With the cost of living rising, is there anyone out there who doesn’t like the idea of cutting down on their energy bills? Hot water is an essential part of modern living, but it also makes up a large chunk of your annual energy costs, so making your hot water system more efficient will make a noticeable difference to the amount at the end of your bill.
Let’s take a look at some key ways you can improve your current hot water system and make it more efficient.
Understanding Your Hot Water System
The difference between each type of water system comes down to its mechanics and how it operates. Therefore, understanding your system’s fundamental operations is the key to enhancing its efficiency.
Once you’ve determined what type of system you have, the following factors are worth considering when trying to find ways to improve your water heater efficiency.
Check for Leaks and Inspect the Insulation
Leaks are a common issue, especially with an older storage tank, that can cause problems with the overall functionality of your system. Along with checking the insulation around your storage tank, it’s important to look for any leaks in your system.
The most obvious signs of leakage are pools of water near the tank or water damage/dampness in the general vicinity of the hot water system. Leaks not only make a mess and wastewater, but they lead to increased energy consumption as your system works harder to compensate.
If you notice or suspect your system is leaking, call a technician or plumber to fix it and get your water heating back in peak condition.
Temperature Control and Monitoring
Optimising temperature settings is fundamental to a more efficient hot water system. Lowering the temperature of your system lowers the overall energy usage, but remember that in order to avoid contaminated water, you can’t cool your water too much.
The ‘Goldilocks Zone’ for hot water systems is between 49–60 °C. Setting your system’s temperature in this zone will help you save energy without running the risk of Legionnaire’s disease.
Adjusting the Thermostat
In line with adjusting the thermostat for your traditional or tankless system, take advantage of programmable thermostats. Programming specific temperature levels for different times of the day helps minimise unnecessary heating, contributing to energy savings.
Again, remember not to set your thermostat too low as it will lead to lukewarm water and the potential breeding ground for bacteria.
Consider a Timer
Installing a timer on your hot water system can be a great way to control your energy usage. These tools empower homeowners to schedule the system to operate only when necessary, reducing standby heat loss and promoting energy efficiency.
For example, you can set your timer so that your hot water system draws on energy during off-peak hours, thereby reducing your overall costs.
Regular Maintenance for Optimal Performance
Even the best, top-of-the-line models of hot water heaters should be serviced to ensure they’re functioning correctly.
Maintenance is an important part of owning a hot water system as it allows a professional to examine your appliance, give it a service, and catch any problems before they become major.
Flushing the Tank
Through everyday use, sediment will start to build up in your water tank, and this can affect the efficiency and functionality of your hot water heater.
The easiest way to combat this problem is to flush your tank at least once a year. By doing this, you’ll keep your system running smoothly and increase its overall lifespan.
Check and Replace Anode Rods
The anode rod is sometimes called the sacrifice rod, and this is for good reason. The purpose of the anode rod is to attract corrosive material to protect the rest of the system from corrosion. As you can imagine, after doing this for a while, the anode rod itself erodes and becomes less effective.
Therefore, it’s essential to check the state of your anode rod and replace it if necessary. Most rods last between 3–5 years, depending on the hardness of your water and the type of system you have.
Upgrade to Water-Saving Fixtures
It just makes sense: installing more water-saving fixtures will help you save on running costs. It’s estimated that water-saving fixtures in your home could cut your water and heating bills by as much as 65% and your water bills by 35%.
That’s hundreds of dollars in your wallet that we’re sure you can think of better things to do with.
Install Low-Flow Faucets and Shower Heads
Not all improvements to your hot water system’s energy use are adjustments made to the system itself. Installing low-flow faucets and shower heads will greatly reduce the work required from your heater and, in turn, reduce your energy costs.
For example, a regular shower head can use anywhere between 15–20 L per minute. Replacing this with a 3-star rated head will reduce this to 9 L per minute, saving you up to $210 per year.
If you went a step further and installed a 5-star shower head, which uses only 3 L per minute, that saving goes up to around $315 per year.
Harnessing Solar Power for Hot Water
Solar power has long been the most famous example of eco-friendly energy options, and for good reason. Installing solar panels, though initially costly, will lead to long-term savings.
Water heating is one of the many features in your home that can benefit from using solar power, reducing your energy bills and environmental impact.
Install a Solar Water Heater
A range of solar hot water heaters are available, all of which are eco-friendly options for heating water in your home. There are many advantages to a solar water heater, including:
- Making the most of the sun’s energy.
- No longer being vulnerable to rising energy prices.
- Cutting your overall water heating bill by up to 90%.
- Having access to hot water 24/7.
Insulate Pipes for Heat Retention
Insulating your hot water pipes helps reduce heat loss, allowing you to reduce the temperature of your heater and cut down on energy costs. Pipe insulation, or lagging, can be made from a variety of materials, including vinyl, PVC, glass wool and sometimes a reflective foil layer.
All pipe insulation must meet a minimum standard as specified in the National Construction Code of Australia.
DIY Pipe Insulation
If you have an intermediate level of DIY skills, you might consider doing the pipe lagging yourself, a job that will take a few hours. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow.
- Measure: The first thing you’ll need to do is figure out how much pipe lagging you require, which you’ll find out by measuring your hot water pipes.
- Buy Pipe Lagging and Tape: It’s worth splashing out on high-quality pipe lagging as it will save you money in the long run. Look for products that are UV resistant and, therefore, won’t break down quickly.
- Prepare for Installation: Gather your insulating material and a sharp utility knife, trowel and towels. It’s important to ensure your pipes are clean, dirt-free and dry before installation. Give the pipes a good wipe-down before you install your insulation. Measure and cut your lagging to fit the pipes.
- Install Pipe Lagging: When installing the pipe lagging, you insulate the non-return valve and the hot water system valve, as this will greatly increase its effectiveness. The insulation should fit snugly around the pipes.
For extra peace of mind, you can hire a professional to install pipe insulation for you. Whether you install it yourself or hire someone else to do it for you, pipe insulation can make a noticeable difference to your energy bill.
Mastering Efficiency: Your Hot Water Solution
Empowered with a deeper understanding of your hot water system and armed with these practical tips, you can take charge of enhancing its efficiency. Regular maintenance, temperature optimisation, and embracing water-saving practices contribute to a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly home.
By implementing these DIY measures, you not only reduce energy consumption but also ensure a reliable and efficient hot water supply for years to come.