When it comes to reducing your carbon footprint and decreasing your energy bill, plumbing is rarely at the top of the list, but maybe it should be. Updating your fixtures for water conservation makes a lot of sense, but it’s not intuitively obvious why that would reduce your power consumption.
The answer lies in hot water. When heat is wasted, you’ll need to use more energy to get your water up to the right temperature. In light of this, updates that reduce water consumption and retain heat will reduce your energy bill; they’re better for the environment, too.
Pipe insulation is typically seen as a way to reduce the chances that pipes will freeze in the wintertime. What many don’t realize is that insulating your pipes comes with a slew of advantages even in climates that rarely, if ever, dip below freezing.
Insulation is a powerful tool for the energy conscious, and it plays an important role in LEED, Passive House, and other green standards. To understand the power of insulation, it’s important to understand a little bit about heat transfer. The basics are simple: heat always moves towards colder areas.
In other words, anytime the inside of your pipes is warmer than the outside, some of the heat from your pipes will leech out. Insulation prevents heat transfer, so when your pipes are properly insulated, your water heater needs to work less to give you hot water.
You’ll want to insulate your cold water lines too, and not just to avoid your water getting warm in the summertime. When hot air hits cool surfaces, the moisture in the air condenses into water. Water on the outside of your pipes will corrode them – and while avoiding corrosion doesn’t save you much on your power bill, it can save you a lot on plumbing repairs.
It’s also essential to look at your water heater. The first steps to efficiency? Proper maintenance and lower temperatures.
Over time, sediment will build up in your water heater, which can damage the mechanisms in the water heater and reduce its efficiency. Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of sediment – just put a bucket below your water heater’s drain valve, turn the valve, and let the water flow until there’s no more sediment. You’ll want to do this about every 6 months to a year, though larger families might need to do it every 4 months. Another option is to have a professional plumber flush the sediment from your heater and pipes.
You can also save money by simply reducing how hot your water heater runs. Adjusting the temperature of your water heater is simple, and even a few degrees can mean savings on your utility bill. You generally want your heater to be in the range of 120 to 140 degrees; err on the lower side to save.
The technology used to heat water improves dramatically each decade, so updating your water heater can save you a lot on your utility bills. Old water heaters are more likely to be inefficient due to wear and tear.
When it comes to choosing a new heater, you can pick from a lot of new and exciting tech. Solar powered water heaters, heat pump heaters, high-efficiency gas water heaters and even tankless heaters are just a few of your options.
The most exciting of these technologies is probably the tankless water heater. These heaters warm water up on demand, instead of having to store it. Because lower quantities are being heated, and there’s little heat being lost to heat transfer from the tank, they’re hyper-efficient.
You’ll need to consult with a plumber before getting a new heater installed. Take a look at these tips for choosing a plumber to find one. Also, make sure to get a few different estimates and choose a plumber who is willing to have an in-depth conversation with you.
Updating your home’s water fixtures can help you save a lot and is a lot cheaper than buying a new water heater. Before you update, however, you also should consider maintenance.
In the same way that sediment can build up in your water heater, it can build up in your faucets and showerhead. When water pressure is very low, you may feel like you need more water than you actually do, creating water and heat waste. Cleaning your fixtures will increase water pressure.
Low-flow fixtures are another great option. These fixtures are designed to maintain pressure while reducing the amount of water that actually flows through them. Low flow shower heads and faucets manage this by aerating the water. The added air increases the pressure because more fluid is passing through the holes, resulting in less hot water being used.
Low flush toilets are designed in a variety of ways. Some use gravity to flush better. Dual flush toilets allow you to use less water for liquid waste, and more for solid waste. Toilets are constantly being redesigned for more efficiency, so there’s no telling what we’ll see in the next decade. While these won’t necessarily save you on your energy bill (toilets don’t use hot water), they’re low-flow qualities are always worth keeping in mind.
Almost every one of the tips laid out above is serving a dual purpose: you’re saving money by using less hot water, which means you’re using less energy and less water. Energy efficient changes lead to substantial returns, especially when you’re targeting two utility bills at once. Going through an annual maintenance checklist and updating your plumbing can lead to huge returns on your investment. Good for the environment, and good for your pocketbook – what’s not to like?
Christie Simon is a writer based in Canada. She writes articles with a focus on marketing and home improvement for a variety of businesses. Some of her best work has been featured on the Quik-Therm website.