Another large energy sucker is the hot water heater. It can be up to 30% of the energy used each month.


My Dad had all kinds of ways to save energy (and money) when I was young. Probably my least favorite was the timer on the hot water tank. We had two periods of time, one in the morning and one at night, to get a shower or wash dishes or do whatever else we needed to do. Sometimes we would go down and flip the switch to get some more hot water (it took a half hour to heat). We were on an on-demand water system back then except it wasn’t really on demand, it was more of a specific time water system.


Tank blankets will help to keep the water warm and give the hot water heater a few more breaks. Sustainable Shepherdstown had a blanket giveaway a few years back with money from a holiday fundraiser. That project was spearheaded by Than Hitt who went on to work with Solar Holler on another community supported project that got solar panels installed on the Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church roof.

Solar Holler, with Than and the Shepherdstown community, worked with Mosaic Power, a virtual power plant. Mosaic installs remote controlled timers (for free) on hot water tanks and pays the homeowner $100 to be allowed to remotely turn off the hot water heater for a few minutes each day. That energy savings is sold back to the grid. Solar Holler organizes community solar projects and those who agree to be part of the project donate their $100 to the project. Once enough money is raised (Shepherdstown had around 100 households sign up for the timers), the building gets solar panels at a cost of $1. The Harper’s Ferry/Boliver public library is now the 2nd community building in our area to work with Solar Holler and get power from the sun.

We were unable to support these projects because we went tankless (on-demand) about 6 years ago.  We were replacing the heating elements in our hot water tank so many times because of our hard, mineral rich water.  It’s not a fun job so when we could afford a tankless heater, we got one. We’ve had it for awhile now and it’s been good for us. The long showers my sons take somewhat defeat the purpose. I would've never gotten away with that as a kid.  I remember my Dad calling to us to get out of the shower if we were in for more than 5 minutes. He could say that we were using up all the hot water. I can't say that with on-demand hot water but even with long showers, our energy bill is lower now than what it was with a hot water tank.