In-House Water Heater Control: Strange Ways to Save Money

Your water heater is one of the biggest contributors to your electric bill. It’s usually on all the time, heating water even when no one is home. I learned just how much it contributes to the power bill one summer when I went on a long vacation. I had turned it off at the fuse box when we left for safety reasons. I’d never done that before. When I got home, my power bill was the lowest I’d ever seen it. Even though the A/C and other appliances were off, that bill was about thirty percent lower than any other bill when I’d gone on vacation. I got to thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice if I had the ability to control the water heater even when I am home? Unfortunately fo


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12 Responses to In-House Water Heater Control: Strange Ways to Save Money

  1. Claire says:

    I have to say, I’m really surprised that this saves you money. I would think that when you turn it back on when you get home, the water heater would have to run for so long to get that big tank of water back up to the desired temperature, it would use as much money as if you had run it all day. I guess not! Makes me want to do it as we have an electric hot water heater and I was really surprised by how much electricity it used when we moved in last year. Unfortunately, we’re renting, so it’s not an option for us right now. Thanks for the great idea!

  2. Jael says:

    I used to be on a Time-of-Day rate with my electric co-op, and when they first introduced the program 20+ years ago, they offered a $50 bill credit if we installed a timer on our hot water heater.

    The one we installed had several “pins” in it so that we could set it to come on about 30 minutes before we got up so that we would have hot water for showers and dishes, turned it off about the time we left for the day and turned it back on about 30 minutes before we got home from work leaving it on for a couple of hours for dinner, dishes and laundry. The timer was installed in my laundry room, and I could override it if ncessary but seldom did.

    The TOD rate and the timer together made a stunning difference in our electric bill most of which was from the timer.

    I have a gas tankless hot water heater now, and I love it. As you mentioned, it cost the earth, but the convenience of endless hot water only when I need it is worth it.

  3. Joan says:

    We have gas water heaters here, so I’m not familiar with electric ones, but I’m surprised there is not a switch on the heater itself. I guess that circuit is dedicated for the water heater only. If you sell your house, you may need to disclose that non-licensed electrical work was done if it was not checked off by a pro. (There may be home owners insurance consequences, too.) Did your town/county require a permit?

  4. Monkey Mama says:

    For gas water heaters, we have an energy efficient one circa 2001 (when our house was built). I have marked the levels we like it in summer and winter, and we just put it half way between in the spring and fall. (As far as how “hot” it is). Our gas bill will run $8/month in the summer (+ gas stove and everything).

    I certainly don’t see the point of an “on demand water heater.” You can manage costs a lot by turning on/off, up/down.

  5. Monkey Mama says:

    P.S. I have to add that has nothing to do with your comfort level, either. IT’s just cutting costs when not using it. We LOVE our hot water. We probably just don’t love it very much when it is 100 degrees outside… 😉

  6. Saving Lady says:

    I have to say that this is going to the extreme to save money, but if it works, why not. As a real estate broker, I concur with Joan regarding the permit. Where I live, this action would certainly require a permit, and with the housing market in such bad shape, the lack of a permit could prove to be a deal killer if you wanted to sell your home.

  7. Wow! I’m just thinking of all the money we could have saved over the 6 years we’ve lived here. Our electric bill is killing us, even though we have a new (as of 2004) energy efficient heat pump. Yeah, we had to replace the heat pump the year we moved in. Isn’t that the way it ALWAYS goes?

  8. Bben says:

    I have used a timer on my electric water heater for years. It turns on at 5AM, in time for a morning shower, and off at 8AM. The tank is well insulated and I have had hot (just not as hot) water available for a quick shower as late as 9PM. Whenever I go off for more than a day I shut it off at the breaker as well as heat or AC. I feel that I save at least $30 – $40 a month with the timer alone. I am a bachelor and live alone so I don’t need as much hot water as a family with children. But even having a timer with 2 on/off cycles would save quite a bit.

  9. Neil says:


    I think the timer option is the best “fit and forget” solution to saving money on water heating. I cannot imagine not having one!

  10. sewingirl says:

    My FIL used to have a timer on the hot water heater, on at 5AM, off at 8PM. You knew that if you waited too long in the evening, the shower could get cool, but no one ever remembers completely running out of hot water. But they were a farm family, and did all of the laundry and dishes, etc. during the day.

  11. Chris says:

    Sounds interesting. I may give that a shot. I would like to turn the temperature down on my water heater but I have read that you have to keep it at 140 degrees to get your dishes sanitary in the dishwasher if the dishwasher does not have a heater.

  12. Brad says:


    Legionnaires’ Disease. DO NOT DO THIS.


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