AccuServ Heating and Air Conditioning

How Insulating Your Hot Water Lines Can Save You Money

January 13, 2020

You should insulate your hot water pipes running through your home as a cost-saving task. The process is quite simple in theory but is an art in practice. Thus, we recommend you hire a certified heating company for the task.

Read on for the benefits you will gain after insulating your hot water lines.

Improved Savings

Your water heater is always set at a higher temperature than you actually need. The reason for this relates to the distance your hot water needs to travel from your water heater to your taps.  When that water is transported through your hot water pipes it loses heat. Heat loss is exacerbated with distance traveled. Thus, for a large home, while your hot water heater might be set to 70 degrees Celsius, the water might actually arrive at your tap at a temperature of 40 degrees.

This loss of efficiency can be reduced by insulating your water heater pipes. With proper insulation, your pipes can minimize heat loss during hot water transfer. This equates to being able to set your hot water tank to a lower temperature, thereby saving on energy cost.

The idea with insulating your hot water pipes is to achieve a lower temperature for your water heater while feeling no difference when you shower, wash your hands, or do the dishes. A 5 degree decrease in your hot water tank, can save you up to 5% on your water bill, according to[1] The cost savings will go further for a household that:

  • Is large, and therefore requires the hot water to move farther distances throughout the house.
  • Uses a lot of water, requiring more energy to constantly be input to the hot water heater.
  • Is located in a cold region, such as Toronto, as the cold air cools the hot water pipes especially quickly in such regions; this equals significantly more heat loss.[2]
  • Uses expensive fuel sources, such as in Toronto, where electric hot water heaters are much more costly due to increasing energy prices.

A properly insulated set of hot water pipes can reduce heat loss up to 33%.[3]

Reduce Repair Calls

In especially cold regions, hot water pipes can actually freeze over if the home’s heating system fails. This is a significant problem in Toronto, where we experience wind chills of up to -20 degrees Celsius.[4] It is this cold air exposure that causes the water in the pipes to freeze.

Technically, it is the water in the pipes – not the pipes themselves – that freezes. As water freezes, it expands. The expansion, in turn, stresses the hot water pipes from the inside out.

Just as water moving fast enough can act as a cutting laser, water expanding with enough pressure can break pipes of any strength. It is in the homeowner’s best interest to prevent this from happening, as new hot water pipe installations are drastically expensive. Insulation is a cheap and effective way of delaying freezing pipes.

Homeowners with pipes exposed to the chilly Toronto winds are at a higher risk of experiencing freezing pipes. External pipes include those leading to swimming pools, sprinklers, and even those technically inside the home but in poorly insulated areas, such as the garage or basement. Often, a simply walk around the house will show you a considerable amount of exposed piping that should be insulated. And again, larger homes are at more risk because of the prolonged heat loss experienced by water traveling a greater distance.

Overall, adding insulation to your pipes reduces the risk of freezing, in turn reducing the need for expensive repairs. In the end, your house is safer, you are not inconvenienced by a loss of hot water, and your budget is not suddenly cut by repair fees.

What Can Be Insulated? AKA Good Pipe Insulation Is an Art

Now that you understand the benefits of insulating your hot water pipes, you might be wondering how much of your pipes can be insulated and what materials to use in the insulation. The answer to both questions vary depending on the individual home’s characteristics. This is why we recommend leaving the decision in the hands of “the artist” – a certified HVAC technician.

Though exposed pipes are at the most risk for heat loss and freezing, insulating hard to reach pipes will help overall. The problem is actually reaching those pipes without the proper tools or experience. A HVAC technician can help you first determine whether those out of the way pipes need to be insulated and then help you actually insulate them, if the need is there.

As for materials to insulate the pipe with, you have many choices. Some choices, such as polyethylene or neoprene foam work better for electric water heaters.[5] Other choices, such as fiberglass or aluminum work better for gas water heaters.

Consult with a certified HVAC technician before making your decisions as to the “whether”, “how”, and “with what” of hot water pipe insulation.