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

Expand Article

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

Ice dams and dust might be a sign you need to climb this DIY project

Does your house have drafty rooms, ice dams, dry indoor air or dust?

Then you might need to consider attic air sealing.

It sounds a bit intimidating, but thanks ...

Tagged: diy project, save energy, attic insulation

Expand Article

Ice dams and dust might be a sign you need to climb this DIY project

The attic can be your home’s biggest source of heat loss, so sealing up the leaks and getting it properly insulated could save a lot of money on your energy bill.

Key Points

  • Attics can be your home’s biggest source of heat loss.
  • A DIY attic air sealing project should take about one to three days.
  • In some cases, it’s best to call in a professional. 

Does your house have drafty rooms, ice dams, dry indoor air or dust?

Then you might need to consider attic air sealing.

It sounds a bit intimidating, but thanks to these step-by-step guides from Energy Star, it’s definitely doable.

The benefits can be big. The attic can be your home’s biggest source of heat loss, so sealing up the leaks and getting it properly insulated could save a lot of money on your energy bill.

Energy Star estimates that the project should take about one to three days. But sometimes, you need to call in the professionals.

If you have any of these issues, put down your dust mask and get out your cell phone:

  • Difficult attic access and limited space to work
  • Wet or damp insulation, indicating a leaky roof
  • Moldy or rotted attic rafters or floor joists, indicating moisture problems
  • Kitchen, bathroom or clothes dryer vents that exhaust moist air directly into the attic space instead of outdoors
  • Little or no attic ventilation
  • Knob and tube wiring (pre-1930), which can be a fire hazard when in contact with insulation

Before you start, check with your local utility to see if they offer any rebates for home energy assessments or insulation projects. Here’s a link for state incentives nationwide.  


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: diy project, save energy, attic insulation

Seal up some savings this Presidents Day

Happy Presidents Day! I hope you’re having a wonderful day celebrating our U.S. presidents. If you have a chance between telling your favorite President Washington stories, you ...

Tagged: diy project, caulking, saving energy

Expand Article

Seal up some savings this Presidents Day

Man caulks window

It’s the perfect shoulder-season project because it can help you save energy by keeping warm air in when it’s cold outside or keeping the cool air in when summer comes.

Key Points

  • Happy Presidents Day!
  • Use the holiday to tackle a DIY project.
  • Sealing your air leaks with caulk can save energy and money. 

Happy Presidents Day! I hope you’re having a wonderful day celebrating our U.S. presidents. If you have a chance between telling your favorite President Washington stories, you might use your three-day weekend to tackle a home project.

Here’s one that should only take a couple hours, cost $3-30 in materials and give you 20 percent energy savings: sealing your air leaks with caulk.

It’s the perfect shoulder-season project because it can help you save energy by keeping warm air in when it’s cold outside or keeping the cool air in when summer comes. (Soon, I hope!)

Here is your step-by-step guide courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy. I’m sure George Washington would be very impressed.

1. For good adhesion, clean all areas to be caulked.

Remove any old caulk and paint using a putty knife or a large screwdriver. Make sure the area is dry so you won't seal in moisture.

2. Prep the caulking gun (if you're using one).

Cut the tip of the cartridge of caulk at a 45-degree angle and insert the tube in the gun. If you’ve never used a caulking gun, take this time to do a “test caulking” on a newspaper or paper towel so you have a good sense of what to expect before taking your project to a more conspicuous door or window.

3. Hold the caulking gun at a 45-degree angle to the now-dried, clean edge that’s to be filled.

Using a “pulling” motion, hold the gun at a consistent angle and slide the tube nozzle along the joint while pulling the trigger of the caulk gun to apply the material. You know you've got the right angle when the caulk is immediately forced into the crack as it comes out of the tube. Try to avoid stops and starts by caulking in one straight continuous stream.

4. “Tool” the caulk by pushing it into the crack.

After you’ve covered 2-3 feet of the surface with a bead of caulk, dampen your finger (or spoon, piece of wood or foam paintbrush if you don’t want the material to touch your hand) and glide over the bead, pushing the caulk into the crack and force the caulk deeper into the crack you’re filling.

5. Clean up any mistakes or excess caulk with a damp cloth.

Make sure to take care of any problem areas right away, since dried caulk is much harder to clean up later.

6. Allow the caulk to dry according to the directions on the package.

It usually takes about 24 hours for the caulk to fully cure, but it can depend on air temperature and humidity.


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: diy project, caulking, saving energy

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