Nothing beats a hot shower. It is a wonderful way to relax and it can be beneficial to your health. It can improve circulation and can lessen muscle and joint pain. The steam can help loosen up a cough by breaking up phlegm.

Water heaters, however, account for 12% of total household energy use on average. If you aren’t able to upgrade to solar water heating, we don’t recommend giving up the pleasure of a good hot shower. There are many ways to cut your hot water bill. Follow these strategies to keep your energy and water bills down and reduce fossil fuel use.

Don’t Leave the Water Running

Many of us leave the water running when looking for soap, grabbing a few dirty dishes, or brushing teeth. Combined, this adds up and wastes a lot of water and energy. Turn off the faucet when not in immediate use. Also, whenever possible, let the faucet run on low when washing to conserve.

Install Low-flow Plumbing Fixtures

Using water-efficient showerheads and faucets can cut your water use by 25% to 60%. Look for a showerhead that uses 1.5 gallons per minute and use an aerator in your faucets to slow the flow of water.

Take Shorter Showers

Filling the tub requires a lot of hot water. The best way to save both energy and water for bathing is to take short showers.

Lower the Temperature of Your Water Heater to 120° F

For every 10° F you lower your hot water heater, you can save 3% to 5% a year in energy. For most homes, 120° F is the ideal. Turning down the water heater temperature also reduces mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes.

Fix Leaky Faucets

One drip per second wastes about 1,660 gallons of water a year! If the faucet is leaking hot water, this can drive up both your energy and water bills. You can fix most drips by simply replacing the washer.

Wash Clothes in Cold Water

Although many think it is better to wash clothes in warm or hot water, this can actually cause some stains to set. Hot water also tends to shrink and fade clothes, thus cold water is gentler. Whenever possible, use cold water for the wash and rinse cycles. Also, front-loading washers use a lot less water on average than top-loaders.

Use an Efficient Dishwasher

Washing dishes by hand can use 27 gallons of hot water. Running an efficient dishwasher can use as little as three gallons per load. Fill up the dishwasher all the way for greater efficiency and use a short wash cycle when possible. When rinsing dishes or recyclables, use cold water to save energy.

Hand Wash Dishes Efficiently

If you are not using a dishwasher, don’t wash dishes individually. Instead, wash a stack of dishes at a time. Fill up a basin with hot, soapy water and turn the tap off. Wash the dishes and then rinse them in standing water.

Insulate Water Heater Pipes

By insulating the first three feet of the hot water pipes on the water heater, you can raise the hot water temperature by 2 to 4° F.  This also helps deliver warm water faster to plumbing fixtures. This project is different than insulating water supply pipes to prevent freezing in cold climates.

Insulating the cold water supply (to prevent condensation and humidity issues) and the hot water pipes on the water heater is a simple, low-skill weekend project that most people can do themselves. On gas hot water heaters, keep the insulation at least six inches from the flue.

This post was originally published on June 4, 2019.

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.