How to Reduce Your Winter Heating Costs Part 1 — Water

A three part series on energy efficient ways to heat your home this winter

Heating homes in the winter costs Canadians thousands of dollars each year and contributes significantly to green house gas emissions. There are a plethora of ways to drive your winter heating bills down. From improved insulation to keep the heat in, to more efficient methods of creating the heat in the first place; we will be looking at ways for you to warm your home for less. Keep the home fires burning this year while making a positive contribution to the environment.

In hot water: water heater savings that will warm your cockles

Between 13 and 20% of your home’s heating bill can be attributed to your water heater. The average water heater uses 6,400 kilowatt hours of electricity and releases an average of 8 tons of CO₂ into the atmosphere annually. Common water heaters keep your water at a steady 60°C all day, every day; regardless of whether you are at the dentist, on vacation, or showering at the gym. Having a giant tub of hot water hanging around seems a little excessive, unless of course you are expecting a marauding army of invaders to scale the walls of your castle. There are a number of more cost-effective ways to keep you and yours in hot water without breaking the bank or ruining the environment.

The first option is to streamline your existing system. To do so, turn your water heater down to 50°C and insulate the hot water pipes leading away from it as well as the heater itself to minimize heat loss. This alone can reduce your power bill by up to 10%. Buy pre-split pipe foam from your local hardware store. Foam varies in R-value from R-3 to R-7. Choose the foam that has the highest R-value and that is still practical for your setup. If your water heater is warm to the touch, it could also use some insulation. The real answer, however, is to replace your existing system with a more energy efficient model. Government tax credits will reimburse a percentage of your capital outlay for water heaters that are more energy efficient.

Think Tank: energy efficient tankless water heaters

You can overcome your reliance on giant tubs of hot water by installing a tankless water heater, which heats water only when you want it. You will still have hot water on tap, but this heater will fire up only when you need it. The system heats the cold water before it gets to your tap. This marvel of modern technology also spells an end to running out of hot water just as you have soaped yourself up in the shower. A standard home system consumes between 100 and 200 litres a day, A tankless system will save 24% to 34% of the energy the house would otherwise use for heating water. Tankless heaters come in two varieties; gas and electric with gas being the most economical option. Not all tankless heaters are created equally, so make sure you do your homework to find the water heater that best suits your needs.

Liquid Sunshine: energy efficient solar water heaters

If a solar water heater is good enough for the White House, it’s certainly good enough for you! If you are not quite ready for a full solar system, installing a solar water heater is a great way to test the waters. Solar water heaters cost between $1,500 and $4,500, making them a very reasonable option for short-term renovations. This is especially true when you consider that some of your capital outlay can be reclaimed through government tax credits. Even without the tax credits, the system will quickly pay for itself through the savings on your utility bill. Solar water heating systems consist of solar collectors, where the sun’s energy heats a fluid, and a storage tank, where the heat is transferred to your domestic hot water. These systems can be active (with the use of a pump) or passive (natural heat transfer). These solar water systems utilize the free energy from the sun to heat water. In an integrated system, the hot water in the tanks can also be used to help offset the heating of the home. Integrating a solar system in your home is the pinnacle of energy-saving, allowing you to have your water and heat it too.

Improving your water heating system is one of the least expensive ways to make your home more energy efficient. The improvements will pay for themselves and save you money in the near future. Consider improving your home’s water heating system this year; it’s a tankless task, but someone has to do it!

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