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Wrap it up

Holiday gifts aren’t the only thing you should be thinking about wrapping up this month. Your electric water heater may need to be snuggled in a jacket to rein in its energy consumption.

The water heater is second only to a central heating system as a home’s most energy-hungry appliance, accounting for about 18% of electricity costs. Just like insulating your walls or roof, wrapping your electric water heater in a fiberglass sleeve is an easy and inexpensive way to improve energy efficiency. It can help cut annual water heating costs by as much as 16%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

A water heater located in the attic or the garage, manufactured before 2005 or having an R-value of less than 24 (noted on the tank’s sticker) is the ideal candidate for added insulation. If you don’t know the R-value, touch the tank. If it’s warm to the touch, it needs a blanket.

Pre-cut blankets are available at home improvement stores. Opt for one with an R-rating of at least 10. Expect to pay $35 to $50.