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 states 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 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 square footage of the unit, how much you use it, its power draw and local costs for electricity. As an example, a medium-sized, 40-gallon water heater that uses 4500 watts and is active for just 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 monthly or $426 annually.

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

If your water heater runs using natural gas, you have 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 two hours each day at a rate of $1 per therm costs about $0.62 to operate per day, which is approximately $18.60 per month or $226 per year.

Gas vs. Electric Water Heater Costs

As you can see from the examples above, gas water heaters generally cost less to run than comparable 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 create a more accurate picture of gas vs. electric water heater expenses.

Tips to Reduce Your Water Heating Bills

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

Change Your Hot Water Habits

Consider that each and every time you turn on a hot water tap, you must pay to heat it. Modify your day-to-day habits to lower your bills. Here’s how:

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

Resolve Plumbing Leaks

Leaky faucets, showerheads and pipes can waste significant quantities of hot water. For example, one drip per second can waste as much as 1,600 gallons annually. 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 purchase quality, low-flow kitchen and bathroom fixtures for around $10 to $20 each, resulting in up to 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 standard setting is 140 degrees. Lower this to 120 degrees to save on water heating costs and reduce the possibility of scalding at the tap. Just don’t go any lower than 120 degrees to prevent microbial growth in 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 reads 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. Once the tank is insulated, add insulation to the hot and cold pipes coming from the water heater to help things heat up faster at the faucet.

Buy More Efficient Equipment

In case your water heater is nearing the end of its life span, consider replacing it with an ENERGY STAR-rated model. A tankless water heater is another option. This upgrade can save as much as 34% on your water heating bills by heating water on demand and getting rid of 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 dependable, 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 conventional tanks as well as tankless models, to suit your needs while staying within budget. To find out more, please contact your local Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning office today.