Question: I’ve heard that turning down my hot water heater can save me money. Is this true? Are there drawbacks to turning it down?

Answer: Hot water heating accounts for about 16% of a restaurant’s annual energy consumption—so cutting your hot water usage can mean significant savings. That being said, water has to be a certain temperature to inhibit the growth of bacteria, and some kitchen functions, like dishwashing, need water even hotter than that.

Here’s how to reduce your hot water consumption safely:

  • Keep your water heater at 140 degrees. Most experts agree that this is the optimal temperature for a hot water heater, striking a balance between saving money on heating costs without risking safety.
  • Boost your dishwasher. That being said, high-temperature dishwashers need hotter water to effectively tackle greasy dishes. Rather than heating all your water to the 180 degrees that’s recommended, though, install a heat booster for your dishwasher if it doesn’t have one already.
  • Try out a low-temperature dishwasher. Low-temp dishwashers use chemicals rather than high temperatures to rinse and sanitize dishes, meaning you’ll save money on heating water.
  • Insulate your pipes. This is an easy step to reduce heat waste. The best place to insulate pipes is where they’re hottest—right out of the hot water heater.
  • Turn off your heaters when they’re not being used. Turning off high-temperature dishwashers during off-hours can save you up to $500 per year—and turning off the dishwasher exhaust hood can save you another $250. Even turning off the booster heater can save $60 annually.
  • Make sure the automatic flue damper is on.  The damper seals in heat when the water heater is idle, so make sure it’s working, or you’ll be wasting heat.
  • Set a timer on your recirculation pump. If you have a recirculation pump on your hot water heater, set a timer so it’s not running when the restaurant is closed.
  • Get a break on an Energy STAR dishwasher. Many organizations (including us) offer energy efficiency rebates for purchasing high-efficiency appliances, including dishwashers.

Have you figured out ways to save hot water? Share your tips in the comments section.

Image credit: jasonwoodhead23