With the price of oil falling to record lows, you might have been looking forward to lower electricity bills this year. Unfortunately Belco has just announced another price hike, and has been given permission to raise the price of electricity for the next three years running. Given that Bermuda already has the world’s most expensive electricity, it’s time to cut back on our consumption and help our pockets as well as the planet.

The only real way out of those eye-watering bills is either to make your own electricity or just use less of it. This brings us to water heater timers, a way to save about 10 to 20% on your monthly bill, especially if you have an older (pre-1998) water heater.

Water heaters use a lot of electricity keeping the water in your tank constantly hot, but many of us are at work during the day and have no need for hot water 24/7. A water heater timer is a cheap, easy solution that will repay your investment in just a few months.

Masters, Gorham’s, E.S.C and Circuit Supply all sell Intermatic water heater timers for around $80 to $100. These are different from the kind of timer you might use on a lamp – they are designed for heavy-duty circuits (40 amps+).

Installation is a little more complicated than a straight plug-in timer. Your water heater needs to be wired directly to the timer box. It’s also important to check your water heater to see if it’s running on 110 volts or 220 volts, as many heavy-duty appliances like stoves and heaters use the higher voltage. Then choose a timer appropriate for your needs – there will be a voltage sticker on the front of the box. The timer box attaches to the wall beside your heater.

If you are in any doubt, always use an electrician to install a timer in your house. It’s a 20 to 30 minute job. If you’re going to install the timer yourself, never work on a circuit without first turning off the circuit breaker.

Once installed, you simply adjust the small metal pegs to decide when your water is heated. For example, you can set it to run the heater twice a day for an hour or so at a time, providing hot water in the morning and at dinnertime. You will find that your tank’s insulation keeps the water warm for most of the day, so you never feel short of hot water. You can also use the bypass switch for instant hot water on laundry days or weekends.

The next step is to adjust the temperature of the water being heated. You might be using a lot of electricity heating your water to a scalding temperature, then mixing it with plenty of cold water to make it usable. Your hot water tank has a cover plate on it, and underneath there is a temperature gauge that can be adjusted by hand or with a screwdriver. Always unplug your heater before doing this.

Next time we’ll look at solar hot water, which is much more affordable and easier to install than solar panels or wind turbines.

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