Hot Water with Perfect Timing

Going green — By Stephanie on February 24, 2010 at 6:11 am
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Install a timer on your water heater to conserve energy

One of the biggest home energy drains that might be surprising is the electricity it takes to heat water.  Washing laundry in cold water or – even better – installing solar water heaters can save you big bucks on your utility bill.

If you aren’t ready to invest in solar hot water, however, what else can you do?

Hot water with perfect timing could be on the horizon!  Using a specially-designed timer on a hot water heater is like a programmable thermostat for your home.  Just as you wouldn’t crank the heat (or A/C) when you are out for the day, why bother heating water during times you won’t  – or shouldn’t – be using it?

A neighborhood in Central Oregon is experimenting with a plan to reduce power use during peak periods with hot water heater timers.  Its part of a pilot project designed by the Central Electric Cooperative and Bonneville Power Administration to determine whether electricity demand can be reduced during peak power periods.  An added bonus is the control it can give consumers over their own power consumption.

For residents in the Tollgate neighborhood near Sisters, Oregon, their hot water heaters automatically shut off between 5 and 9 a.m. to reduce peak loads that result from use of coffee makers, toasters, televisions, computers, etc.  Because hot water heaters are so well-insulated and hold about 40-50 gallons, you should still be able to grab a hot shower even after 5 a.m. (though you can switch the timer for your personal schedule, if desired).

To give you an idea of how it works, here’s an installation of a timer on a solar hot water heater.  Its the same general idea for ordinary water heaters:

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Change your bathing habits to save change!

Those that want to save even more energy can shut off hot water overnight, or for the better part of the day.  Its just like scheduling your thermostat to adjust the internal temp in your home before you return!

Changing the timing of hot water and reducing peak load demands is not just about saving energy.  It could also mean that BPA and CEC customers will end up paying less on their utility bills.  Without another way to effectively address peak demand, some utilities could resort to surcharges for electricity use during early morning, and early evening times.  Or raise rates.  Or both!

Here in Central Oregon, its a test to see if customers can adjust habits and save energy with the hot water timers.  Most probably will not even notice the hot water heater is off.  Insulated water tanks hold the heated water from 5-9 a.m., which should remain at a comfortable temperature.  Once the peak period has passed, electricity starts flowing to re-heat water replaced in the tank.

My house is outside the CEC boundaries.  But I’d love it if Pacific Power offered a similar hot water timer program here in Bend (hint, hint!)

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2 Comments

  1. Very helpful post but how do i keep the temperature perfect in my aquarium? actually I have a heater set at 75, when i have my light on for a long time???

  2. Tyson Strief says:

    It is remarkable just how much we’ve accomplished and how effective we’re becoming but im nevertheless on the fence about retaining my 20 year old tank. I dont consider the Pros of tankless outway the cons of a common tank.

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