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Check Your Water Heater's Thermostat

If you're looking for an easy way to save on your electric bill, look no further than your water heater. A water heater set too high can waste a lot of energy and be a safety hazard in your home. A high setting can result in a scalding accident in as little as two seconds and cost up to 40 percent more in power costs.

We advise setting your water heater thermostat at 120 degrees F. If your water heater doesn't have a setting that low, set it at the lowest setting available. The numbers tell the story:

Water Temperature Scalding Rate Annual Electricity Cost
150° F 2 seconds $346
140° F 15 seconds $312
130° F 20 seconds $276
120° F 10 minutes $242

(Annual electric cost is based on average power use for a family of four at 1999 PUD residential rates.)

Water Heater Tips
Here are a few more ways to cut water heating energy:

  • Install aerators in faucets and showerheads. A leak of one drip per second can cost $1 per month.
  • Wrap your electric hot water storage tank and pipes with a minimum R-value of 7, but be careful not to cover the thermostat. (Wrapping is not recommended for gas units.) The payback for wrapping a water heater is generally less than a year. Some manufacturers discourage wrapping your tank because of condensation buildup, so read the label first.
  • Reduce the thermostat on your water heater to 120 degrees F. Electric water heaters often have two thermostats, one for the upper heating element and one for the lower heating element. These should be adjusted to the same level to prevent one element from doing all the work and wearing out prematurely.
  • Take more showers than baths. You use 15 to 25 gallons of hot water for a bath and less than 10 gallons during a 5-minute shower.
  • When you are shopping for a new water heater, don't cut corners on energy efficiency. Look at the lifetime cost of the model, including annual energy costs, to get the most for your energy dollar.

For more information, contact Anita, Klickitat PUD's Energy Services Specialist. You can call her at 509-773-7622 or toll-free at 800-548-8357.