Cut Open the Water Heater, Take a Look Inside
The Water Heater, Take a Look Inside to Find Energy and Money Savings.
Hopefully, you won’t see a picture like this too often. Only people like me that cruise energy conservation seminars stumble upon dissected water heaters. Look at the picture and then read on, I will discuss what this picture and saving power at your home have in common.
It’s foggy at my place this morning and the weather guesser has indicated rain for the next three days. Over the last weekend, I thought about mowing the lawn one last time and closing the foundation vents around my home.
I like spring better, I like getting things opened up and ready to go. Not so happy with the process of buttoning things down, moving the BBQ to the back of the garage and stacking the lawn chairs. Is it time to look forward to next spring already?
Inside the Water Heater
I honor the skill of the person that can take a water heater and chop it open with such precision. I’m sure this gas water heater had performed for many years before the grim reaper got hold of it. Lets take a closer look at the picture and I will point out a few things. Running up the middle is a twisted piece of metal that looks like a ribbon.
When the heater is on and the gas burner at the bottom of the tank is heating the water, this central area is the chimney and the ribbon causes the chimney gases to spin a little bit so the hot chimney can help heat the water as it goes up through the middle of the tank.
Just to the right of the ribbon is the white inlet pipe that carries the cold water into the tank and deposits it at the bottom where it can be heated. The gas valve and thermostat is attached to the outside of the tank at the bottom between the floor and the cut out section.
The Walls of the Water Heater
Now let’s look at the walls of the tank. You can see that there is an inner wall and an outer wall and there is foam insulation between the two. There is more foam insulation at the top of the tank then there is on the sides. In the old days, water heaters did not have any insulation. Then the manufactures began stuffing a little fiberglass insulation between the two walls. Now days, most water heaters will have solid foam insulation and the thickness of that insulation will vary between brands.
The water heater will be using somewhere between 15% and 30% of your homes total energy use depending on how many teenage daughters you have. This is a big chunk of power, so lets look at a few things we can do to help our water heater be more energy efficient.
( Note: read the literature printed on the outside of your heater, if it says to not add insulation to the heater, contact the manufacture before adding insulation. )
1. Set the water temperature at 120 degrees. This may take a few days, because you need to take the waters temperature, adjust the heaters thermostat and then let the heater adjust to the new setting for a day and then take the water temperature again. Adjusting the temperature on a gas water heater is easy, just turn the dial on the front of the gas valve. You don’t need to be a plumber to do this. Adjusting the temperature on an electric heater is a little more involved.
Here again, you don’t need to be an electrician to do this. First of all, turn the water heater off at the electric panel. Remove the small panels that cover the thermostats. There should be one or two panels that are held on by two screws. The panels will be on the side of the heater, one near the bottom and one near the top. After removing the panels, pull the insulation to the side or remove it all together. There, under the insulation are the wires connected to the heating elements and the thermostat. Use a screw driver and turn the set screw to the right or left. Left for cooler, right for hotter.
Water Heater Insulation
2. Add a blanket of insulation to the outside of the water heater. Your favorite hardware store will sell a blanket just for this purpose. Fiber insulation attached to a vinyl blanket. Now, pay attention, if you have an electric water heater, cover the sides and the top. Mark where the cover plates are that cover the thermostats. If you have a gas water heater, cover the sides, except where the burner has an opening, the flame can roll out of the opening, in some situations, and you do not want the insulation in harms way. Also, on a gas heater, do not cover the top.
Insulate the water lines, both hot and cold.
3. Cover both the hot and cold water lines that come out of the top or sides of the water heater. Cover the pipes from the heater until they disappear into the wall, ceiling or floor. ( You do not need to cover the safety overflow pipe. ) Your hardware store will have foam pipe wrap that is just the right diameter to fit your pipes. Securely tape the foam wrap onto the pipes. In the case of the gas water heater, be sure not to place the foam wrap too close to the central chimney. No use melting the foam.
Water Heater Efficiency
4. Most water heaters have a warranty of 6 years and a life span of about 10 to 15 years depending on how many teenage daughters you have. If you are shopping for a new water heater, check with your State Department of Energy and your Power Company to see about incentives and tax credits. Check with Energy Star to see what models qualify as energy star rated. Check with your favorite plumber to see if a new efficient heat pump water heater would be a good choice for you and your home.
Hey, thanks for stopping by, hope your water heater lasts a long time and I hope it gets a new blanket of insulation, come back to Detect Energy soon, but I won’t leave the light on for you! Don Ames