Keep those pipes hot for energy savings

“Nice pipes!”

Maybe you heard this when sporting your favorite tank top this summer (we can discuss the cost of tickets to the “gun show” later).

But ...

Tagged: saving energy, water heater, insulation, diy project

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Keep those pipes hot for energy savings

Little boy shows off his muscles

When heated water leaves your water heater, it can lose some of its warmth on the path there. Cold pipes cool down the water. But insulated pipes help keep the water hot.

Key Points

  • Insulate your hot water pipes to save energy.
  • Insulated pipes can raise water temperature 2-4 degrees.
  • That means you can lower your water temp setting and use less energy.

“Nice pipes!”

Maybe you heard this when sporting your favorite tank top this summer (we can discuss the cost of tickets to the “gun show” later).

But you could soon earn this complement for your hot water pipes.

According to the Department of Energy, insulating your hot water pipes could help you save energy, especially as we start to look toward colder-weather months.

When heated water leaves your water heater, it can lose some of its warmth on the path there. Cold pipes cool down the water. But insulated pipes help keep the water hot.

Bonus perk: Insulated pipes will also help your shower get hot faster, saving you some time and helping you conserve water.

The energy savings come from being able to lower the water temperature on your water heater. Since you’re not losing heat during delivery, the water can start out a little cooler. This lower setting uses less energy since your heater won’t have to work quite so hard to reach the lower temp.

This DIY project should take you about three hours and cost $10-15 in materials.

Here’s a handy shopping list:

  • Tape measure (Note: If your ability level is at the point you have to go purchase a tape measure, you might want to also call your dad/handy aunt/friend who you saw use a screwdriver at least once.)
  • Pipe sleeves or strips of fiberglass insulation (And no, pool noodles don’t count.)
  • Acrylic or duct tape or cable ties to secure the sleeves or aluminum foil tape or wire to secure the fiberglass pipe-wrap (Bonus points if you can make the hardware sales associate say “aluminum linoleum” 10 times fast.)
  • Gloves and long sleeves and pants if you’re using fiberglass pipe-wrap
  • Scissors, box cutter or utility knife for cutting insulation
  • Headlamp or light if you’re working in crawl space or dark area

And here’s a great step-by-step video:

If everything goes well, you’ll soon be enjoying energy savings and wasting less time waiting for the shower to warm up.

Maybe you can use those extra minutes bulking up your other pipes.

Tickets to the gun show just got a little steeper.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: saving energy, water heater, insulation, diy project

Star in your own home-improvement show with this weekend project

It might not be #demoday, but you can channel your inner Chip Gaines of HGTV “Fixer Upper” fame to complete some DIY projects around your house that can save money and energy.

Insulating ...

Tagged: water heater, insulation, diy project, save money

Expand Article

Star in your own home-improvement show with this weekend project

DIY spelled out with wrenches

A good weekend project is insulating your hot water tank. It’s a quick project that will save you money every month.

Key Points

  • Insulating your water tank can start saving you money every month.
  • If your water tank is warm to the touch, it needs to be insulated.
  • The project will pay for itself in about a year. 

It might not be #demoday, but you can channel your inner Chip Gaines of HGTV “Fixer Upper” fame to complete some DIY projects around your house that can save money and energy.

Insulating your water heater tank is a good weekend project. It's quick and will save you money every month.

New tanks usually come insulated already, but most older models don’t. Wondering if you need to insulate? Just touch your tank. If it’s warm to the touch, you need insulation.

According to the Department of Energy, insulating your water tank can reduce standby heat losses by 25-45 percent and saves you about 7-15 percent in water-heating costs. The project should pay for itself in about a year.

Here are official instructions from the DOE. We can’t confirm it, but we’re pretty sure they’re Chip Gaines approved.

Before you start 

  • Check with your energy company to see if they offer rebates or low-priced water heater blankets. Some utilities even install these at a low or no cost.
  • Be sure that your water heater is not leaking. If your tank leaks, you need a new water heater.
  • For an electric water heater, you also might consider insulating underneath the tank as well. A ridged piece of insulation (or bottom board) will help prevent heat loss and could save you another 4-9 percent of energy. It is best done when installing a new water heater.

Shopping list 

  • A helper (you’ll need four hands for this one)
  • Tape measure
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Water heater insulating blanket kit
  • Gloves and a dust mask
  • Electrical or other tape (tape comes with most insulation blanket kits)

If you're a visual learner, check out this instructional video.

If you need step-by-step instructions ...

  1. Turn off the water heater. For electric heaters, turn off the breaker at the electric panel. For gas water heaters, turn the gas valve to the “Pilot” position.
  2. Measure the height of the water heater, and cut the blanket to fit if necessary. Leave the top of the water heater open. It’s especially important not to block the vent on top of a gas unit.
  3. Wrap the blanket around the water heater and temporarily tape it in place. For ease of installation, position the blanket so that the ends do not come together over the access panels in the side of the tank. Some tanks have only one access panel.
  4. Using a marker, mark the areas where controls are so that you can cut them out. For electric water heater units, there will be two panels on the side of the tank. For gas, you'll need to mark an arch-shaped hole around the gas valves and burner. Be sure to leave plenty of room around the valve and burner areas below. Make the opening at least an inch wider than the valve and burner area. Also, mark the area where the pressure relief valve and pipe are. This will be a pipe that sticks out of the side of the water heater.
  5. Install the blanket. Be careful to line up the cut-out areas and then tape the blanket permanently in place.
  6. Turn the water heater back on. Don't set the thermostat above 130 degrees on electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket, as this may cause the wiring to overheat.

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

Did you like this article? Here are some other articles that include: water heater, insulation, diy project, save money