Does hot water waste have you steaming?
September 13, 2016
A cold shower can take the edge off a humid summer day, but that inclination won’t last much longer as we move into fall. Pretty soon, only piping hot water will suffice.
This time of year, it’s always important to reflect on water usage from both an environmental and financial perspective. After all, every drop of warm or hot water needs energy, and energy needs monthly payment. Is your hot water heater holding up its end of the bargain by helping you conserve water and save money on your bills?
How wasteful are American shower seekers?
Research from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory estimates the average of wasted hot water in the shower as anywhere between 20 to 30 percent the total used. Based on an average of eight minutes per shower, that’s roughly two or three gallons of hot water going right down the drain, according to the U.S. Department of Energy – without cleaning anyone, that is. As a country, we needlessly waste 240 to 360 billion gallons of hot water every year from showering alone.
“Hot water conservation is only half the picture.”
But conservation is only half the picture – what about all the energy we consume to heat all that water that isn’t even used? That’s like boiling a pot of hot water to make spaghetti, waiting until the water simmers, then deciding you’d rather eat a sandwich instead. The water in the pot cools down, and while you could still toss a couple ice cubes in a glass of it and drink it with your sandwich, you’ve added to your energy bill for nothing.
Why does hot water waste happen?
Part of the issue is structural. If you grew up with a traditional hot water tank, you know to first turn on a showerhead or a faucet, then wait a couple minutes for the water to “heat up.” Actually you’re really waiting to purge all the cold water in our pipes to reach your hot water supply sitting in our hot water tanks. Even if your hot water heater never suffered heat loss, you’d still have to waste all the water in your pipes to get at it.
However, before we start blaming your home water infrastructure for all our hot water heater problems, we ought to first own up to our own bad habits. According to an Evolve Technologies study based on LBL data, 62 percent of hot water waste in showers is completely behavioral and therefore more easily avoided. The technical limitation of hot water heaters have conditioned users to crank up the shower dial to max, then adjust temperature once hot water arrives. As shower water “heats up” then is mitigated by the user, he or she is wasting water. And depending on how distracted they are while they wait, they could ruin their energy efficiency, not to mention conservation habits.
Tankless models save 40 percent of the volume wasted by people waiting for a hot shower.”
A final word on water waste
Could a tankless water heater reduce water waste? Considerably. Since tankless models heat water directly at the source, users won’t have to dump all the cold water sitting in the pipes to get to the hot water. Structurally speaking, no tank and no pipes between the tankless water heater and point of use could save nearly 40 percent of the volume wasted by people waiting for a hot shower.
Moreover, greater control over water temperatures via thermo optical sensors will prevent users from jacking up the heat, consuming too much energy and paying the price when the bill arrives, not to mention protect them from scalds.
That said, we must change our habits when it comes to hot water use if we want to see even more savings. If you spend any time shivering in a towel this autumn waiting for your shower to warm up, consider how much of a difference a tankless water heater could make.