TIME TO COMPLETE
Just like insulating your walls or roof, insulating your electric water heater is an easy and inexpensive way to improve energy efficiency and save you money each month. If you have an older water heater, check to see if it has insulation with an R-value of at least 24. If you don’t know the R-value, touch the tank. Consider insulating your electric water heater if it’s warm to the touch. If not, consider insulating your water heater. Water heater insulation could reduce standby heat losses by 25%–45% and save you about 7%–16% in water heating costs—and should pay for itself in about a year. You can find pre-cut jackets or blankets available from around $20. Most experts agree that heat loss in a gas water heater goes up the flue. Therefore, a blanket accomplishes no purpose for these types of heaters.
Some local codes and utility company regulations may prohibit insulation blankets. Often, the homeowner has good intentions but unknowingly creates hazards by: 1) covering safety warnings and operating instructions; 2) covering controls, access areas, shut off devices, temperature and pressure relief valves, etc.; or 3) blocking air passages required for combustion or draft resulting in unsafe operation. Consequently, the water heater manufacturer disclaims any liability for problems associated with the use of insulation blankets.
BEFORE YOU START
- Check with your utility to see if they offer water heater insulating blankets at low prices or offer rebates. 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 into the floor, and could save you another 4%–9% of water heating energy. It is best done when installing a new water heater.
- A helper (you’ll need four hands for this one)
- Tape measure
- Water heater insulating blanket kit
- Gloves and a dust mask
- Electrical or other tape (tape comes with most insulation blanket kits)
- Turn off the water heater.
For electric heaters, turn off the breaker at the electric panel.
- Measure the height of the water heater and cut the blanket to fit if necessary.
- 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.
- Using a marker, mark the areas where controls are so that you can cut them out.
Electric water heaters have two panels on the side of the tank. 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.
- Install the blanket.
Be careful to line up the cut out areas and then tape it in permanently in place.
- Turn the water heater back on.
Don’t set the thermostat above 130ºF on electric water heater with an insulating jacket or blanket – the wiring may overheat.