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hot water pipe insulation

How To Insulate Your Hot Water Pipes

By Laura BourlandRise Writer
Oct 3, 2019

Starting your morning with a hot shower might be part of your daily routine. Ending it with a hot soak in the tub is an excellent way to relax. But how much money and energy does that luxury of hot water cost?

Heating water in your home uses about 17% of your total energy consumption. Considering average energy bills (gas and electric) are $285 per month, your hot water costs, on average $540, per year. 

If your hot water pipes aren't already insulated, your water is losing anywhere from two to four degrees in temperature as it travels through the pipes. That heat loss means your shower takes longer to heat up, especially if your bathroom is on the opposite side of the house from your water heater. The excellent news is insulating your hot water pipes is a quick afternoon and has no impact on your lifestyle. You'll get to continue enjoying that luxurious hot water and save energy, water, and money.

Does Insulating Water Pipes Save Energy and Money?

Any energy-efficient upgrade you make will save both energy and money. Swapping out old appliances for Energy Star models is a great way to decrease your energy consumption, but not everyone has that kind of cash lying around.

But almost every homeowner has a few extra bucks for inexpensive pipe insulation! You can pick up energy-saving polyethylene foam pipe insulation for as little as $1 per linear foot from just about any home improvement store and complete the entire project in a day.

Whether your water heater uses electricity or gas, you can achieve instant savings on your monthly utility bills. Insulating those hot water pipes can save you 3%-4% annually on hot water heating alone!

While you're at it, you might consider insulating your cold water pipes as well. After all, you're already buying the materials and getting up close and personal with those pipes.

Insulating your cold water pipes is beneficial to your energy efficiency and will protect your pipes and home from potential damage. Un-insulated cold water pipes tend to sweat, releasing beads of condensation as the air temperature fluctuates. That condensation can then collect and cause mold, mildew, and ruin anything you may have stored under or near the pipes.

If you live in a cooler climate subject to freezing, insulating your cold water pipes will also protect them from freezing. Frozen water pipes lead to costly and frustrating repairs, so you'll want to prevent that from happening. Insulating those cold water pipes will help keep your cold water cold. Un-insulated pipes may warm up in the heat of a summer's day, causing your cold water to be more lukewarm. By insulating them, your cold water will stay cool and refreshing.

Once your water pipes are adequately insulated, you can safely reduce your hot water thermostat by about five degrees. This will save you an additional 5-10% on your yearly hot water bills. Chances are, you won't even notice the difference!

Does Insulating Water Pipes Save Water?

Insulating your hot water pipes will also help you reduce your consumption of fresh, clean water. As populations grow, water has become a precious commodity. In areas prone to drought, reducing water consumption is even more crucial.

Properly insulated hot water pipes mean you use less water each time you need hot water. Without insulation, the hot water in your pipes will cool quickly. This will cause you to draw more water each time you need hot water for laundry, dishes, or bathing. On frigid days, you might need to run the water an extra two minutes every time you turn on the faucet—even if you just finished a load of dishes.

Simple insulation will allow you to save water without having to shorten your showers or change your lifestyle.

How To: Easy DIY Pipe Insulation

It's straightforward to install new pipe insulation yourself, and it'll only take you a few hours from start to finish. It's effortless to do when you're already installing new pipes or building a new home.

Step 1: Measure Your Pipes

Before you get started, you'll need to measure your pipes to ensure you buy the right size insulation and the right amount to complete the project. You'll want first to measure the diameter of the pipes. Typical diameter sizes range from 3/8 inch to one inch. The foam sleeves should fit snugly around the entire pipe. Then, measure the length of the exposed pipes. You can always cut the foam pieces down. We recommend you measure twice and write the measurements down to make sure you've got it right.

Step 2: Buy Your Insulation

You can purchase pipe insulation at most home improvement stores and online. Be sure to choose the pipe insulation best suited to your type of water heater. If you have a gas water heater, you'll want to select non-flammable insulation. A one-inch fiberglass installation secured with wire or aluminum foil tape is an excellent choice. When working with fiberglass, be sure you wear protective gloves, clothes, and goggles.

pipe insulation
Photo Credit: The Home Depot

The least expensive most popular insulation options are neoprene and polyethylene foam. Six feet of ¾ inch self-sealing foam sleeves is only $2.75 at Home Depot. These pre-molded sleeves can be easily cut and fit over your pipes. You might also consider coil insulation that you can wrap around your pipes. Or, choose specialty insulation products like Seed Wrap, which is secured using Velcro for easy installation.

Some foam insulation sleeves have "self-sealing" seams. If not, you'll need to purchase tape or ties to hold the foam insulation in place and prevent it from slipping. Options include zip ties, tie wire, and acrylic tape. 

Step 3: Prepare Your Materials & Workspace

Now that you have your pipe insulation, it's time to gather all your supplies and get ready to insulate! Pack yourself a box with all your insulation, tie-downs, scissors or a sharp knife, a measuring tape, a towel, and a headlamp or flashlight.

Before you install the insulation, make sure the pipes are clean and dry. If they're not, take an extra moment to wipe them down with the towel.

Next, measure the length of the pipe again and cut sections of insulation to fit. (Remember, measure twice, cut once.)

hot water pipe insulation
Photo Credit: The Eco Guide

Step 4: Install the Insulation

Finally, slip those cut insulation sections over your pipes, being careful not to knock into the pipes. If using foam or fiberglass insulation, you'll want to install it seam-side down.

As you work, add a fastener every one to two feet to hold the insulation in place. For electric heaters, install insulation all the way to the water heater and the output at sinks and tubs. That first three feet in either direction is especially imperative for energy efficiency.

If you have a gas water heater, insulation should be kept at least six inches away from the flue to prevent damage and fire. Consult your water heater owner's manual for more information. Learn more about the different types of plumbing pipes.

Hot Water Pipe Insulation Will Instantly Improve Your Energy Efficiency

We're always looking for new ways to improve a home's energy efficiency. Insulating your hot water pipes is one of the quickest, easiest, and inexpensive solutions for every homeowner—regardless of your type of plumbing pipes, water heater, or home design.

Adding simple insulation to your pipes can improve energy efficiency, decrease your monthly utility bills, and help you conserve water. Your energy and water savings—while possibly only $20-$30 per year—will more than pay for your one-time expense of insulating sleeves. And it might just prevent a much larger, costly problem—making it worth the investment.

The best part is this is a project you can do yourself! Of course, if you don't have the time or your pipes are difficult to reach, you can always hire an expert to come in and complete the job for you. But as the cold winter months are nearing, why not tackle it this weekend?

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2021-06-03T03:22:01+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.