We’ve got water on the brain – maybe from hoping all this winter snow would melt and give way to spring – so today seems like as good a chance as any to talk about the impact water has on an average residential energy bill.

The most recent data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows there has been little change in how much energy the average home spends heating water in the last 20 years: a meager 0.6 percentage point drop. For comparison, energy consumption from “appliances, electronics and lighting” has risen by more than 10 percentage points in that same time.

Conserving the amount of water you use daily certainly helps reduce energy costs, but it isn’t the only factor at play. Soak up these helpful hot water tricks and see what we mean.

“The hot water your heater generates has a long way to go.”

1. Don’t gripe over your pipes

In the past, we’ve talked about the benefits of lowering the temperature on your hot water heater and investing in insulated tank covers for older models. These lessons are still incredibly important, but the hot water your heater generates has a long ways to go before reaching its final destination. Traveling through uninsulated pipes, the water can radiate a substantial portion of its heat out. In short, you may be paying for the energy to create steaming hot water, but your home water system can only spout out lukewarm liquid. Not only could this issue dissuade homeowners from tampering with tank temperatures for fear of the dreaded ice-cold morning shower, but it means water will need to run longer to heat up properly. Mother Nature is not impressed.

That said, in three hours time and with minimal labor and overhead costs, the Department of Energy suggests insulating water pipes to trap escaping heat. Depending on the age and condition of your home, water pipes may not be readily accessible. If your water heater is in an unfinished basement, insulating any length of exposed pipe will prove beneficial, but please exercise caution: Be sure the pipes are cool before affixing insulation. If your water heater is located in a finished area of your home, don’t go tearing up floorboards. Call a contractor and discuss costs. It may make more sense to simply move your hot water to reduce the amount of piping the water travels through.

2. Bring your energy saving abilities to a rapid boil

Some chefs prefer to adhere to the recipe as strictly as possible, while others consider cooking instructions a mere suggestion. Whether this results in a culinary masterpiece or an inedible slab of whatever depends on the talent of the person in the apron, but the energy-conscious may need to channel both cooking styles to achieve efficiency you can really sink your teeth into.

When boiling water on a stove top, try to use as little water as necessary. If you’re cooking rice, sticking to the directions would be wise – unless you like crunchy rice, of course. On the other hand, if you plan on boiling water for vegetables, experiment with reducing the amount of water used in the preparation process. Less water in the pot means less energy used to bring that water to a boil.

3. Old-fashioned cleaning with new-found efficiency

Dishwashers may seem like energy-intensive appliances, but compared to washing dishes by hand, even older models can be downright efficient in how they use warm water.

According to TreeHugger, the average dishwasher load uses between four to six gallons of water – the DOE says some can go as high as 10 – while the average faucet expels water at a rate of two gallons per minute. So unless you can clean a sink full of dishes, pots and pans in just a few short minutes, chances are running the faucet couldn’t ever be more efficient than a dishwasher. Or can it?

Homes without dishwashers or with less-efficient models can still find considerable efficiency, so long as they use a wash basin and measure out water use carefully. A wash basin full of soap filled one gallon at a time as needed could help keep energy costs for hot water as low as possible.