He started coughing. It sounded terrible – like a dog was barking. When we got him to the doctor, we were told that our son had croup. It is an inflammation of the air passageways in children that usually happens with a cold or some other type of infection.
“Take him outside into the cold air or sit in the bathroom with the shower on. That will help to keep the swelling down.”
We chose the latter option. For the next week, we took turns camping out in the bathroom with our son. We ran the shower 4-5 times each day to keep moisture levels up. It really helped his breathing.
It also inflated our electricity bill that month. We normally pay about $200 during the winter months. That month, when our son had croup, our electricity bill was almost $600.
That’s when we realized one simple fact: most of our electricity bill came from our bathroom use.
Saving energy in the bathroom isn’t as big a priority for many families when compared to saving water. Many households simply accept their power bill and pay it every month without taking steps to conserve energy.
We found that it was possible to cut our power bill by up to 40% some months by implementing power-saving measures for our bathrooms. Here’s how we lowered our electricity bill and how you can work on lowering yours as well.
Move your hot water heater
We live in a home that is a triplex. Our water heater was located in the garage. The bathrooms, with the exception of the laundry room/bathroom in the small downstairs area, were all on the top floor. That meant we had to pump all that water to the upstairs to use it and that took a lot of power to make happen.
We also had to pay for the storage heat used for the water. In winter, even with an insulation blanket around the water heater, the unit would run 4-5 times each day. In the summer, it ran once or twice per day if we weren’t using any hot water.
So, we decided to invest into one of the best tankless water heaters to change the location of our hot water. By placing the water heater near the taps that we used the most often, we have faster access to hot water. We have a continuous stream of hot water as well. It also creates less overall water waste for our family.
Protect your hot water heater
If you have a storage-based hot water heater, then make sure you have an insulation blanket surrounding it. Keep the insulation blanket on there, even during the summer months, to maximize the benefits you receive.
Don’t ignore the tankless heater either. If you can insulate some of your plumbing lines when installing the new water heater, you’ll be able to reduce how hard it must work to supply hot water to you.
Not every home can take the steps we took in replacing the water heater. That’s not a problem. As long as you take steps to protect your hot water system from the weather, whenever possible, you’ll be able to lower your electricity bills.
Replace your washers if your taps are leaking
Water is a very patient erosive problem your home faces every day. Eventually, water will find a weakness in your plumbing system and exploit it. Most homes will see this issue occur because of a washer or seal that has failed around their hot water tap.
Replace those washers or seals immediately if you see one starting to leak. For a storage-based hot water heater, the dripping comes from the water heater and will reduce what is in storage. You’ll add 1-2 cycles of heating per day with a slow, steady leak. That can easily add up to an extra $100-$200 on your power bill.
You can take care of this job at home with a few tools in most instances. Hire a plumber if you’re not confident in tackling this type of leak. The cost of the repair is minimal compared to the utility costs you’ll pay if you allow it to keep dripping.
Reduce shower times and eliminate baths whenever possible
The bottom line here is this: if you use less hot water, then you’ll use less energy. That applies to all water heater types, including tankless models.
We found that if we could reduce shower times to about 5 minutes per person, we could save about $30 per month off our regular power bill. That might not seem like much, but over the course of a year, that’s $360 extra in our budget that we didn’t have before.
When that was added to the savings we received by installing the tankless water heater, our home upgrades paid for themselves in under 24 months.
Now that doesn’t mean we go all crazy on enforcing showering rules. There are times when you need to be in the shower to relax, unwind, or get your hair clean. If we make it a point of emphasis, however, even longer showers tend to be shorter than they normally would be.
We’ve also eliminated baths from our home almost completely. It can be fun and relaxing to take a bath, but with a storage-based water heater, almost the entire amount stored would be used for the bath.
Upgrade your shower head
If you’re used to a stream of stinging water hitting your face, a low-flow shower head feels like a compromise you don’t want to make. I can empathize. I have a shower head with a massage option where these big needles of water come out from the center of the unit. They pulsate on my neck in the perfect way to relax those muscles after a tough day.
We found that by installing a high-efficiency model, we could save a few more dollars on our electrical bill each month. It was nothing profound, but enough for the shower head to pay for itself over the course of a year.
Another option you can try is to have a flow-control valve installed on your shower. If you need to let the conditioner set in your hair for a few minutes, try turning the valve to shut the water off while you wait.
Now I know what you’re thinking: that would make me colder than ice while in the shower – not worth it.
You’ve got options. We decided to upgrade our exhaust fan in the bathroom to include a heater. If I turn off the water, I turn on the heater.
Does this save energy? No. The heater is equivalent to the water heater when it is running. What we do here is save on water. If I don’t use the shower while the conditioner sets, I’m saving about 8 gallons of water. That adds up over time.
Unplug what you’re not using
How many times have you left your hair dryer plugged in? Or how about your curling iron? Or even a night light?
Whenever you leave items plugged into a bathroom outlet, you’re using power. The amount may seem minimal, but it does add up over time, especially when there are multiple bathrooms being managed.
Be proactive and try to unplug items that are not being used. Put your hair dryer away instead of leaving it out. You’ll have a cleaner bathroom and you’ll be maximizing your power savings, all at the same time.
What is the Result of All Our Hard Work?
We invested about $450 into a new tankless water heater. It cost another $400 to have it installed near our high-use areas. We decided to keep the storage-based hot water heater as a reserve – it stores 50 gallons of water, which would be useful to have in an emergency situation.
We also spent about $100 on shower head and bathroom fixture upgrades.
Now our power bill averages about $90 per month throughout the year. Compared to what we were paying, we save about $600 each year. In total, the upgrades paid for themselves in their second year.
That’s not to say that some months aren’t higher – they are. Our son has had croup a couple of times in this period and we’ve followed the same routine to help him feel better. In those high usage months, we’re still under $400, which means there could be more savings potential to find in our home.
There are ways to reduce the amount of electricity you use in the bathroom. Try opening a window instead of using the exhaust fan. Shower with the lights off, if you can. There are unique steps that you can take because your home and lifestyle needs are your own.
These options worked for us. We think that they’ll work for you, on some level, as well.
If you’re also interesting is saving on your water bill check out our water saving tips here.