Aside from a piping hot cup of Joe, there’s really nothing that compares to a warm, morning shower to get you ready for the day. But it’s not uncommon to cut that morning lather short as the water starts losing its fever and feels more like it’s being pumped straight from the Arctic.

If this sounds familiar, it could be time to upgrade to a water heater that can meet your household's needs. It may sound like a big, unnecessary expense but water heating technology has come a long way in the last few years, and a family of four could save $490 a year in energy bills with an Energy Star rated electric water heater. At that rate, the price of the new system would be earned back in about a year and a half.

And updating your water heater now before it breaks could save in other ways. Water heaters typically have a lifespan of 10 to 15 years and can have all sorts of problems as they age. This includes leaking water, which can lead to other costly troubles and of course be a waste of water during a statewide drought. Even if your water heater appears to be operating just fine, it can be working much harder than necessary to keep a hot supply of water, burning extra energy and cash in the process.

If getting a high capacity water heater to support long luxurious showers sounds like a good idea, keep in mind this is going to hurt you in more ways than one. Not only is water getting scarce around the state, but keeping a huge reservoir heated when you don’t really need all of it is going to waste a lot of energy and get pricey.

Instead, take a look at that new heater’s first hour rating, which is the amount of hot water the unit can supply in an hour. Match that up as close as possible with the amount of hot water your home uses during its peak hour of the day. This includes showers (reasonable ones of course), automatic dishwashers, laundry washing machines and more. The Department of Energy has some tips to help out with sizing.

You can take the energy savings even further by making sure your new water heater is insulated, which will cut down on heat loss while the water is standing by in the tank. Look for tanks with a thermal resistance of R-12 to R-25. Another important rating to look for is the heater’s “Energy Factor.”  The bigger the number, the more efficient the unit. Gas water heaters generally have energy factors between .5 and .7, and electric models are between .75 and .95.

A small complimentary project to consider while putting in that new water heater is adding some insulation around your water pipes. That layer of insulation will reduce heat loss in the pipes, which will save you a little bit of cash each year. But the most noticeable effect is definitely going to be a shorter wait for warm water when you start up that all-important morning shower.

So whether a jolt of cold water has forced you out of the shower with a head full of suds or it was your energy bill that shocked you, a water heater upgrade could be the relief you need.