What Temperature Should My Hot Water Heater Be Set To?

The hot water heater is a really important part of your household, but we often forget about it because it is usually set off to the side, hidden in a closet or tucked away in the basement. It prepares the water so that you are able to get hot water the moment you turn on the sink or shower. Having hot water is key to cleanliness – whether it’s washing hands, bathing, running the dishwasher, or doing laundry. 

Keeping the water heater at an optimal temperature is important for a few reasons. It is recommended that your water heater be set somewhere between 130 F and 140 F. Here is why:

  • Too Hot = Burns – the obvious reason to monitor your hot water heater’s temperature is because of burns. If you live in a household with children or the elderly, it is important to make sure that the water can’t get too hot because that could result in burns. Children might turn the sink to a high temperature without realizing it. We’ve all had the experience of accidentally setting the shower to a temperature that is too hot, and then getting in, only to hop out quickly to avoid the scalding water. If your water heater is set within the 130 F and 140 F range, the chances of being burned by water is less likely. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision, 2 seconds of skin exposure to 150 F water can cause third degree burns, whereas water that is 140 F will do the same damage in 6 seconds. 130 F will cause the same burns over a period of 30 seconds. While these are all burns, the lower the temperature gives you time to react and get out of the shower or turn the water off. 
  • Too Cold = Bacteria – if you have your water heater set too high, it can burn you or your loved ones. So the answer seems to be to lower the temperature to something that won’t accidentally burn you. However, that is not a great solution because lower temperatures come with their own problems. A water heater that is below 130 F can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which is then passed on to whomever is using the water. Legionnaires disease is linked to water heaters that aren’t hot enough. It is a type of pneumonia that can grow in cooler temperatures and it can be very harmful to the elderly and people with weakened immune systems. It is transmitted through water droplets in the air (showering, dish washing, etc.) or through drinking water that has the bacteria in it. 
  • Energy Efficiency – a water heater that is set too high can waste a lot of energy and that will increase your bill at the end of each month. There is also evidence that suggests that water heaters that are set to higher temperatures have shorter lifespans and need to be replaced sooner. This is because mineral build up from hard water is thought to increase in hotter temperatures. 

It can be tricky finding the right water temperature to set your water heater to – it seems like a balancing act. OSHA and the WHO recommend setting your water heater above 140 F to reduce the risk of Legionella bacteria growth. However, the Energy Department and CDC encourage you to set the temperature closer to 120 F if you have small children in the home, to decrease the chance of scalds and burns.  If you aren’t sure about what temperature to set your water heater at, or how to check the current temperature, give Drain Wizard Plumbing a call today to discuss any questions or concerns that you may have. We can help you adjust your water heater’s temperature and schedule a maintenance visit to ensure that everything is running as efficiently as possible. Your water heater isn’t just something that makes your life more comfortable, it plays a major part in keeping you and your loved ones safe. Call Drain Wizard Plumbing today!

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