted to do more.   Turning down the temperature of the water will save a bit on usage.

Energy saving 001

Ok, I can hear everyone thinking; “But my family would complain if I cut the temperature of the hot water.”   So let me ask you this, do you and your family turn on both the hot water and the cold water to reach a temperature that is comfortable for a bath or a shower? Why do you do that? Why would you pay a high utility bill to have very hot water only to put cold water in it to cool it down?

Alright maybe your family would complain about not so hot water. I get that.  Here is a suggestion for if you are frugal but your family is not so enthused with your ideas.  When someone gets ready to bathe or shower they usually turn on the hot water first then start adding cold water to cool it down.  Well, if the hot is not so hot they won’t turn on the cold as much.  (I hope I wrote that understandable.)

Energy saving

Try cutting the water temperature back only a couple of degrees without telling anyone.  In a couple days, if  no one complains, turn it down two or three degrees more.  Keep turning it down in small amounts every couple of days until you start hearing complaints. Most likely you won’t hear any complaints until you’ve turned the temperature down several degrees.  When you hear someone scream “There’s no hot water, dang it!” you know you’ve turned it down a tad too far.  Turn it up a degree or two.  You’ll have found your ideal hot water tank temperature.  At that point no one should be adding more than just a small amount of cold water.  I believe you will notice a big difference in your utility usage.

But on the flip side you should also remember if you cut back the temperature it means you’ll be using more tank water for each shower or bath.  This could be a problem if several people are taking showers back to back.  You need to allow time for the tank to heat up again for the next person.

I believe turning down the tank temperature to minimum would work better for a couple or a single person than it would for a family with kids.  Also, don’t be so miserly that you have your family taking cold showers or baths to save on usage. I’m told a water heater should never be set lower than 120 degrees to prevent bacteria growth in the tank.

Some people may wonder how this lower water temperature effects a dishwasher.  I don’t own one but its my understanding that dishwashers have a built in water temperature booster.  The booster raises the water temp for that appliance while still letting you keep your water tank temperature lower.  I can tell you scalding hot water is not necessary for having clean dishes.  I wash dishes by hand and get them quite clean in water that won’t blister my hands.

Ok, what about the washing machine?  Shouldn’t it have hot water?  I don’t use hot water to wash clothes.  Cold water is best for washing clothes anyway.  Hot water sets the stains and shortens the life of the fabrics.  Cold water detergent is specially formulated to get our clothes clean.  Homemade detergent does include ingredients that do the same thing.

A couple of thoughts here about single handle faucets.

Energy saving 002

Many will leave the lever in the center position even for a quick glass or other small amount of water.  What you don’t think about is that when the water is turned on, in the center position, there is an equal amount of hot water along with the cold water drawn into the pipes.  That hot water never reaches the faucet but the tank must reheat water to replace the amount drawn out.  True it would be a small amount.  Multiply that one small amount by several times a day and it could soon add up.  A lot of energy is being wasted to heat water that is not really wanted and never actually arrives at the faucet.  I’ve been training myself to keep the single handles to the cold side all the time.  I move the lever to the hot side only when I actually want hot water.  Like for washing dishes.

I plan to replace my single handle with double handles as soon as I can afford the plumber.  That way there will be no doubt about whether I’m using cold or hot water.  I also won’t have the problem of crossover leakage which often happens with single handle faucets.  Crossover leakage is when the little button inside is not centered just right in the handle and the water dispensed is incorrect.

I’m able to heat up small amounts of really hot water much cheaper on my kitchen stove than letting a water tank keep it hot for me until I decide I want hot water.  Instant gratification for hot water is costly.

If you can afford one, a timer for your water heater could give you additional savings too.  They are available for both gas and electric heaters.  I would love to have one but its not in my budget.  A timer would allow you to keep the temperature low until a time when you know you will need it hotter.  It would be best for a family.  The water heater could get hot before you actually need it and lower it after.


9 comments on “Keep your energy bills out of hot water

  1. Jackie
    July 29, 2015

    We have turned down our hot water heater years ago. We still have plenty of hot water, and I don’t have to use as much cold water. Might just have to look into a timer as those sound very interesting.

    • Na Na
      July 30, 2015

      Yes, they are nice, in my opinion. I didn’t realize it when I wrote that post but there is a lot of debate over them being effective on new model water heaters. I would think that timers are most useful if you live in a time of use billing area. It can be programmed to heat water in off peak times.

    • mildred lane
      January 11, 2016

      I use a hot water heater timer for 2 hours/day and works well. I also use a low flow shower head to cut down on the amount of water used when taking a shower.

      • mildred lane
        January 11, 2016

        I use red nail polish to put a mark on the inside of bath tub to show the kids where to stop filling the tub w/ water.

        • Anita
          January 12, 2016

          Great idea.

      • Anita
        January 12, 2016

        My water heater doesn’t have a timer but it doesn’t keep the water hot continually either. It only starts heating when the tank senses heavy use.

  2. Frugalwarrior2
    July 29, 2015

    When you have a dishwasher the entering temp. should be 120 degrees but never above 150 degrees I have always been afraid to go below 120 degrees.

    • Na Na
      July 30, 2015

      I didn’t know that. Thanks for sharing.

  3. sarasinart
    July 29, 2015

    All good ideas! I’ve always been aware how much energy is lost when hot water has to come to the sink from the water heater in the basement. I only “call” for hot water when I really need it. People don’t think about stuff like leaving the single lever faucet handle in the center. Cold water to wash clothes; I’ve done that for years. Thanks for good tips.

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