How Much Energy Does a Water Heater Use?

Your faucets, showerheads and plumbing appliances consume plenty of hot water. In fact, the Department of Energy says that water heating is the second-largest utility cost behind space heating and cooling, accounting for roughly 18% of your monthly bill. Discover how much energy an average water heater uses and helpful tips to decrease your water heating costs.

How Much Electricity Does an Electric Water Heater Use?

The exact cost to run an electric water heater is determined by the size of the unit, how much you use it, its power draw and what you pay for electricity. For instance, a medium-sized, 40-gallon water heater that draws 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 run per day, which approaches $35 per month or $426 annually.

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

If your water heater uses natural gas, you need to consider the size of the unit, how much you use it, its power draw and typical costs 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 at a cost of $1 per therm costs about $0.62 to operate per day, which comes to $18.60 each month or $226 each year.

Gas vs. Electric Water Heater Costs

As you can determine from the examples above, gas water heaters typically cost less to operate than equivalent electric models because natural gas prices tend to run lower than electricity costs. Fine-tune 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 uses electricity or gas, you can cut your utility costs with these money-saving suggestions.

Revise Your Hot Water Habits

Keep in mind that each time you turn on a hot water tap, you must pay to heat it. Modify your daily habits to lower your bills. Here’s how:

  • Take quicker showers. 
  • Only run the dishwasher and washing machine with full loads. 
  • Avoid pre-rinsing dishes before you load them into the dishwasher.
  • Launder your clothes in cold water whenever possible.

Seal Plumbing Leaks

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

Install Low-Flow Faucets and Showerheads

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

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

Turn Down the Water Heater Temperature

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

If your water heater doesn’t have 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 measure the water’s temperature. Repeat this process until the thermometer reaches 120 degrees.

Add Insulation

Both electric and natural gas water heaters can be insulated with insulated jackets available at home improvement retailers. Be careful to install the insulation correctly to avoid creating a dangerous operating situation. If you're not sure 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 getting close to the end of its life span, look at replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-rated model. A tankless water heater is one such option. This upgrade can save up to 34% on your water heating bills by heating water on demand and eliminating standby heat loss. Save energy and lower costs 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 reliable, 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 carry top products from today’s best brands, including conventional tanks as well as tankless models, to suit your needs while staying in budget. To get the full details, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office today.