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What’s the Ideal Temperature for a Hot Water Heater?

May 10, 2019 Contractor2020

Water heater against a gray background. Reichelt Plumbing, Inc.Comfort is a personal preference. The temperature one person thinks is cozy, another might find too warm or too cold. That’s why battles over the home or office thermostat are so common.

When it comes to the temperature of your water heater, the issue is a bit more complicated. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heating accounts for roughly 18% of a home’s energy use. That’s a lot. When you factor in that you save 3-5% on your energy bill for every 10 degrees you turn down your hot water tank, it’s hard to know what’s the ideal temperature for both your comfort and budget.

The recommended hot water temperature

The EPA gives us a good starting point for setting our hot water tanks: 120 degrees. This temperature is the minimum for killing off bacteria that can develop in the tank when not in use. It also can prevent scalding – important for homes with young children and elderly adults. This setting should produce enough hot water for typical households and be energy efficient.

When to adjust your water temperature

The 120° setting is a general recommendation. There are many factors or situations that may call for you to go with a different temperature. Here are some examples:

  • If someone in your home has a suppressed immune system or respiratory disease, set your water heater to 140 degrees.
  • If you have a larger household, you may need to raise the temperature to produce enough hot water for your usage.
  • If your dishwasher does not pre-heat the water (usually just only in older models), set your water heater to 140 degrees for proper sanitation of dishes.

How to change the temperature on your water heater

If you have an electric hot water heater, you’ll need to remove the access panel and use a screwdriver to adjust the thermostat dial. For safety, turn off the power to your water heater before doing any work to the unit.

On a gas water heater, the temperature gauge doesn’t have numbers – it’s labeled “Hot” and “Warm” with a few lines in between. The warm setting should be between 90-110° degrees, while the hot setting should be 140-150°. So if you’re trying to set it to 120°, you’ll want to be somewhere in the middle. To get it precise, you’ll need to run hot water from a faucet for a few minutes, fill a glass, then test the temperature with a cooking thermometer. Keep adjusting until you find the temperature you’re looking for.

Having the right amount of hot water is important to your home. So is saving money on energy costs. For help in either – or both – of those areas, talk with a water heater specialist from Reichelt Plumbing. We can guide you through both tank and tankless water heater options. Call us today at (219) 322-4906.

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Schererville, IN 46375


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