How Much Energy Does a Water Heater Use?

Your faucets, showerheads and plumbing appliances use a lot 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 about 18% of your monthly bill. Discover how much energy an average water heater uses and helpful tips to reduce your water heating costs.

How Much Electricity Does an Electric Water Heater Use?

The exact cost to run an electric water heater depends on the size of the unit, how much you use it, its power needs and local costs for electricity. As an example, a medium-sized, 40-gallon water heater that draws 4500 watts and is active for 2 hours a day at a rate of $0.13 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) costs about $1.17 to work per day, which arrives at $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 must consider the size of the unit, how much you use it, its power draw and typical costs for natural gas. For example, a medium-sized, 40-gallon water heater that uses .205 therms per hour and is active for two hours each day at a cost of $1 per therm costs about $0.62 to operate per day, which is approximately $18.60 monthly or $226 per year.

Gas vs. Electric Water Heater Costs

As you can determine from the examples above, gas water heaters usually cost less to operate than similar electric models because natural gas prices are likely to run lower than the price of electricity. Fine-tune the calculations with your exact energy usage and rates to get a more accurate picture of gas vs. electric water heater costs.

Tips to Reduce Your Water Heating Bills

Whether your water heater runs using electricity or gas, you can lower your utility costs with these money-saving tips.

Change Your Hot Water Habits

Consider that each time you turn on a hot water faucet, you must pay to heat it. Modify your everyday habits to reduce costs. Here’s how:

  • Take faster 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 if possible.

Seal Plumbing Leaks

Leaky faucets, showerheads and pipes can waste large amounts of hot water. For example, one drip per second adds up to more than 1,600 gallons each year. Eliminate this waste by handling plumbing leaks as soon as you discover 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 buy quality, low-flow kitchen and bathroom fixtures for approximately $10 to $20 each, resulting in as much as 60% savings on water use. Look 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 prevent microbial growth within the tank.

If the water heater doesn’t include a temperature readout, determine the setting with a thermometer at the bathroom or kitchen faucet. Adjust the water heater’s dial, wait two hours and test 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 insulation 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 nearing the end of its life span, consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-rated model. A tankless water heater is one such option. This upgrade can save as much as 34% on your water heating bills by producing hot water on demand and eliminating standby heat loss. Save even more by replacing your hot water appliances with high-efficiency models, including the 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 satisfy any water heater repair or replacement request that comes our way. We offer top products from today’s best brands, including traditional tanks as well as tankless models, to suit your needs while staying in your budget. To learn more, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office today.