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DIY Pipe Insulation & Why it Matters

One of the most common energy efficiency improvements that America’s Best Energy Team

Photo courtesy of John Kasawa / http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of John Kasawa / http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

suggests to homeowners is to insulate the water heater and hot water pipes.  We make this suggestion so often because it’s so rarely done yet is easy and cheap and can have such significant savings!

Think about this: Water heating accounts for the the second largest energy expense in most American homes, eating up an average of 18% of your monthly utility bill [1].  Insulating your heater and the pipes allows your system to work less hard and to consume less energy to provide you with the same amount and temperature of water that you need. That means you get to turn the temperature of your water heater down without noticing any difference at the faucet! Turning the water heater down by 10° total results in 3%-5% savings, and insulation can allow you to turn it down by 2%-4%.

Therefore, if you are like the average American and spending $110 on energy a month, then insulating your pipes can provide you with $19 -$26 in yearly energy savings.

Considering that insulation can be as cheap as 30 cents a foot (depending on the type of insulation you purchase. See below), it’s truly a smart and easy upgrade, with the return on your investment possibly less than 1 year.

Here are some pipe insulation tips if you’re thinking about doing it yourself:

  • If you have a gas water heater take caution!! Insulation is flammable! Don’t insulate within 8 inches of the flue.

  • Seams of foam sleeves should point up.

  • Secure every foot or so, but be careful not to compress the foam too much, as this reduces its insulating capacity.

  • Black acrylic tape works best to secure insulation, but zip ties work well, too.

  • Pay attention to the “R-value” of the insulation you choose; higher R values mean higher insulating power.

  • Bends in pipes are tricky to insulate, and some kinds of insulation are better for this job than others. Try cutting smaller pieces of polyethylene type insulation and shaping it around a bend.

[1] Energy.gov

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