When it comes to setting your water heater, there are several things to consider, such as health, safety, and savings. Ultimately, the “best” temperature setting depends on your personal preference. Below are a few tips to consider when making that decision.
Both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommend that users set their water heaters at 120°F. Hot water is responsible for approximately 18% of your power consumption. Temperatures 120°F and lower can save you as much as $400 on your next energy bill. This recommended temperature also prevents accidents such as burning and scalding, as temperatures of 150°F and higher are enough to cause third-degree burns.
Children and the elderly are considered to be high-risk individuals. Their skin is more delicate when exposed to high temperatures, putting them at risk of burns and other injuries. Additionally, elders have weaker reflexes, which means they won’t be able to quickly step out of the shower once they realize that the water is too hot. Bringing the water heater temperature down to 120°F is a safe choice.
If anyone in your household suffers from a chronic respiratory disease, it may benefit them to set the water heater temperature slightly higher. Bacteria develop in lukewarm water with a temperature of 51°F to 135°F. Water heaters are prone to legionella bacteria, a type of organism that accumulates at the base of water heaters -- this bacteria can cause pneumonia. Setting the water heater at 140°F can prevent the growth of harmful pathogens.
Unless there are individuals with respiratory problems in the house, 120°F is warm enough to give you a comfortable bath or shower. Additionally, setting your water heater below the recommended temperature lets you save up to 5% for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Lowering the thermostat to 120°F from 140°F will let you save up to 10% on your electricity bill.
You should also consider purchasing an energy-efficient water heater. Look for the “Energy Star” label on the model -- those with 0.67 to 0.70 energy factors can help reduce your household’s energy consumption. It’s also a good idea to buy a smaller water heater, as larger ones are prone to more heat loss.
Modern water heaters come with a built-in thermostat or temperature control panel. If your water heater isn’t equipped with one, you can manually check using a candy or water thermometer. Simply turn on the tap, let the water run for three minutes, and then take the temperature directly from the faucet. Adjust the thermostat until you research your preferred temperature.
So, what’s the best temperature for your water heater? Ideally, it should be at 120°F unless persons with sensitive skin, such as infants and elders, are living with you. However, if you want to kill bacteria, setting it to 140°F is an acceptable choice.
If you’re having problems with your water heater, this may indicate a more serious problem to your system. When this happens, call your local technician immediately.