Save energy. Wrap your water heater.

Time: 
Morning

The hot-water heater is a home energy hog. A lot of the energy consumed by water heaters is used to keep the water hot and ready for a user who wants to take a shower. Unless your water heater's storage tank already has a high R-value of insulation (at least R-24), adding insulation to it can reduce standby heat losses by 25 to 45 percent. This will save you around 4 to 9 percent in water-heating costs. If you don't know your water heater tank's R-value, touch it. A tank that's warm to the touch needs additional insulation.

Insulating your storage tank is fairly simple and inexpensive, and it will pay for itself in about a year. You can find precut jackets or blankets available from around $10 to $20. Choose one with an insulating value of at least R-8. Some utilities sell them at low prices and may offer rebates and free installation. But you can probably install it yourself, following these instructions provided by the EPA.

Note that water heaters powered by electricity can be fitted with a timer to turn off at night and when you are not home.

When it is time to replace your existing unit, chose a water heater with an efficiency (EF) factor of .63 for gas-fired heaters and .93 for electric heaters, recommends the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Consult the yellow-and-black EnergyGuide label for an estimation of energy usage per year. Energy Star-rated water heaters have been available since January 2009.