Can a Hot Water Heater Timer Save You Money?

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

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Heating water contributes considerably to your home’s energy bills. We explore whether a hot water heater timer can help you reduce electricity costs and your budget.

Storage hot water heaters, the type with the large tank, have a thermostat that monitors the water temperature. When the water temperature drops below the tank’s set temperature, the heating element kicks on and heats the water. This way, you have hot water whenever you need it.

And if you don’t use any of that hot water? It will eventually cool down in the tank, and the heating element will kick on again to heat it back up. Heating water uses quite a bit of energy.

According to the Department of Energy, your water heater is responsible for about 17% to 25% of your home’s electricity use. Most water heaters run 1.5 to five hours a day, depending on the age and efficiency of your water heater. Newer hot water heaters run about 90 minutes to three hours, whereas older models may run from three to five hours.

Very few households need hot water around the clock. That’s where a water heater timer can help you reduce the cost of hot water, depending on the efficiency of your heater.

How Does a Hot Water Heater Timer Work?

A hot water heater timer is a device that allows you to schedule when your water heater can and can’t heat the water in the tank, increasing efficiency and reducing energy costs. You can typically program the timer for different schedules on different days to suit your family’s hot water needs.

For example, you might set the timer to prevent water from heating during the night when hot water isn’t needed and then back on before your family wakes up in the morning. Maybe you set it during weekdays when no one is home. If you live in an area with peak electricity pricing, where power costs more during high-demand times, you can set the timer to prevent the water from heating during these peak times.

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Is It Better To Keep a Hot Water Heater on a Timer or Constant?

A timer may be best for your hot water heater and your budget, but it might not be best for your schedule.

In addition to saving you money, here are some other pros and cons to consider before installing a timer on your water heater.


  • Longer heater lifespan: By reducing the amount of time your water heater is running, you can lessen the wear and tear on the unit and potentially extend the time between repairs, thus extending the lifespan of your water heater.
  • Customized scheduling: You can set the timer to meet your specific hot water needs, ensuring hot water is available when you need it most and saving money when you don’t need it.


  • Initial cost: Installing a timer may require an upfront investment, depending on the type of water heater you have and the complexity of the installation.
  • Limited hot water: If you don’t set the timer schedule correctly or your hot water needs change unexpectedly, you might run out of hot water during high-demand periods.
  • Reduced convenience: You may need to adjust the timer settings frequently to accommodate changes in your schedule or hot water needs, which can be inconvenient.
  • Maintenance costs: Timers may require occasional maintenance or replacement, adding to the overall cost of your hot water system.

How Should I Set My Hot Water Heater Timer?

When determining your water heater schedule, you must allow enough time for the tank to heat the water before you need it. Plan for 60 to 80 minutes for an electric tank to heat and about 30 to 40 minutes for a propane tank. These are average times. You’ll want to test this out with your water heater.

If you have a professional install the timer, they can advise you on scheduling it to allow the unit time to heat before hot water is needed.

Remember to consider any appliances that use hot water, such as your dishwasher, when deciding on your timer schedule.

Does Putting a Timer on a Hot Water Heater Save Money?

A hot water heater timer should save you money if you have a predictable water usage schedule, especially if you have an older model water heater.

If you have a newer, very efficient water heater, it may not save you much. But a timer may still prolong the life of your water heater even if the energy savings are minimal.

To determine how much you might save using a timer, use this calculator from The information you’ll need to input into the calculator should be on the sticker on your water heater tank and your electric bill.

Suppose you have a 4,500-watt heater used for three hours a day at $.12 per kWh. Running your hot water heater will cost about $48.60 per month. A timer typically reduces water heater energy usage by 8%—34%, or for this example, $3.80 to $16.52 per month. This may not seem like much, but that’s $36.00 to $198.24 yearly.

It is important to note that not all water heaters are compatible with timers, and some may require professional installation.

A Timer Isn’t the Only Way To Reduce the Cost of Hot Water

Installing a timer on your hot water heater can save you money, but it may also have some drawbacks in terms of convenience and installation and maintenance costs. So, carefully weigh the pros and cons before making a decision. You may find the inconvenience isn’t worth the savings.

Even if you choose not to get a water heater timer, there are other steps you can take to reduce the cost of heating water:

Reviewed November 2023

About the Author

Andrea Norris-McKnight took over as the editor of The Dollar Stretcher and After 50 Finances after working under the site founder and previous editor for almost 15 years. She has also written for,, and The Sacramento Bee.

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