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I have what I think of as a "standard US electric standby water heater." I will update this when I know the model; I am out of town right now.

It is located in a cold, cluttered closet in a cold apartment. Would the efficiency of the water heater be likely to increase if I took some of the junk out of that closet?

What other factors might affect the answer to this?

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    Do you currently notice an particular inefficiency or problem with your water heater? Has a technician told you there's a problem?
    – TylerH
    Dec 21, 2021 at 16:54
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    I'm not sure I understand, how would clutter make a room colder?
    – Kevin
    Dec 21, 2021 at 19:33
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    Does the closet have an external wall? If so, insulate that because you don't want heat being lost to outside. Does the closet have a ceiling which is not underneath an area you want to heat? If so, insulate that. Does the water heater have a header tank which is not insulated? If so, insulate that, even if only to put a lid on it so that spiders don't fall in and drown. IMHO. Dec 21, 2021 at 20:47
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    @capet I actually didn't realize that electric water heaters were heat pump based. In that case a larger room would indeed make at least a small amount of difference since the room would have slightly more thermal energy that could be taken up by the heat pump. It would also be improved by having less insulation between that room and the rest of the house since then you would effectively have a larger energy reservoir to pull from, but I doubt that either would make any significant impact
    – Kevin
    Dec 22, 2021 at 19:55
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    @capet In fact if the clutter was made up of things with high specific heat (say a pile of bricks) it might actually help since the specific heat of air is quite low. Again, not something to worry about by any means, but could technically make a tiny difference
    – Kevin
    Dec 22, 2021 at 19:56

2 Answers 2

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The heater already has insulation. The cluttered mess of the room it's is in will have exponentially tiny effect on the efficiency. Unless it was perfectly air sealed and insulated, but even then, most of your loss is in the pipes on the way to the tap.

The best thing you can do with your current system is insulate the pipes. You can buy foam insulation for this purpose at any hardware store. It will not help the first time you turn water on for the day, to be honest. But it's something.

Best case scenario is that you have the temperature setting too low and can turn it up to get hotter water.

Next best scenario is that it needs to be drained and cleaned, maybe even descaled (ask a plumber) and that will give it some new life.

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    These are both good answers from manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact and brentonstrine. Going with brentonstrine's since they have less of those points and badge-y things. Thanks!
    – capet
    Dec 20, 2021 at 22:40
  • Exponentially relative to what variable? The clutter? Are you saying that a certain amount of clutter halves the effect, and adding the same amount more clutter halves it again? Can you cite research that demonstrates the exponential relationship? I certainly find it surprising. Dec 22, 2021 at 15:49
  • Lol @TobySpeight, I share your frustration with the increasing colloquial use of "exponential." What really bothers me is when it is applied to compare two numbers. I feel like you need at least three numbers to identify any "exponential" relationship among them. But I think OP meant "exponentially" to mean "extremely," which, like it or not (and I don't!) is an accepted usage now. I feel so old....
    – capet
    Dec 22, 2021 at 19:19
  • By exponential, I meant that the amount of clutter needed to have the same impact as other factors gets exponentially bigger as you increase other factors linearly. I believe this is the mathematical meaning of exponential. Dec 28, 2021 at 5:01
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For electric, if anything clutter will act as insulation, but realistically no effect.

Gas is an entirely different story, as you need to have air flow for combustion and the exhaust can be very hot.

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    These are both good answers from manassehkatz-Moving 2 Codidact and brentonstrine. Going with brentonstrine's since they have less of those points and badge-y things. Thanks!
    – capet
    Dec 20, 2021 at 22:40
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    I'm not familiar with the US, but modern gas boilers here are balanced-flue, meaning that the inside of the room has no effect on air flow. Dec 22, 2021 at 15:52
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    @TobySpeight In the US, older water heaters (and I think new ones up to a certain size can still be made this way) pull combustion air from inside the house but exhaust (due to heat, CO and CO2) outside. Newer heaters are more likely to pull from outside and exhaust to outside, like newer gas furnaces. Dec 22, 2021 at 15:54

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