1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

May 25, 2008

:146 Reduce Temperatures

1:5:10:146 EcoTip: Today’s tip is to reduce hot water heater temperatures to save energy, but it has a caveat. Reduced temperatures in hot water heaters have proven to be a source of the infectious bacterium Legionella pneumophila. It is currently estimated that Legionnaire’s disease affects between 10,000 and 100,000 people each year. So how does one achieve energy savings and safety from this disease at the same time? In the additional reading below I have provided both the Department of Energy and OSHA’s perspectives. I then tell you how our family manages to balance the risks and the benefits.

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 Additional Information:

The Department of Energy says:

You can reduce your water heating costs by simply lowering the thermostat setting on your water heater. For each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs.

Although some manufacturers set water heater thermostats at 140ºF, most households usually only require them set at 120ºF. Water heated at 140ºF also poses a safety hazard—scalding. However, if you have a dishwasher without a booster heater, it may require a water temperature within a range of 130ºF to 140ºF for optimum cleaning.

Reducing your water temperature to 120ºF also slows mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes. This helps your water heater last longer and operate at its maximum efficiency.

Consult your water heater owner’s manual for instructions on how to operate the thermostat. You can find a thermostat dial for a gas storage water heater near the bottom of the tank on the gas valve. Electric water heaters, on the other hand, may have thermostats positioned behind screw-on plates or panels. As a safety precaution, shut off the electricity to the water heater before removing/opening the panels. Keep in mind that an electric water heater may have two thermostats—one each for the upper and lower heating elements.

Mark the beginning temperature and the adjusted temperature on the thermostat dial for future reference. After turning it down, check the water temperature with a thermometer at the tap farthest from the water heater. Thermostat dials are often inaccurate. Several adjustments may be necessary before you get the right temperature.

If you plan to be away from home for at least 3 days, turn the thermostat down to the lowest setting or completely turn off the water heater. To turn off an electric water heater, switch off the circuit breaker to it. For a gas water heater, make sure you know how to safely relight the pilot light before turning it off.

http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13090

OSHA says:

  • Maintain domestic water heaters at 60°C (140°F). The temperature of the water should be 50°C (122°F) or higher at the faucet.
  • Avoid conditions that allow water to stagnate. Large water-storage tanks exposed to sunlight can produce warm conditions favorable to high levels of LDB. Frequent flushing of unused water lines will help alleviate stagnation.
  • However, if you have people living with you who are at high risk of contracting the disease, then operating the water heater at a minimum temperature of 60°C (140°F) is probably a good idea…. [but not] If you have small children or infirm elderly persons who could be at serious risk of being scalded by the hot water. Consider installing a scald-prevention device. http://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/legionnaires/faq.html
  • The way I deal with these conflicting issues is by:

    keeping our water heater at a lower temperature setting that delivers approximately 110 degree water at the faucets, so the water won’t scald and we save energy.

    Not allowing water to stagnate in the hot water heater or pipes. We do this by using every hot water fixture on a rotating basis (at least every third day). Also our hot water heater is small enough so that we run out of hot water after two ten minute showers. This is a good sign that the hot water heater has been flushed which will help prevent Legionella from building up.

    If were going to be away for more than three days, then the hot water heater is turned off. It is a gas unit with automatic ignition so lighting the pilot is not a problem. Below temperatures of 68 degrees, Legionella goes dormant and doesn’t grow.

    Keeping scale and sediment from building up in the hot water heater. The debris can act as a breeding ground for bacteria and provide temperatures that promote the growth.

    This is one of those issues where there can be no hard and fast rules, but hopefully the above information will help you design a strategy that will work for your family.

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    May 24, 2008

    :145 Water Heater Timer

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:145 EcoTip: Using a timer to shut electric water heaters off after bedtime and during work and school hours in the day when they aren’t used much is another energy saver. A manual over-ride can be used for those days when the typical schedule changes, but the residual hot water left between heating sessions will generally be enough for the occasional uses that pop up.

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     Additional Information:

    Suggested Review: :141, :142, :143, :144

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

    If you have an electric water heater, you can save an additional 5%–12% of energy by installing a timer that turns it off at night when you don’t use hot water and/or during your utility’s peak demand times.

    They can cost $60 or more, but they can pay for themselves in about 1 year. Timers are most cost effective if you don’t want to install a heat trap and insulate your water heater tank and pipes. Timers aren’t as cost effective or useful on gas water heaters because of their pilot lights.

    Contact your utility to see if it offers a demand management program. Some utilities offer “time of use” electricity rates that vary according to the demand on their system. They charge higher rates during “on-peak” times and lower rates during “off-peak” times. Some even offer incentives to customers who allow them to install control devices that shut off electric water heaters during peak demand periods. These control devices may use radio signals that allow a utility to shut off a water heater remotely anytime demand is high. Shut-off periods are generally brief so customers experience no reduction in service.

    http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13110

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    May 22, 2008

    :143 Insulate Pipes

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:143 EcoTip: Insulating the water pipes leading to and from your hot water heater helps save energy and water.

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     Additional Information: 

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

    Insulating your hot water pipes reduces heat loss and can raise water temperature 2ºF–4ºF hotter than uninsulated pipes can deliver, allowing for a lower water temperature setting. You also won’t have to wait as long for hot water when you turn on a faucet or showerhead, which helps conserve water.

    Insulate all accessible hot water pipes, especially within 3 feet of the water heater. It’s also a good idea to insulate the cold water inlet pipes for the first 3 feet.

    Use quality pipe insulation wrap, or neatly tape strips of fiberglass insulation around the pipes. Pipe sleeves made with polyethylene or neoprene foam are the most commonly used insulation. Match the pipe sleeve’s inside diameter to the pipe’s outside diameter for a snug fit. Place the pipe sleeve so the seam will be face down on the pipe. Tape, wire, or clamp (with a cable tie ) it every foot or two to secure it to the pipe. If you use tape, some recommend using acrylic tape instead of duct tape.

    On gas water heaters, keep insulation at least 6 inches from the flue. If pipes are within 8 inches of the flue, your safest choice is to use fiberglass pipe-wrap (at least 1-inch thick) without a facing. You can use either wire or aluminum foil tape to secure it to the pipe.

    Source: http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13060

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    May 21, 2008

    :142 Water Heater Insulation

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:142 EcoTip: According to the US Department of Energy: “Unless your water heater’s storage tank already has a high R-value of insulation (at least R-24), adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25%–45%. This will save you around 4%–9% in water heating costs.”

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     Additional Information:

    If you don’t know your water heater tank’s R-value, touch it. A tank that’s warm to the touch needs additional insulation.

    Insulating your storage water heater tank is fairly simple and inexpensive, and it will pay for itself in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $10–$20. Choose one with an insulating value of at least R-8. Some utilities sell them at low prices, offer rebates, and even install them at a low or no cost.

    Additional information is available at: http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13070

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    May 20, 2008

    :141 Heat Traps

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    1:5:10:141 EcoTip: Heat traps save energy by helping to prevent heat energy from being conducted by the metal plumbing pipes into the cold water supply lines as well as energy loss through output pipes.

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     Additional Information:

    Suggested Review:

    According to the U.S. Department of Energy:

    If your storage water heater doesn’t have heat traps, you can save energy by adding them to your water heating system. They can save you around $15–$30 on your water heating bill by preventing convective heat losses through the inlet and outlet pipes.

    Heat traps—valves or loops of pipe—allow water to flow into the water heater tank but prevent unwanted hot-water flow out of the tank. The valves have balls inside that either float or sink into a seat, which stops convection. These specially designed valves come in pairs. The valves are designed differently for use in either the hot or cold water line.

    A pair of heat traps costs only around $30. However, unless you can properly solder a pipe joint, heat traps require professional installation by a qualified plumbing and heating contractor. Therefore, heat traps are most cost effective if they’re installed at the same time as the water heater. Today, many new storage water heaters have factory-installed heat traps or have them available as an option.

    More information is available at: http://www.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=13100

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    January 28, 2008

    :028 Compact Fluorescent Lights

    Filed under: :028 CFLs — Tags: , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    cfl41.jpg

    1:5:10:028 Tip: Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) have come a long way. Presently about 20% of households have switched from the standard incandescent bulbs.

    You can get about 60 watts of light for 17 watts of power, but not all compact fluorescent bulbs are created equal. I recommend that you try several different brands and styles. You may like the colors from some better than. Another difference is the speed at which they power up. Some start out dim and attain their full light output over several minutes. This helps extend the life of the bulb for situations where they will be switched on and off repeatedly. If you need and want instant light in an area that you will be switching on and off – you probably won’t get the expected eight years of life from a CFL, but it can still be worth the pay back by reducing the light bill by more than a third. The cost of the bulbs was only $1 each at our local dollar store. I’ve seen them for about the same price at Lowe’s and Home Depot. That means they should pay for themselves with savings in 4 to 6 weeks.

    The big downside for all fluorescent is they contain mercury. Tomorrow I will talk about proper disposal of fluorescent and the next day mercury clean-up if a bulb breaks.

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    Additional Information –

    GE has posted additional facts and benefits for CFLs at: http://www.gelighting.com/na/home_lighting/ask_us/faq_compact.htm

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    January 26, 2008

    :026 Replacement Payback

    Suggested Review – :022, :023 :025

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    images-energy-guide.jpg

    1:5:10:026 Tip: When you decide to replace your refrigerator – the energy guide will help you determine the amount of money you are likely to save.

    You’ve already determined your annual cost to operate your current refrigerator in :022, and :023. Simply compare that to the annual estimated energy use guide (the yellow sticker) posted on the appliance.

    Now the bonus: Many public utilities are offering rebates, credits or discount coupons as a bounty to get rid of old energy wasting refrigerators and freezers. Make sure you check with your utility to see if they have one of these programs. They may have limits on what you must buy. 

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    Additional Information

    EPA has a refrigerator replacement cost calculator at: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=refrig.calculator

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    January 25, 2008

    :025 EnergyStar Appliances

    Suggested Review – none

    Welcome to today’s 1:5:10 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

    energystarlabel.jpg

    1:5:10:025 Tip: Today’s action is to check your energy use meter to see how much energy you saved by cleaning the refrigerator coils. Record this in your journal.

    The tip is about the Environmental Protection Agencies EnergyStar Program.

    According to EPA “ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices.” Whenever you purchase a new major appliance – this program can help you choose one that will use less energy.

    When you make a new appliance purchase, there are two costs:

    1.) the initial purchase price

    2.) the ongoing electricity use

    Both should be considered – and the EnergyStar Program can help. One important savings that is provided by EnergyStar approved products is a very low trickle current use when in standby mode.

    Tomorrow I will talk about calculating the payback period for replacing your refrigerator. This same calculation can be used for any appliance.

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    Additional Information

    The EnergyStar website http://www.energystar.gov/ is the starting place for researching which appliance models are the most efficient. It also serves as a good reference for tax credit information and other energy saving programs.

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