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Hot Water, Cool Climate

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Water heating is the second highest energy consumer in our homes. Learn how to reduce your impact while still enjoying a nice hot shower.

Get out of hot water and into saving money, energy, and the planet.

Water heating can account for 14 - 25 % of home energy consumption.  By making changes both large and small you can save money, reduce your energy consumption, and reduce your share of power generation pollution. Many of the simplest tips also reduce water consumption, saving on another monthly bill while leaving more water for fish, flowers and frogs.

Simple tips

  • Set the thermostat at 120 degrees. Every 10 degree reduction leads to 3 - 5% lower energy use. You may need a thermometer to do this as the dial on the unit is likely inaccurate.
  • Insulate the heater and hot water pipes. Wrapping the heater can reduce energy use by 4 - 9%.  Wrapping the pipes will deliver water that is 2 - 4 degrees hotter, in less time and with less wasted water.
  • Reduce hot water use. Reduced use saves both energy and water. Install low-flow shower heads and faucets. To find out your flow rate, get a bucket, turn on the water for one minute, then measure in gallons. Low flow is less than 2.5 gallons per minute for showers and 1 gpm for faucets.  Only do full loads of laundry and dishes. In fact, use only cold water and save a bundle.

More complicated tips

  • Install heat traps. These simple fittings prevent hot water from escaping unless the faucet is turned on. 
  • Install a drain-water heat recovery system. 80 - 90% of the energy contained in hot water goes down the drain.  This system preheats the cold water feed to the heater by wrapping it around the shower drain pipe.

Get new equipment

  • Switch from electricity to gas, which is roughly 60% more efficient. Because about half of Idaho's energy comes from coal, reducing electricity directly reduces your carbon footprint.
  • Heat pump water heaters can cut energy use by half. These units use electricity to move heat into water, much like a refrigerator working in reverse.
  • Go solar and save. Using the sun to heat water is the most efficient use of solar energy. These units can work along with your regular heater to preheat water. 
  • Ditch the tank. Tankless hot water heaters provide hot water on demand, instead of using a storage tank. The lack of storage means these units are 24-31% more efficient.


Amount: 30% of the cost, up to $1500. Solar qualifies for 30% of total cost with no cap.

Expires: December 31, 2010 for regular, 2016 for solar.

Home Type: Principle residence, not rental units

Materials: Gas or propane units with energy factor of 0.82 or higher. Electric heat pump with energy factor of 2 or higher.

Amount: $250 for switching to gas from electric. $50 for installing high efficiency gas unit. Limited to 50% of cost.

Home type: Primary residence including manufacture and modular homes, up to a fourplex.

Materials: New gas unit must have an energy factor of 0.6 for 50 gallon or 0.62 for 40 gallon size.



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