5 Considerations When Choosing an Ideal Temperature Setting for Your Water Heater

June 13, 2022
Water Heater Temperature in Detroit, MI

The recommended water heater temperature setting ranges from 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the temperature setting recommended by the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission), American Society of Sanitary Engineering, US Department of Energy (DOE), and water heater manufacturers varies. Therefore, there’s no single correct answer.

On average, hot water in your home accounts for around 18% of your total energy bill. If you set your water heater at a very high temperature, you’ll pay the price in your home’s energy bills every month. On the other hand, if you set the heater too low, the water might not get warm enough. Setting your heater below 120 degrees Fahrenheit can encourage bacteria growth in the stagnant water in the unit, especially Legionella, which can be pretty dangerous.

Every household has varying hot water requirements, impacting their ideal temperature settings. To know the temperature to set your water heater, you should consider several factors such as safety, health, and energy savings. Ultimately, the ideal temperature setting significantly depends on your preferences. Here are five useful tips to keep in mind before making that decision.

1. Sick and High-Risk Occupants

Water that is too hot can significantly affect people with skins sensitive to extreme temperatures. For instance, it only takes five seconds for young babies exposed to hot water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and two seconds at 150 degrees Fahrenheit to get third-degree burns. Lowering the temperature is safer for your child and also good for your energy bills. Experts recommend setting your water heater no higher than 130 degrees Fahrenheit if you’ve got an infant or children under three years in the house.

If your home has older adults, you should also follow the same rules and guidelines. That’s because the elderly are also prone to painful injuries and burns from exposure to water that’s too hoot. However, individuals with existing respiratory complications or suppressed immune systems can set hotter water temperatures to create more steam concentration in the air when bathing and kill off bacteria. Experts recommend setting the water heater temperature no higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit for the elderly, the sick, and those with suppressed immune systems if you don’t have children in your home.

2. The Number of People Living in Your Home

If you’ve got a big family full of individuals who love hot showers, you may probably feel like you’ll never have sufficient hot water for everyone. That’s because the occupants will use more hot water than cold water to get their desired temperatures. Everyone has their preferred temperature when taking showers, but you can easily adjust the temperature using the cold and hot water knobs. People who enjoy hotter showers use higher ratios of hot to cold water than those who prefer cooler showers. However, the temperature setting of your water heater will also influence the ratio.

If the water coming from the heater is hotter, the people will use more cold water and less hot water to attain their desired temperature. People will need less cold and more hot water to get their ideal temperatures when using cooler water heaters. You will also run out of hot water quickly if you set your water heater at a lower temperature.

For a bigger home with many people, you need to set your water heater at a higher temperature to make the hot water supply last longer. However, you can get away with lower temperature settings if you have a smaller home with fewer occupants. Experts recommend setting your water heater at 140 degrees Fahrenheit instead of 120 degrees if you experience high-traffic showering times. When you have back-to-back showers, the 20-degree temperature difference can significantly affect your hot water levels.

3. Your Energy-Efficient Appliances

Pre-heating home appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines are becoming popular in many homes. These machines take in water and later boost the temperatures to higher levels for better cleaning results. They raise the water temperatures without having to adjust your water heater settings. If you are due for a replacement or upgrade, consider purchasing a dishwasher or washing machine with a pre-heat system.

But if you don’t have an energy-efficient washing machine or dishwasher, consider setting your water heater temperature at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature setting will keep the water hot for your appliances and remain safe for other uses, provided you use adequate cold water to balance.

4. Energy Costs and Savings

It’s also a good idea to consider your energy bills before deciding the ideal temperature setting for your water heater. A water heater accounts for 14% to 18% of your total energy consumption. Although this rate sounds high, setting low water heater temperatures doesn’t guarantee you’ll always save some money. Reducing your heater’s temperature by 10 degrees can add up to 3% to 5% in savings. However, setting a lower temperature can encourage bacteria growth.

Although the standard setting for many water heating units is 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the Department of Energy recommends a temperature setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for energy savings. Unless there are people with respiratory complications in your house, 120 degrees Fahrenheit is warm enough for comfortable showers. Additionally, setting the heater’s temperature below the recommended setting allows you to save around 5% for each 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Adjusting your thermostat from 140 degrees to 120 degrees will help you save up to 10% on your energy bill. Investing in an energy-efficient heater with energy factors between 0.67 and 0.70 can also help reduce your home’s energy consumption. In addition, a smaller heater is a good idea since larger ones are more prone to heat loss.

5. Bacteria Growth and Occupant’s Well-being

Many water heater maintenance companies recommend setting your water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit for safe use and energy savings. However, this temperature setting can pose health problems for people with low or compromised immune systems since it supports bacteria growth. You can consider investing in a water tank booster to get the best from both worlds.

This device keeps the hot water in the tank at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, hindering the growth of bacteria and pathogens. The hot water later mixes with cold water, and when it comes out of your taps or faucets, it’s usually at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. A water tank booster makes a perfect solution for many American households.

Work With the Water Heater Experts

As we have seen, the best setting for a water heater is 120 degrees Fahrenheit, unless you have occupants with sensitive skin, like older adults and small children in your household. However, a temperature setting of 140 degrees Fahrenheit is more acceptable if you want to kill bacteria. Once you decide the ideal temperature setting for your household, you’ll need to regulate the temperature. You might need to consult the heater’s manual to know where to find the temperature setting on the unit.

If you are still wondering what temperature you should set your water heater, talk to our team of heating experts at C & C Heating & Air Conditioning. Our professionals can answer all your water heater-related questions and help end the constant fights over your thermostat. We also offer mini-split units, maintenance plans, air quality assessment, duct cleaning, air conditioning, emergency repairs, and furnace services in Detroit, MI, and its surroundings.

If you have problems adjusting your water heater setting, contact us, and we will be happy to serve you.

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