Do water heater timers save money? Or are they actually just a waste of money?
And if they save anything, then how much does a water heater timer save? How to use it for maximum benefit, and is it worth the investment?
These are all questions that most people ask before they buy such a device in order to know if they can save on electricity or gas bills or not.
I’m an electrical engineer and a certified energy manager, and I can give you the answer on when and how to use a hot water heater timer.
Let’s jump in!
Do Water Heater Timers Save Money?
Yes, water heater timers save money and energy when they are used properly, compared to not suing them and leaving the water heater on all the time.
I explained in detail in a previous article if leaving hot water on all the time was cheaper, and the conclusion was that it is never cheaper to leave it on, and you should consider regulate the operation of the water heating systems that work on fuel that you pay for, whether gas, diesel, or electricity.
And there are many ways to help regulate the operation of water heaters, including using water heater timers.
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What Is a Water Heater Timer?
A water heater timer is a device that can help you regulate the operation of different kinds of water heaters, especially the ones with tanks, in order to save energy and money instead of leaving them all the time.
How Do Water Heater Timers Work?
Water heater timers work by connecting them to the circuit that powers the water heater, in order to turn on and off the fuel (electricity, gas) supply that feeds the water heater, usually based on pre-programmed schedule, and sometimes on demand.
And by reducing the time that the water heater works, you can save on the power or energy source that feeds it, whether electricity, gas, or diesel, and thus, you get a lower bill at the end of the month.
There are different types of water heaters such as electronic, mechanical, and smart timers, and each one uses a different technology or mechanism in order to operate, but they all get connected between the water heater and the power source that feeds it with energy.
More on that in the “Water Heater Timer Types” section below.
Will a Water Heater Timer Save Money for Sure?
Compared to leaving the hot water on all the timer, yes, a water heater timer will definitely save you money as it saves energy by reducing the time the heater is turned on.
And reducing the energy consumption of water heaters with a timer would lead to saving energy.
But there’s one case where the water heater timer might not save money.
This case is not when you install the timer after you have been leaving the water heater on all the time.
Instead, this case is if you want to use a timer instead of an existing on/off switch that you use to turn on/off the heater by yourself, but not always.
You might be confused now, but I will explain it in an easy to understand way.
Some electric utility companies charge consumers based on the peak-hour tariff.
This tariff means that the consumer pays a high rate for electricity during the peak demand hours, usually from 3 pm-9 pm on business days, and they charge a lower rate during all other hours on business days, in addition to all the hours on weekends.
Every company has its terms and its prices.
If this is the case for you, then the time you set the timer to turn the water heater on can affect your electric bill.
For example, if you program the timer to turn on the heater for one hour everyday, and that hour is from 5 pm to 6 pm, then you pay a higher price than when you make it turn on the heater from 11 pm to 12 pm.
And if you were used to using the on/off switch to turn the heater on for one hour and then you turn it off manually, and you usually do that during the low rate hours, but now you install the timer and program it to turn it on and off during the peak hours, then the water heater timer would actually increase energy bills.
That’s why you should be aware of the tariff your utility company uses and you should program the timer to operate the electric water heater during the off-peak hours.
Water Heater Timer Savings
Water heater timers can save on the energy source that powers the water heaters, which then leads to saving on money through reducing these energy bills like the gas bill and the electricity bill.
To estimate the savings form a water heater timer, we need to know the hourly consumption of the water heater, the energy prices, and the number of hours that you cut off from the operation of the water heater.
How Much Does a Water Heater Timer Save?
For simplicity purposes we will take a 6 gallon (22.7 liter) electric water heater that is rated at 1.65kW.
It means that it consumes 1.65 kWh for every hour of operation.
And let’s assume that the utility company charges a flat rate of $0.2/kWh.
This means that every one hour of operation of this water heater costs you around 0.2X1.65= $0.33 on the electric bill.
And if you the timer can reduce only six hours of unnecessary operation of the water heater per day, this means that you save around 0.33X6= $1.98 per day.
For a month, multiply the number by 30 days, and you get around $59.4 per month that you could spend on something else.
That’s how much money the water heater timer can save on your electric bill based on the numbers above.
Now this is a relatively large water heater that consumes a lot of energy.
If we take a smaller water heater while keeping all other numbers the same, then the savings would be less.
But in general, the bigger the heater, and the higher the electricity rates are, the more you can save with a water heater timer.
And assuming that you use a water heater timer like the Intermatic T104 timer, which costs around $55 to buy, and let’s say that it took the electrician two hours to install it at the rate of $50/hour, then the total cost would be around $155.
Divide that by the monthly savings of $59.4, and you get around 2.5 months as a payback period.
This means, at the beginning of the fourth month of installing the timer, you can start enjoying the water heater timer money savings of around $59.4 per month, based on our example numbers above.
This is compared to leaving the water heater on all the time.
And if you install a smart water heater timer like the Aquanta timer that costs around $165, with a connection box that costs around $35, and two hours of work from an electrician, then the total would be around $300.
When saving $59.4/month, the payback period would be around five months.
As you can see, the electricity and money savings of a water heater timer can be helpful for your pocket, and for the environment.
How to Set a Water Heater Timer for Savings?
You need to set the water heater timer to operate the heater for the shortest period of time per day, while providing your needs of the hot water.
When to Set The Water Heater Timer?
The time of setting the water heater timer differs from one place to another, and even from one person or family to another.
For example, for workplaces that work during the day, it is better to set it to run the water heater shortly before the work hours start.
While for a home or an apartment where everybody leaves the place, it is better to set the timer to turn on the water heater shortly before the first person comes back to home.
And in both places, it is better to make the timer to turn off the water heater shortly before everyone leaves the place.
And there are other considerations.
For example, if your utility company adopts the peak-hour tariff, then you might to change the time when the timer turns on the heater.
For example, if everybody comes back home at 4 pm, but the utility charges the high rate from 3 pm to 9 pm, then it might be more effective to program the timer to turn on the water heater from 2 pm to 3 pm, and the water heater would preserve the water as hot as possible as no one is drawing water from it that would be replaced by cold water that decreases the overall temperature inside the heater’s tank.
Also, you could make the timer turn off the water heater before you go to bed, since the need for hot water is low during the midnight to morning hours, and you can program it to turn on the water heater again one hour before waking up.
As you can see, setting the water heater timer for saving on the energy bills can be different from place to another based on the occupancy of the place, the number of people there and their behavior, and based on the utility tariff system.
Water Heater Timer Types
There are many types of the water heater timers that operate based on different mechanisms and technologies and operate different water heaters.
Here are the main ones:
On/Off Water Heater Switch
This switch is not a timer, but it’s actually a normal on/off switch with a small lamp, and it has the capacity to handle higher electric currents compared to the lighting on/off switches.
But it is like a human-based timer, which you can use to turn on and off the water heater, instead of leaving it on all the timer if it was directly connected to a circuit breaker in the electrical panel without any controlling device in between.
It is a cheap and fast way of controlling the operation of electric water heaters, but the downfall is that you need to stay conscious of the water heater and not forget the switch turned on for long hours when you don’t need it.
Mechanical Water Heater Timer
This type comes in one box with the terminals that connect the water heater with the electrical power source.
It works based on a mechanical timer, and it doesn’t require a separate electrical connection to feed the timer itself like the following types.
It is relatively cheap compared to the next timers, and this mechanical timer can help you really save money on water heating with preset schedules, which makes it better than the on/off switch.
The downfall is that for some of these timers, you can’t set different schedules for different days like business days and weekends, and it is not set to control it remotely.
One of the famous brands that sell mechanical water heater timers is Intermatic, and they offer a wide range of mechanical timers for water heaters and other applications.
These can be cheap electricity saving devices for home and other places.
Digital Programmable Water Heater Timers
These work on electronic circuits that would turn on and off the water heater based on a certain schedule that you set in advance.
These cost more than the mechanical ones, but electronic water heater timers can be more flexible in programming them to give different operation schedules for each day of the week, which means that the savings with them can be bigger than what the previous type saves you.
Intermatic also provides a wide range of electronic water heater timers like the EH10 Intermatic timer.
The downfall is that some of the electronic or digital water heater timers require a separate wiring circuit to power them, and these come separate from the box that would have the terminals that connect the water heater to the panel.
Smart Water Heater Timers
These are more expensive, but the nice thing about them is that they can be controlled remotely as they can be connected to the internet through a WiFi connection.
This means that if you have a varying work schedule, or you can’t anticipate when you would be back home from a gathering or something, then you can use this timer and turn on the water heater just thirty minutes before you arrive home.
One example is the Aquanta smart water heater timer.
Gas Water Heater Timers
These could be installed on the water heater gas supply system in order to program the gas control valve to prevent the main burner from firing during the periods of time when demand is low.
Conclusion – Are Water Heater Timers Worth it?
Yes, water heater timers are worth the investment can can save energy and money when used to control and regulate the operation of water heaters that have tanks.
If you are not sure which type to choose and how to install it, then you better call an electrician to ask them, who would recommend the best timer type and rating for your water heater, and when even install it for you so that you start saving money that you could spend on other aspects of your life.
I hope that my article has help you, and that now you see that water heater timers do save money and energy.
If you still have any question, or if you need any help regarding anything mentioned here, then you can tell me in the comments’ section below, and I will do my best to help you out 🙂