Trim the Fat Tuesday: The Water Heater

This is something we've been meaning to do for years — ever since we moved here, in fact. We have a gigantic, ancient water heater in the basement, and I'm quite certain that it is responsible for most of our electric bill. So we finally got off our asses to

Turn down the water heater to 120 degrees.

Our tank is a beast: 80 gallons, which is way more than we need. It's electric, which is the least efficient thing ever. It's also 15 years old, so we're on borrowed time. We need to replace it soon, but in the meantime, this little change should save us some cash.

There's going to be a lot of rough math here, because the thermostat on the water heater looks like a child's toy:

As near as we can tell, this decal is fake, as there is no knob to turn. Instead, Kirk had to take a screwdriver and move a tiny screw inside that hole to change the temperature. The choices were 150, 125, and 90. It had been set at 125 according to the (surely inaccurate) screw, but we often burn our hands in the kitchen, so we know we can turn it down. We were aiming for 120, but since that's not marked, we just made a guess about giving it a quarter-turn toward the cold side. 

I guess I'll find out in the shower tomorrow if that's too cold.

Anyway, we'll assume that we lowered it by 5 degrees to 120. According to, for every 10 degrees lower you turn the thermostat, you save 3-5 percent on heating water your water. So since we turned it only half that amount, we'll say we saved just 3%. They also said that hot water usually accounts for about 18% of a household's electric bill. I have a feeling our percentage is higher — we never use an air conditioner, and our hot water heater sucks, so we probably use a much higher proportion of our electricity for heating water. If we call that 25% of an average monthly electric bill of $138, the portion we spend on the hot water is $34.50. A 3% savings on that amount is about $1 per month.

Hmm. That's not very much at all. On the bright side, it wasn't hard to do, and we won't be burning our hands while washing the dishes any more.

Savings per month: $1

Total Savings for November: $1,614 (this month's savings plus the savings already in place from previous months!)

Total Savings in 2014: $9,337


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