December challenge: save hot water

We recently received our first electricity bill for our new house. It was only for one month, but is reflective of how we have used our hot water over the last few years.

We use approximately 50% of our power on heating hot water. This is a relatively high percentage and is because we are extremely frugal when it comes to general electricity use. We religiously turn off lights, turn off idle appliances and use gas for heating. Our first winter here saw us use the gas heater only about five times, and even then only for an hour or so.

Such are the benefits of a well insulated house.

Hot water being such a high percentage of our power use naturally makes me want to attack it, optimize the hell out of it and force it to comply to my early retirement requirements.

Common methods to reduce your hot water use

  1. Use less hot water,
  2. Use efficient appliances that use hot water
  3. Use efficient settings on those machines
  4. Install a solar hot water system (admittedly a long term investment that won’t see immediate savings)
  5. Insulate your hot water piping and hot water cylinder
  6. Turn the temperature down on your hot water cylinder
  7. Fix dripping taps
  8. Only do a full load in the washing machine or dishwasher
  9. If you are installing a bathtub in a new house, insulate it!
  10. The most effective subset of point one: have shorter showers, or
  11. Shower cold like a mad man

My challenge to myself is to focus on the first point and significantly reduce my own hot water consumption in December. There are many things we already do to achieve this, such as washing clothes in cold water only, not using a dishwasher, ensuring our piping doesn’t leak and not letting taps run. My weakness is the shower.

When we moved here one of the first things I did was jump into the shower and have an extremely hot 10 minutes shower. The bliss. Of all of the worries associated with buying our first house, I was probably most worried about whether the shower had good pressure. It sounds ridiculous, but I do love a good shower.

Our house was made well before efficient shower heads existed and the showerhead is amazing. Also amazingly good at wasting water and electricity – we are on tank water, so preseving water is particularly important let along hot water.

The 50% of our bill that is hot water is largely taken up by showering. Of course there is a component associated with just keeping the water to temperature, but given a large portion of it is me showering, I’m going to go crazy and have cold showers only until the end of the year.

Why am I doing this?

Because the average person uses approximately 20 liters of hot water per day through showering, which is ridiculous.

It’s a little bit like Buy Nothing Day in response to the Black Friday sales. I don’t need to have a hot shower every day, and it’s a good challenge to see if I can do it – plus I will save some cash!

The idea came to me after my first cold shower in years after a run (also the first in a while!) and it was incredibly invigorating, left me refreshed and feeling amazing. I tried again before work a few days ago to check it wasn’t just exercise-related endorphins doing their thing. Sure enough: it was the cold shower.

Will I last more than the first day? Maybe not, but I’ll provide a full update in my January monthly report and provide an estimate of the money I’ve saved.

Do you have any environmental or financial goals set for December? Share them below!

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December challenge: save hot water — 25 Comments

  1. I am a stickler about water use in our house. Even so, we still use a lot. I can’t imagine how much more we would use if I wasn’t constantly nagging everyone to turn the water off!
    The hardest part for me is not taking hot baths. I love them! I try to do it less often now.

  2. We try to cut down on water usage as well, but it can be difficult to do so with five of us in the house. I have heard, though it may not be entirely true, that using cold water only is not always the best way to get clothes clean.

  3. I am not sure how prices are in Australia, but in the States using a gas hot water heater can save you money. Plus if you used one of those instant water heaters that only heats when you need it, that could save you money in the long run as well.
    Another solution is to take cold navy showers. Just hop in the shower get wet, turn off the water lather everything up then rinse. You save quite a bit of water this way.

  4. I am on a no food waste challenge. Not using hot water here, I may need it two months a year maybe. My showers are 4 minutes and I stop the water to wash myself. I do enjoy a long bath once in a while though.

    • I’m really enjoying the cold showers so far, and it makes all of mine about 2 minutes. It’s surprising what you can get done when you’re freezing.

    • Give it a try. It’s great for snapping out of a bad mood and getting thoughts out of your head. It’s so shocking at first it takes your breath away (literally). They are heaps of fun.

  5. In our new condo, we will have to pay for our own hot water so we are definitely looking at ways to save money on it. We usually wash our clothes in cold water, so I think that we help.

    I will NOT be showering cold, however. :)

    • Still worth it to try to reduce even when you don’t pay for power. I think it’s good to do our bit to reduce carbon emissions and lower our use of natural resources.

  6. Out of curiousity how much do you think you’ll actually save? Water by me in New York is SO CHEAP. Energy not so much but I can’t imagine it brings the bill down much.

    • I don’t expect to save much more than $20 for the month, but it has other benefits like reducing overall showering time (and therefore water use) which is important for us on tank water. It’s largely a challenge to see if I can do it, and to remind myself how lucky I am to have running water at all, let alone hot water.

      So far it’s been really fun. My skin feels alive for about 20 minutes after the shower, and I’m seriously considering extending it into the new year.

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