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Reducing Distribution Losses for Hot Water

Insulating Hot Water Pipes

You can also reduce energy consumption by insulating your hot water lines. You should be able to do all your accessible piping for $10 to $30, and the installation is simple. Savings from pipe insulation should repay this investment within five years.

  • Choose pipe sleeves that are at least R-4, or about 3/4 inch thick. Measure the diameter of your existing pipes to determine if you have 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch piping. Note that plumbing lines are specified by inside diameter, so both sizes of piping will be slightly larger at their outside diameter than the specified size suggests.
  • Install pipe insulation on all the accessible hot water pipes between your water heater and plumbing fixtures. This will reduce the temperature drop that takes place when you're drawing hot water at your fixtures. It will help hold hot water in the lines at a warm enough temperature that you may not have to purge the pipes if you need hot water again within a few minutes. Don't worry about lines you can't get to.
  • Insulate the first five feet of your cold water pipe as well, starting at the water heater. You should insulate this line because you lose heat here in standby mode - when no one is home - since hot water circulates by convection up into the pipes near the water heater on both the hot and cold sides.
  • If you have a gas water heater, be sure to keep the sleeves at least six inches away from the chimney.

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