Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Extra! Extra! Water Heater Turned Down, Mom Doesn't Notice!

Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

When I visualize "experiments," I think of Doc and his DeLorean or Frankenstein and his lonely monster. Compared to those, my family's experiment in natural living is so woefully unremarkable I'm somewhat embarrassed to share it. Of course, compared to those examples, my experiment was real. So, there's that.

We decided to turn down the thermostat on our water heater. We have the old tank kind that most people still seem to have. It sits in the spidery corner of the basement, heating element coming on, going off, on and off, hour after hour, day after day. Lots of water hot and at the ready and mostly going unused.  Seemed easy, to turn down the dial. With a four month old and a three year old during the holiday season, easy seemed like all the experiment we could handle.

We were already running the heater at a lowish setting. Our dial's highest level is "Hot," then there are four marks below that, then "Warm," then two marks below that, and finally the coolest level is "Vacation." We were running at one click above "Warm" before beginning our experiment.

Here's a typed representation of the round dial:


Day One
We turn our water heater down three clicks, from one above Warm to one above Vacation. I notice the water doesn't seem to get very hot when I wash my hands in the kitchen sink, but I don't dwell on it.

Day Two
My husband suffers through a chilly shower and informs me that the water temperature is now too cold. He heads into the basement and turns the temperature back up. I believe our experiment failed. 

Days Three - Seven
Life goes on. I take normal showers and fill the bathtub for my daughter. We wash dishes and wash diapers. For all intents and purposes we are normal, hot-water-using people, and I notice nothing out of the ordinary. 

It's not until the week has passed and I mention having to write a "failure" post about our natural living experiment that my husband explains we haven't failed at all. I'd misunderstood what he did on back on Day Two. He'd increased the temperature, but not back to where we'd had it before. He'd merely turned it up one click, to just below Warm. We were living happily at two notches below where we'd begun!

Days Eight - Today
And that's where we've stayed. The baby's diapers have been clean (that was one of my big worries, going with cooler water, but so far so good. No stink, no rashes). My three year old's baths have been comfortable for her (still plenty of warm water to splash onto the floor). My showers have been hot (granted, I'm not in there for much more than ten minutes, but that's just how it is when you have small children who wait until you are in the bathroom to decide they really really need you right then). 

If the diapers begin to seem dirty after their wash, or when the girls get older and need showers in the morning then I could see us moving the thermostat back up a click or two. But for now it seems we've found our perfect minimum water temp. Perfect because I haven't noticed a difference at all. I do hope we notice some savings when we get our next electricity bill, though. Not bad for an experiment I'd thought failed!

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


Lauren @ Hobo Mama January 10, 2012 at 6:12 AM  

Awesome! I love that you didn't even notice. THAT's the kind of experiment I can try! We need more easy ones like this around. :)

I'm going to go see how our water heater works; I don't think ours has a nice dial, but I could be wrong about that. Off to find a flashlight…

melissa January 10, 2012 at 7:20 AM  

Not bad at all! I love how you found a low-maintenance experiment for a time when you have plenty of other things going on. I like how you think! Now I'm thinking I may need to check our hot water heater's setting. We seem to have an overabundance of hot water!

TwinMama January 10, 2012 at 1:14 PM  

Brilliant. Well done on unknowingly completing the experiment! Actually I think you raise a really important point - that a relatively simple change is achievable for anyone who wants to try, and it will of course make a difference. There is something quite luxurious about hot water, so not an easy thing to consider doing without!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama January 10, 2012 at 6:33 PM  

Check out The Pistachio Project's post about hot water and diapers - I'm totally trying it! Anyway, I don't think we can turn our water heater down any more than it already is - our shower is so far away that it cools down in transit : /

Kat January 10, 2012 at 8:18 PM  

Great idea!!! I love that you didn't even notice, even though the change was substantial! Such a small change but it makes such a huge difference to our environment!

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ January 11, 2012 at 1:59 AM  

I love a doable challenge. Can you imagine the effect if everyone turned their heater down just a little bit? Incredible. I really feel like these small changes that we don't even notice, could be the start of something big.

Terri January 11, 2012 at 8:00 AM  

Great experiment and the way it worked out was fab too - that you didn't even notice. I hope a few more people will do this by secretly turning down the heater and seeing if anyone else in the family can tell the difference. It would make a huge impact on our energy consumption if heaters were turned down a bit (or in my part of the world if air conditioners were turned up a bit warmer!)

We only have cold water available in our house. I have a small heater to heat water for diapers washes and we boil a kettle to bathe the kids but everything else is washed in fresh mountain COLD water. I'll get solar hot water when we move house but after reading this post I realize we are low impact with out heating of water without even planning it!

Dwane Zelinsky January 16, 2012 at 12:00 PM  

We still also have our old water heater in our basement, and it still runs like a charm even in its old condition. It's good to hear that you are finding a lot of alternatives to keep the heat of your water. A lot of people must know this and check out their water heater tanker. Great job on finishing your experiment!

Grzejniki Å‚azienkowe August 8, 2012 at 5:36 AM  

Interesting story of yours ;) Congrats on managing your undertaking successfully.

Javier Hallum August 17, 2012 at 1:04 PM  

I think your regulating of the temperature of the water was a pretty cool experiment! Myself, I’ve always loved cold water. A few months ago, we switched from the tank type water heater to the new small water heaters, and just for the showers in the bathrooms. It actually helps us conserve energy to use hot water only for baths, and sometimes for the laundry. We switched from doing dishes with hot water to doing them with ordinary temperature or cold water, and it wasn’t much of a change either.

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