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Extra energy step? It's hardly needed

Should i surround my electric hot- water heater fiber-glass insulation? The laundry, where the heater is located, is surrounded on three sides by living areas. Thus, the heat from the tank helps to warm the walls of the adjacent rooms.Also, I use the water heater for drying articles of clothing. While I keep the temperature in the low 60s in the house -- my electric bill last year was $448 -- I am always looking for new ways to reduce it. Miss Olive Thompson Stroudsburg, Pa.

More people probably wish they had your electric bill these days.

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You're doing a remarkable job in cutting the use of electricity in your home. How much room here is for further reducing it is questionable. After all, a full-year bill of $448 for heating, cooking, refrigeration, hot water, lighting, etc., deserves a lot of credit today.

You certainly can wrap an insulation blanket around your hot-water heater if you follow the directions explicitly. But then you will lose a mojor portion of the supplemental heat that now goes into tempering the walls of the adjacent living rooms in your home. Also, you get another benefit by drying small articles of clothing on the tank.

On a gas hot-water heater with a pilot light, you have to be careful not to over- insulate the heater. On a hot summer day, for example, there may not be enough heat loss from the tank to carry away the heat of the pilot light, particularly when the family is away on vacation and no water is being drawn from the tank. With electricity you don't have that problem.

You could reduce the temperature of the water, of course. That will save fuel.

It seems to me that you already have cut the use of electricity to the bone. More people should follow your good example.

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