North Haven Clean Energy Task Force: Cooling Off Your Hot Water Bills
This is part of a regular report from the North Haven Clean Energy Task force to share everyday ways to improve energy efficiency and save money while helping the planet.
Not many people realize that hot water is the second-largest energy expense in their home, accounting for about 18 percent of most utility bills.
There are a few things homeowners can do to lower that expense, mostly by using less hot water and by wasting less of it by:
• fixing leaks
• insulating accessible hot-water lines so they retain heat
• installing low-flow fixtures on faucets and showers
• and when it comes time to replace appliances, look for dishwashers and clothes washers that are Energy Star certified.
Replacing shower heads and faucets is a relatively easy and quick way to save water and money. For maximum water efficiency, select a WaterSense-labeled shower head with a flow rate of less than 2 gallons per minute. That’ll reduce your water bill by anywhere from 25 to 60 percent and you’ll be following federal regulations that require all new showerhead flow rates do not exceed more than 2.5 gallons per minute. Similarly, the feds say that new faucet flow rates cannot exceed 2.2- to 2.5 gallons per minute depending on water pressure.
Typically, most property owners have a water heater that provides piping-hot water with the help of either oil, gas, or electricity. Those cost of each depends on what each of those fuels cost at any given time (currently, home heating oil prices are soaring, as are gas prices). But there is an energy and cost-efficient way to heat hot water using electricity: A heat pump.
Heat pumps do exactly what the name implies—they pump heat from one place to another, rather than creating it through combustion (gas or oil) or heating a coil (conventional electric water heaters).
Heat pumps are very efficient and have high coefficients of performance (COPs). COP is basically a ratio, a measure of heating (or cooling) compared to the energy that’s expended to create it. Appliances with higher COPs use a lower amounts of energy, which translates to lower bills. For example, heat pumps have an efficiency of 3 to 5 COPS. Compare that to electric baseboard heating, which has a much lower (less efficient) COP of 1.
In addition to being more efficient/less costly to operate, heat pump water heaters have other pluses:
• They are a bit larger than standard electric water heaters, with size varying by manufacturer and capacity (50-gallon or 80-gallon tanks).
• They have a drain to remove condensation generated by the unit.
• They have lower operating costs, which can offset the higher costs for purchase and installation (which also can be offset by generous rebates from manufacturers).
And last, although certainly not least, heat pump water heaters can lower Connecticut’s greenhouse gas emissions. And Connecticut could use the help. ISO New England, which operates the grid, said in its 2021 heating and electrification forecast that only about four percent of Connecticut households will have air-source heat pumps by 2030, compared to 11 percent in Rhode Island and 23 percent in Massachusetts.