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Money Saving Tip #1 - Hot Water Recirculator Nightly Cutoff
Potential savings up to $30/month
If you have the type of hot water system that delivers hot water to any faucet in your home in seconds, you likely have a recirculating system. This type of system keeps hot water moving through the pipes of your home 24/7 to provide almost instant warm/hot water to your faucet. This is a fantastic feature and a real water saver becuase you don't have to run the hot water faucet for minutes to get warm water - it's almost there immeidately.
But there is a secret money saver many people overlook, and it often can save a lot of money every month. The secret? A simple but high quality timer.
This timer plugs into the wall where your hot water recirculator pump is plugged-in. It's that simple. You set the OFF time to begin just after you normally go to bed and you turn it back on about 20 minutes before you normally wake in the morning. For many people this can be 8 full hours of OFF. Your situation may vary due to your sleep cycle.
How it saves money: When the recirculator pump is running throughout the day it is carrying hot water out of your hot water heater and running it through the pipes in your house, and then back to the hot water tank. The water temperature leaving the tank may be at 170 but when it returns it may be much, much less like 125-130. This means your water heater will often be "heating" many times throughout the day even if you are not home. The recirculator is doing its job by making sure you always have hot water at all faucets in your home. You save money at night becuase you turn OFF that recirculator when sleeping which means for 8 hours your water heater will keep the hot water in the tank, reducing the heating cycle significantly.
Vacation time? Turn it off.Why have hot water running nonstop throughout your house when you are on vacation thousands of miles away? No need for that - many people turn off the recirculator before they go out of town. Any time you expect to be either sleeping on a regular schedule, not at the home on a regular schedule, or on vacation or away for an extended time - that recirculator can often be shut off.
The savings? It can be as much as $30/month!
We have heard from people with mid-size homes (4,000 square feet) that have saved $30 to even $40 a month by doing this trick. Smaller homes can save $20 - $25 a month too. Extra large homes may save upwards of $50 - $60/month or even more!
The downside is very small.
Some people have complained that if they get up at 2am when the recirculator is off they don't get very warm water at the faucet, or they have to wait the typical "minutes" to get hot water. Yes, that's a downside. If you expect to get up often and use hot water then maybe this idea is not for you. But if you have a recirculator in your house the best idea is to figure out a time it can be off, and then see how it works for you.
A basic timer? yes!
You don't need to run out and spend $100 on a timer for this task. Many people use a 15amp "appliance timer" or "heavy duty timer" that is capable of carrying the load of that recirculator pump. Many pumps are only a few amps but since they are motors that move an impeller to move the water - the starting current may be much higher so many use appliance timers. Digital timers work best so you can tell precisely what time the pump should turn off and on.
Consult with an electrician and plumber if you feel unsure.
Your local plumber and/or electrician will likely have heard of this technique and may have some additional tips for you. Be sure you contact them FIRST if you are not sure about this idea. No sense in taking any chances if you are unsure or uneasy about shutting off the water.
Money Saving Tip #2 - Use Water Alarms
Potential Savings: Huge
Almost everyone has a friend, relative, or family member that has been through a water emergency. A broken pipe inside a wall, leaky drain pipe under the sink, a back-up of sewage in the basement. You name it, it has happend to millions of people. Some of the events are small and may cost only $100 to fix, others can be catastrophic and can literally destroy the inside of a home. When water appears where it shouldn't, you need to move quickly. If you are asleep or far away from the leak that starts, it may be hours to days until you realize what has happened and by then - serious damage has been done.
A simple water alarm can save thousands of dollars of repairs.
There are many water or flood alarms on the market and we don't recommend any specific brand. The key is to find one that (a) runs on a long lasting (usually) 9-volt battery, (b) has a low battery power "chirp" like a smoke detector has, and (c) can float [very important]. They don't have to be the most expensive available - as long as it can detect water and sound a very loud alarm - you are good to go. We recommend placing a water alarm under every sink in the house as well as around the basement by the water heater (in the drain pan if it fits), and by the floor drains in the basement. If you know of any areas that have seepage or water intrusion during bad storms, place an alarm in that area too so you will know when water has arrived.
How can they save you money? They sense water long before you do.
Many people think they don't need a water alarm because they live and work out of the home and would pretty soon if a leak started. For those people I say "what happens when you are away? Perhaps out having a meal or on vacation? Will you know when a leak starts then? No! When you have a water alarm you will come home to a very loud alarm that you can't overlook. You may also have neighbors that can hear the alarm and can call you and let you know of the alarm. Think of a water alarm as an extra set of eyes watching for leaks 24/7. If you are on a public sewer system - the last thing you want is to have a sewer backup into your basement or crawlspace. Every minute that it is left unattended means hours more clean-up effort after the problem is fixed.
Insurance companies will thank you
There are some insurance companies that even offer a discount if you use early-warning type of systems in your house. Naturally a smoke detector is needed in every home and in several rooms but a water detector can also help with your insurance bill. Call your insurance agent and ask them if there is a savings. You may find the savings pays for the cost of the alarms!
Fancy alarms - OK if you have the money to spend.
The higher end water alarms can often CALL YOU when they detect water or even trigger your home alarm system. These are excellent devices but do cost 2x to 3x much. But if you have the money and want that extra peace of mind knowing that you will get a call or remote alarm notification when a leak happens - they are worth the money.
A true story from a friend long ago....
A husband and wife would fly off to Hawaii every November when the weather turned cold and would return in March when springtime arrived. They did this every year for 30+ years and loved every minute of it (who wouldn't?) During their vacation the housekeeper would occasionally come by and check the house and would drive off after making their rounds. One December their housekeeper did the occasional check-up visit to make sure there were no newspapers at the door or mail in the mailbox. Everything looked good, the doors were all locked, and the houskeeper peered in several windows and things looked fine. So the housekeeper left. Sounds like a normal visit, right?
What the housekeeper did not see was the furnace had gone out (an old oil furnace) so it was hard to tell if the house was cold just looking from the outside-in. The housekeeper also had to go out of town to see a sick family member so the homeowners agreed that it was ok to skip a few check-ins since everything looked fine and there were no problems for the past 30 years (literaly, no problems, ever.) Some time after that housekeeper visited the home, the inside of the house reached the freezing point and pipes started to split and spray water everywhere. After a day of freezing temperatures all three floors of the home had pipes that had split and water was freely flowing throughout the house. This leak went on for almost THIRTY DAYS before the housekeeper returned to area and visited the house.
By then the house was destroyed, literally, because water had spread everywhere, the drywall had pulled off almost every wall and cieling, and all the floor tiles had lifted and cracked. Their clothing was also ruined from 30 days of water pouring over almost everything. Appliances, electronics, old heirloom paintings, furnishings, etc all totally ruined. I personally had the opportunity to visit them upon their emergency return and was left speechless because there wasn't one square foot of the inside of the house that was not damaged. It looked like a hurricane had passed through the inside of their home. They received their water bill and were charged for over 300,000 gallons of water. Fortunately the insurance company worked out a settlement with the water company and the contractor hired by the insurance company spent the next several months stripping the home down to the studs, fixing the water damage, and rebuilding. Total cost was over $200,000 for everything damaged. Yes, if they had a water alarm that make a phone call to alert when it detected water the problem could have been stopped in hours vs. a full month. A freeze alarm would have been even better, and those cost less than $75
Get a water alarm for peace of mind!
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