Adjusting Your Water Heater Temperature

By Thornton Plumbing and Heating

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Blog Highlights

  • If the temperature is too low it can lead to a breeding ground for bad bacteria
  • The hotter the water, the faster pathogens die
  • If cutting costs and energy-efficiency is a big concern, there are several things you can do

The water heater is probably the biggest energy-consuming appliance in your home. If you’re interested in cutting back on costs and lowering your energy bill, you might be tempted to lower your water heater temperature; however, lowering your water’s temperature can have some serious consequences. There are several things to be aware of before setting your water heater’s temperature.

If the temperature is too low it can lead to a breeding ground for bad bacteria. If set too high, you run the risk of burn accidents. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is the preset degree for most new water heaters. Anything lower than this is considered unsafe.

At 120 degrees Fahrenheit, harmful bacteria and pathogens, such as those that lead to Legionnaire’s disease, are killed. The hotter the water, the faster pathogens die. If you believe everyone in your house has a strong immune system, keep your water heater set at the recommended 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, if people in your home have a compromised immune system or your dishwasher doesn’t produce its own heat, you should seriously consider setting your hot water heater temperature closer to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, some authorities recommend that everyone keep their water heater temperature at 140 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure safer water in general.

While the water contains fewer pathogens at 140 degrees, water this hot can cause third degree burns in about five seconds. Children are more susceptible to water burns as their skin is thinner than that of adults. Elderly people may also be more sensitive to hot water and have slower reaction times, which means they may not be able to move out from the hot water quickly.

If you have small children or live with older relatives and are worried about scalding, you may want to invest in anti-scald valves. These valves are installed where hot water enters appliances and water fixtures. They ensure that the water that reaches the tap or shower never exceeds 120 degrees. This means that you can keep your hot water heater’s temperature at the bacteria-killing 140 degrees, but prevent such hot water from causing burns in the home.

Keeping your water heater’s thermostat set between 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit may seem costly; however, it is imperative for your family’s health. If cutting costs and energy-efficiency is a big concern, there are several things you can do without adjusting your water heater’s temperature. Considering simply using less hot water: take shorter showers and use a dishwasher instead of hand-washing dishes. Insulate your hot water heater and pipes to cut down energy loss. And finally, consider replacing your water heater with a more modern, energy-efficient model. Old water heaters are often less efficient as they age. When shopping for your new water heater, make sure to look for a model that meets the ENERGY STAR efficiency standards.

Do you need help installing anti-scald valves or want to upgrade your water heater? Contact us today!

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