Did you know that you can adjust the temperature setting for your home water heater? We’re all quite accustomed to using our hot and cold knobs to adjust the desired temperature of our bath and shower water, but you can actually change the temperature settings on the tank itself. Lowering the reserve water temperature can save you money, but there are also times when you might want to keep your reserve water supply at a higher temperature. Here’s a quick guide to help you determine the right temperature setting for your home water heater.

Recommended Water Heater Temperature Settings

It might surprise you to learn that there are a few different recommended temperature settings. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that water heaters be set at 140 F to kill bacteria, which is an important part of safe food handling. Your water heater will usually be set to 140 F by the factory in accordance with OSHA recommendations. On the other hand, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) both recommend setting your water heater to 120 F. The CPSC recommends the lower temperature to reduce the risk of scalding, and the DOE recommends the same temperature to reduce your energy consumption.

What Setting Should You Choose?

OSHA recommends using water that’s at least 140 F in order to properly clean and sanitize commercial kitchens, but prolonged exposure to water at that temperature (30 seconds or longer) can cause third-degree burns. There are a few reasons why you might need to turn your water heater all the way up to 140 F, which we will be discussing in more detail in an upcoming section. But even people who enjoy really hot showers will find water uncomfortable at that temperature. You and your family might choose to simply split the difference. You can save up to 10% off your gas or electric bill by lowering the temperature to 120 F.

It’s never a bad idea to try setting your water heater to the lower setting to see if you and your family even notice the difference. Most people are quite comfortable with a water temperature well below 120 F. In fact, most hot tubs are set to a maximum temperature of 104 F. You can always reset the temperature back to a higher setting later if you’re not satisfied.

Do You Have Energy-Efficient Home Appliances?

If you have a newer home with modern appliances, you might be fortunate enough to have a new pre-heating dishwasher. They use the existing hot water and increase its temperature to further cleanse and sanitize your dishes, and you won’t have to increase your water heater temperature. If you have an older dishwasher that’s approaching the end of its operational lifespan, it might be worth investing in a new model that features a pre-heat system. Until that time, you’ll want to keep your water heater temperature set at 140 F to ensure the cleanest and most sanitary dishes possible at all times.

What’s the Size of Your Household?

If you have a large family, you’re much more likely to run out of hot water in the morning when everyone takes a shower at the same time. You can attempt to stagger the times that each family member takes a shower, but it might be a better idea to set the water at a higher temperature and encourage everyone to use hot water more sparingly. On the other hand, this might not be nearly as big of a problem if you have a smaller home and a smaller family.

Are There High-Risk People in the Home?

More than 30 seconds of exposure to water that’s over 140 F can cause third-degree burns in adults, but for an infant, it only takes five seconds of exposure. Senior citizens are also more vulnerable to burns after prolonged exposure. A hot shower or a hot bath with plenty of steam has a lot of health benefits for seniors, but there are diminishing returns as the mercury rises above 104 F. Of course, adult homeowners are free to make their own decisions about the water temperature, but you should consider consulting your physician to determine the safest temperatures.

If anyone in your family is immunocompromised, a higher maximum temperature is an effective way to ensure that your home is properly sanitized to prevent the spread of dangerous bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease, for example, is an atypical type of pneumonia with symptoms that include coughing, shortness of breath, fever, muscular pain, and headaches. In some cases, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea might also occur. Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacteria that thrives in fresh water between 77-113 degrees.

If you have any infants or toddlers in the home, it might make more sense to set the overall water temperature closer to 120 F. You already know that you should test the temperature in advance before you put your baby into bath water, but you and your partner may be subject to bouts of forgetfulness when you’re welcoming a new child into your home. You should also use your own judgment to determine when your children are old enough to take baths on their own and keep the hot water at a lower temperature as a precautionary measure.

When Should You Replace Your Water Heater?

If your water heater is having trouble keeping an ample supply of hot water, it might be time to consider making an upgrade. A home water heater has an anticipated operational lifespan of eight to 12 years, although a well-built and properly maintained water heater might give you several additional years of service. It’s always a good idea to schedule professional maintenance for your water heater and HVAC system on at least an annual basis. Preventive maintenance is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your water heater will function efficiently for as long as possible.

Other common water heater problems include knocking or rattling sounds, visible rust on the tank, standing water around the tank, and a sudden unexplained increase in your monthly utility bills. The good news is that buying a new water heater for your home is more affordable than you think. Many manufacturers offer rebates and dealer incentives to help you save money on water heater installation services, and you should start seeing immediate energy savings. Most importantly, you’ll enjoy the peace of mind that comes from having a steady supply of reliable hot water on demand at all times.

If you have any questions about water heater maintenance, Shines Energy is here to help. We’ve been proud to serve homeowners in Dartmouth and surrounding areas since 2013, and we’re always a phone call or a mouse click away when you need to schedule a service appointment. We’re proud to be a Lennox Premier Dealer, and we have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Contact Shines Energy today to schedule HVAC services in Dartmouth or Nova Scotia or for a free no obligation quote on a new water heater.

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