If you have a hot water tank, you’ve probably wondered which is cheaper – to leave hot water on permanently or to just turn it on when you need it? The results are in…
There are several deep, meaningful questions that we often ask. Is there a god? How did the universe start? Should I leave my hot water on constant? I know the answer to all three, but today, I’ll be giving you the answer to the most important… or at least the only one you might listen to me about.
The cost of energy
There doesn’t seem to be a year go by without us hearing that energy prices are on the increase. And that means every year we need to be more careful how we use our gas and electricity. I had always assumed that I was being frugal by only turning on the hot water when needed. However, I was left questioning that assumption after a brief meeting with a professional.
When I last had my boiler serviced, the engineer “Phil” – that’s what we’ll call him, as that was his name, seemed surprised that I left my hot water on a timer. He told me that it wouldn’t cost me any more to leave it on all day. He didn’t really explain why so I was left a little confused, and I didn’t want to argue with him because he hadn’t given me the bill yet.
So, I went and did some research on the internet and found there were two schools of thought.
1. Leave hot water on permanently. Your boiler doesn’t have to heat the water from cold, so it’s far more efficient.
2. Only heat the tank when needed. Otherwise, you’re burning energy when you don’t need to.
My lovely looking water tank:
I decided to put these two views to the test. Over July and August, using my handy new smart meter, I went about discovering which method would save me the most money.
Now, I am a trained scientist. I have a C in double science G.C.S.E. Read A Brief History of Time for five minutes (before it got too heavy) and watched a fair amount of the Big Bang series. As you can see, there aren’t many more qualified people.
Why July and August?
Both have 31 days (hopefully, otherwise my calculations are wrong). Also, I don’t use any heating during the summer months, making the experiment far easier to measure. Plus, we weren’t going away for any period during these months. Our holiday is booked for sunny November – thanks for asking.
These are things that can affect the results.
1. The number of baths. This is where we use the most hot water. We are definitely a bath family and very rarely use the shower. For this experiment, I made sure that we had exactly the same number of baths. This is actually harder than it sounds and ended with me running some unused baths!
2. Washing-up. If we haven’t turned the water on for baths, we use the kettle to boil water and use this to wash-up. So to stop any discrepancies, the washing-up was done using a kettle for both months. And for those interested, on average it costs 2.5 pence to boil your kettle (not the most financially efficient way to wash-up).
3. The hob. The only other gas device we have is the hob. It isn’t used much and not for long. So I haven’t taken this into account for the results.
So, how much does it cost to leave hot water on permanently?
I was a little surprised by what I found.
July (the month where the water was turned to constant), we used 253 kWh.
August (where water was only turned on when needed), we used 199 kWh.
So leaving the water on constantly meant we used over 25% more gas. Sounds quite a bit doesn’t it? But what does that translate to in cost?
For gas, we pay 3.071p per kWh.
So, in July, that meant we spent £7.78 on heating water and in August £6.11.
As expected, if you leave hot water on permanently, it does cost more. However, £1.67 is quite a small difference. I know this site is about money saving, but I also like convenience. If it costs less than £2 per month to have hot water on tap, then it’s a price I’m willing to pay.
Bear in mind that your results may differ slightly. The better insulated your tank, the lower the cost will be to keep your water warm for longer. And the amount you save or spend will depend on how much you pay per unit. Take a look at your latest energy bill to see how much you pay for gas. Obviously, if you’re paying far more than 3p per kWh, then leaving the hot water on could be significantly more than £1.67 per month.
If you’re interested in keeping a closer eye on your energy usage, take a look at smart meters, and why I don’t think they’re that useful… apart from if you’re conducting experiments on whether it’s cost-efficient to leave your hot water on all the time.