Don’t turn the hot water faucet on unless you actually need hot water. I know how that sounds, but think about it. Most people need to run the water for a while–sometimes a long while– before hot water actually starts flowing through. Many times the faucet is shut off before the hot water arrives. So the hot water that left the tank and started to travel through the water line is now trapped midway and just turns cold.
So the default position for the faucet should be “cold.”
Use a low-flow shower head.
Use cold water in the washing machine unless your clothes are really dirty.
I usually don’t advocate replacing old appliances and equipment as long as they’re still working. Yes, they use more energy, but manufacturing these things require a lot of energy as well. So just use your old stuff as judiciously as possible until replacement time is unavoidable–especially if you’re just going to sell the old piece of equipment to someone else who will continue using it! And I hate the waste of throwing working equipment away.
But if there’s any exception to this policy, the hot water heater would qualify. The old ones are real energy hogs; even the one we bought in 2008 uses a lot of energy. The print on the side of the tank says 4764 kWh/year. That might have been our first clue if we’d known what that meant.
It means a lot of energy! So if yours says something comparable, and you got the bucks to replace it, this might be your license to shop.
Now for the new one. Eliminating the tank and going for on-demand is supposed to be the best way to go if you’re using gas or electricity (gas is probably more efficient, depending on where your electricity comes from). However, a solar water heater would be optimum, of course. If you got sun. All three of those types are listed in the EPA’s Energy Star site.
Or make your own solar water heater! Hey, where’s that old spirit of DIY adventure? Must we do everything by code or something?