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Become an Educated Energy Consumer    OttawaEnergyAudit     Thursday 21 January 2021
Current Time-of-use pricing is: medium at 19.393¢/kWh
Contact us now to book your audit.

Published Columns: April 2005
Curbing Your Consumption:
Will you be in hot water as the rates rise?

By John Ford

On the 1st of April 2005 your electricity cost rose to an overall rate of 9.563¢ per kWh for consumption under 750 kWh per month, and 10.45¢ above. Although from November to April the stepped rate will now apply on a higher threshold of 1000 kWh to allow for heating loads.

The first big change you can make is to lower your hot water tank temperature. Hotter water loses more energy to the surrounding environment proportional to the difference in temperature. Lowering it from 71°C (160°F) to 54°C (130°F) will reduce losses by over 15%. It will also lessen the dangers of scalding. Don't lower it too much as it will allow some nasties to grow in the tank. Insulating electric tanks, and adding insulation to pipes will also reduce losses.

How much does your domestic hot water actually cost? How much can you save by making some changes? A home using 500 litres of electrically heated hot water a day (at 54°C) uses 17 kWh and costs $1.67 ($51 per month, $610 per year). A gas heated tank producing 500 litres uses about 2 m3 and costs* 92¢ ($28 per month, $336 per year).

*Assuming gas price (non-contract) is about 46¢ overall per m3.

A 10 minute shower with a low-flow head (you have converted your shower heads to low-flow?) uses about 50 litres of hot water. That's 16.7¢ of electricity or about 7.8¢ of gas. Cutting shower times in half for a family of three would save $90 a year (electricity) or $42 (gas). Drawing a bath uses lots more hot water than a shower. (about 100 litres.)

A top-loading clothes washer can use about 70 litres of hot water on the 'hot' setting and 35 litres of hot water on 'warm'. Switching from hot to cold would save 23¢ of electricity (or 11¢ of gas) per load. If you do four loads a week, that's about $50 (or $23) a year. Front loaders use about 50% less water than top loaders for more savings.

Dishwashers use hot water and can use an internal heating element so that it runs at 60°C. Some dishwashers lack the element and require that you set your hot water tank to 60°C. It might be time to replace if this is the case. Of course hand washing is even 'greener!'

The first observation from the above cost estimates is that gas can be about half the cost of electricity with current prices. Gas hot water tanks cost more to buy, and more to install. If you already have a gas furnace, switching your water heater to gas may make economic sense. As mentioned in a previous column, gas water heaters will run during a black-out, which might also appeal.

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John Ford is a technology consultant, and owner of a small energy conservation business.