Whether by means of a furnace coil, electric tank, gas fired tank, tankless (see last post) heater, or other device, every American home is expected to supply enough hot water to: bathe every member of the household at least once a day to his/her satisfaction, run two loads of laundry through an automatic washer, operate the dishwasher at least one cycle, and supply hot water at each tap for the washing of hands/dishes/faces/toothbrushes.
Hot water needs run from 15 to 30 gallons per day per person, accounting for about 30% of a household’s energy consumption. Other major energy factors include heat, appliances and lighting. Few other developed countries require as much hot water per person as we do. Daily hot water usage in the UK is app. 11 gallons. The only country that uses more hot water, indeed more energy, per capita is the United Arab Emirates.
Energy is also still deceptively cheap in the USA. Most Europeans pay two to three times our cost for transportation and home convenience fuel. And we, resistant to new technologies like solar hot water, point-of-use hot water heaters, and heat-recovery of waste water, are using rather primitive equipment to heat up our precious showers.
But federal and state tax credits, depending upon where you live, can defray more than half the cost of new, more efficient equipment. The missing factor is our motivation to move forward technologically, embrace conservation until it becomes chic, and face up to the realpolitik of energy. It’s never been more cost-effective and patriotic to pursue alternative and renewable energy sources and equipment, but you do have to take the long view. The last solar hot water system I installed is calculated to pay the owners back in 10-12 years. Not many Americans are willing to wait that long to begin saving money on energy. Indeed, most of us don’t expect to be living in our present homes in ten years.
A feature of your home life that consumes 30% of your total energy budget deserves a second and then a third look. We’ll chew on this some more when next we meet. Until then, time your showers…….