Hot-water economy; gasoline mileage

Should one shut off a hot-water heater during the summer months or turn it down very low? Isn't there the risk of damage if it is turned off entirely? * Also, my 1973-model Chevrolet Monte Carlo gets less than 10 miles to a gallon of regular fuel in all-city driving. Can anything be done to improve the mileage? Mrs. Cecilia C. Ernst St. Louis

Is the water heater electric or gas? No matter which one you have, you'll save energy, and money, by turning it off. If it's a gas heater, make sure you turn off the main line, because otherwise gas can leak by the pilot system.

Clearly, the lower the temperature at which you operate the heater, the less energy you will use. Also, you can extend the life of an electric heater substantially by cutting back on the thermostat. In fact, you can double the life of an electric water heater. I'm told, by reducing the temperature from the 155 degrees at which it is usually shipped from the factory back down to 120 degrees. The higher temperature causes a lot of deterioration problems.

Water heating is one of the most energy-consuming things we do in a home, other than space heating. So anything you do to reduce the water temperature is fine.

Most people don't realize that an electric water heater often has two thermostats. They often turn down the top thermostat, but that is the wrong one to turn down. The thermostat at the bottom should be set lower, not the topmost one. The top thermostat provides a quick recovery for the top few gallons of water, while the lower thermostat is the one that holds the base temperature in the tank.

* As for your 1973-model Chevrolet Monte Carlo gas hog, I guess all you can do is keep the car in tiptop mechanical condition, be sure that the tires are properly inflated according to the tiremaker's recommendations, and apply conservative driving practices when you're behind the wheel.

Try to anticipate light changes so as to lessen the number of times you have to start the car from a standing position. Take it easy when you leave a traffic light. Don't go over the national speed limit of 55 miles an hour.

Write to the Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, CO 81009, and ask for free copies of the booklets, "Tips for Energy Savers" and "Tips for the Motorist."

You'll be glad you did, because you'll end up saving money both in the home and in your car.

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