What’s the best water heater temperature setting

If you search online for the best water heater temperature setting you’ll find multiple answers. There will be many different arguments for and against a temperature setting. I doubt many studies have been done. But I can give you my two cents.

The best water heater temperature setting

After 27 years in the plumbing trade I’ve seen a lot. The temperature setting on your water heater is a personal decision. But what factors dictate the best water heater temperature setting.

  • Comfort – Your preference.
  • Water heater recovery – Lower temperature settings are easier to maintain.
  • Disease – Lower water heater temperature settings may promote disease.
  • Scalding – Children & special needs people can be scalded.
  • Energy efficiency – The hotter the temperature the lower the efficiency.
  • Calcification – The higher the temperature the faster hard water deposits in the tank.

My professional opinion is 120 degrees.

Why set your water heater temperature setting to 120 degrees

As a plumber I’ve found that most people can be comfortable with a hot water temperature of 120 degrees. If you want a hotter shower just take shorter showers and set the temp higher.

Most manufacturers recommend a setting of 120 degrees for the calculated recovery time. This just means the water heater will keep up better at this temperature.

I’ve not heard of anyone in my customer base getting ill due to a low water heater temperature setting. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. But it’s pretty unlikely.

The reason I usually mention for keeping the temperature setting to 120 degrees is to protect kids from scalding themselves. This also applies to seniors & disabled folks.

I know that energy efficiency kind of goes out the window when you’re only talking about 3 to 5 percent savings over a year for every 10 degrees lower it’s set. But we all do want to be environmentally responsible where we can.

The other important reason I mention for keeping your water heater temperature at the manufacturers recommended setting is it will extend the life of your water heater. The hotter it’s set the faster hard water deposits in the bottom of gas water heaters or on the electric water heater heating elements.

How do you set your water heater temperature

It can be difficult to adjust the temperature on a standard water heater. If I’ve ever worked on your homes plumbing you’ve probably heard me snivel about plumbing manufacturer engineers. They just don’t seem to be able to translate their ideas to real world problems. So they over complicate a simple thing. Plumbing is simple. Plumbers are simple. Let’s keep it that way. But for now, lets look at how to adjust the temperature on your standard water heater.

How to adjust the temperature on an electric water heater

An electric water heater actually has two temperature settings. They have an upper and lower heating element. And so they have an upper and lower thermostat. And although they’re made unnecessarily difficult to access, they do at least put numbers on the dials. You’ll need to remove an upper and lower tin cover. Set both thermostats to the same temperature: 120 degrees.

How to adjust the temperature on a gas water heater

For some reason unknown to me manufacturers insist on making this complicated. If you look at the gas valve at the base of your gas water heater you’ll see the round temperature dial. The labels on them aren’t in degrees. Instead they have either arrows or letters. As a rule, line the arrows up with each other or set the arrow on hot. The “A”, “B”, and “C” settings above that are higher temperatures in 10 degree increments.

When to adjust your water heater

A water heater should normally just be left alone. The plumber that installs water heaters will set it up. But if you’re leaving your home for an extended period it might be worth setting the temperature to its lowest setting. It’ll save you money. And sometimes if it’s an exceptionally cold winter you might want to raise the water temperature up 10 degrees to compensate for the colder water supply.

Who to call for water heater repair and installations

You’ll find that other trades advertise water heater installation and repairs. But if you want a qualified water heater tradesman, call a plumber. We know how to install and repair water heaters. We also know why it’s done that way. There are many safety considerations. For more information check out the Advocate Master Plumbing water heater services page.

Thermostatic mixing valve

Thermostatic Mixing Valve

A thermostatic mixing valve is a lesser known water heater option. At Advocate Master Plumbing we’ve installed and serviced many of these valves. After reading this plumbing article you can call for an estimate.

What’s a thermostatic mixing valve?

A thermostatic mixing valve or hot water mixing valve is a valve that mixes hot and cold water to ensure a consistent temperature. It can be installed for a single faucet or for a whole home hot water heating system. In a residential setting they are normally installed on the water heater.

What are the advantages of a hot water mixing valve?

water heater capacity
Thermostatic mixing valve

A hot water mixing valve can have a couple of advantages for a homeowner. The most popular being you can increase the output of your water heater. Install it and you can turn the temperature setting above 140 degrees. Then by setting the mixing valve temperature to 120 degrees you’ve raised the water heater capacity. This is a less expensive  alternative to a larger water heater or dual water heating system.

Another advantage is scald prevention. If you have young children or a developmentally handicapped loved one in your home there’s always a possibility of scalding. But if you set the mixing valve temperature below 120 degrees then you’ve avoided that scald hazard.

water heater tempering valve
Water Heater Tempering Valve

What are the disadvantages of mixing valves?

A hot water mixing valve can also have some problems. The first one being that you’ll need a professional to install it. This means they can be an expensive hot water heater accessory. When you’re cross-connecting your hot and cold water you need to be very careful. And soldering is usually involved. So a master plumber is recommended.

Another disadvantage is that they are sensitive to hard water. Since there is a rubber diaphragm and seals and multiple screens, debris and hard water deposits can foul it’s workings. So maintenance is necessary.

Lastly, it’s really not a good idea to turn your water heater temperature up to much beyond the manufacturers recommended 120 degrees. The more you heat water the more hard water deposits will accrue on the bottom of the tank. This can age it more quickly. But you can avoid this by flushing your water heater annually.

Lees Summit hot water mixing valve installation

If you’re in Lees Summit and want a hot water mixing valve installed, call Advocate Master Plumbing. We’ve installed, repaired and serviced thermostatic valves such as the Cash Acme Tank Booster in residential homes and in commercial applications. When you want a local plumber and don’t want to break the bank call your homeowners advocate. We’ll evaluate your specific needs and make the best recommendations. Remember you’ll always get a master plumber at your door when you call us.

Thermal expansion tank installation

Thermal Expansion Tanks

Thermal expansion tanks prevent excessive water pressure build up from your hot water heater. This is basic plumbing knowledge if you’re a plumber. But since moving to Lees Summit I find myself frequently explaining this to my plumbing customers. So lets explore it.

What is thermal expansion

Water heaters don’t just heat your water. They also create pressure. When you heat water it expands. When it expands it wants to move backwards through the water pipes. But if you have something blocking this backward water flow the expansion will quickly create pressure. That’s thermal expansion.

What is a thermal expansion tank

A thermal expansion tank is a small tank, usually three to five gallons, that attaches to the cold water inlet pipe of your water heater.

excessive water pressure, leaking water heater, relief valve
Thermal expansion tank cutaway

Inside the tank is a rubber bladder that’s pressurized with air. So on one end of the tank is the rubber air bladder. And on the other end is a water connection. When connected to your hot water heater, water will push against the rubber bladder inside the expansion tank. The water pressure and air pressure should be equal. This will create a static cushion. When thermal expansion occurs it will allow the water room to expand instead of building excessive water pressure.

 

Do I need a thermal expansion tank

The ONLY time you need a thermal expansion tank on your water heater is when there is a device blocking water from flowing backwards in your water pipes. And even then, these devices could have bypass valves installed to allow for thermal expansion. That’s where the judgement of your plumber comes into play. The only such devices most Lees Summit homeowners will come across are water pressure regulating valves and check valves.

Lees Summit hot water heater, thermal expansion tank
How thermal expansion tanks work

A quality water pressure regulating valve will have a built-in bypass valve. This valve will allow water that exceeds city water pressure to bypass the valve and flow back into the city water supply. But if the city water pressure is too high this bypass won’t help much.

A check valve is sometimes installed on a water meter by the city. They do this to protect the drinking water system from back-siphonage. You’ll definitely need a water heater thermal expansion tank in this circumstance. But there are some symptoms of thermal expansion for which you can check.

Symptoms of thermal expansion

Finding thermal expansion in a home usually isn’t too difficult. The first place I look is the water heater. An intermittently leaking water heater relief valve is a sure sign. The relief valve will eventually stick open and leak all the time.

A sudden surge of faucet water pressure that quickly dissipates is another sign to look for. If you have a solid plumbing system with no leaking fixtures or appliances, pressure builds up. When a faucet or toilet is used this pressure quickly equalizes.

The usual signs of excessive water pressure are also to be expected. This could mean banging pipes, high water velocity noises or plumbing fixtures or appliances wearing out too soon.

Who installs thermal expansion tanks

Plumbers install thermal expansion tanks. You’ll hear air conditioning and heating contractors or handymen advertising for them. But many times they don’t know how they work. You wouldn’t hire a landscaper to work on your car. Only hire a plumber to work on your plumbing. Call your local Lees Summit hot water heater specialists at Advocate Master Plumbing. We not only know how to install plumbing. We know how and why it works.

retrofit hot water heat loop

Retrofit Hot Water Heat Loop

In this post we’re going to discuss the retrofit hot water heat loop. Previously we’ve discussed two types of hot water heat loops: Standard hot water heat loops & Gravity hot water heat loops (Thermosyphons). There is a 3rd option that can be installed in any home. It’s the retrofit hot water heat loop. Many of my Lees Summit plumbing customers are enjoying instant hot water because of this system.

What’s retrofit hot water heat loop mean?

Retrofit means to add to something that’s already been manufactured. In this case, it means to add a hot water heat loop to a home that’s already been built. This implies that the plumbing system wasn’t originally designed for the heat loop. A retrofit heat loop can be installed regardless of the homes design. The most commonly installed brand in Lees Summit is the Grundfos Comfort System.

The Grundfos Comfort System

A Grundfos Comfort System is a standard hot water heat loop without the extra pipe. There’s no need to install a pipe from the bottom of the water heater to the furthest hot water fixture in your home. Instead, a low flow hot water recirculating pump is installed on the hot water side of your existing water heater. Then the hot and cold water pipes are connected at the furthest plumbing fixture using a bimetal blade bypass valve. This system enables any homeowner to install a hot water heat loop.

Hot water heat loop, retrofit
Grundfos Comfort System

 

Pros & Cons of the Grundfos Comfort System

The Pros of the Grundfos Comfort System are the reason for it’s popularity over the years. Those are:

  • Instant hot water
  • Water waste is minimized
  • No need for access to the plumbing pipes
  • No need to insulate the hot water pipes
  • The low wattage pump uses very little electricity
  • A whisper quiet pump with a built in timer

retrofit hot water heat loop

And the Cons are:

  • Initial upfront cost ($850 – $1,100)
  • An outlet is needed near the water heater
  • Bypass valves need replacing every few years
  • Cold water side of fixture with bypass valve has a short burst of warm water

Where to get a retrofit hot water heat loop system

The Grundfos system can be purchased online, at many home stores or professional plumbing supply stores. But due to the type of skill needed to install the pump, you better leave it to the plumbing professionals to install the system. It’s a pretty straight forward install. But a lot can go wrong if you don’t have the plumbing chops to handle it. So call Advocate Master Plumbing. We’re your local Lees Summit hot water heater specialists near you.

 

hot water heat loop, Lees Summit Plumber, hot water pump

Standard Hot Water Heat Loop

After moving to Lees Summit, Missouri I needed to install a hot water heat loop. My wife didn’t want to wait for the water to get hot at the kitchen sink faucet. My house was already built but I had a basement and access to all the water piping. So of the three options for a hot water heat loop I chose a thermosyphon. However, if you have a new home build or an unfinished basement, you can install a standard hot water heat loop.

hot water heat loop, Lees Summit Plumber, hot water pump
Standard hot water heat loop

3 Types of Hot Water Heat Loop

We began this discussion in my previous post. Generally, there are 3 types of hot water heat loop. Without wandering into solar energy or wind energy these three options are the most common.

  1. Standard hot water heat loop – An extra hot water pipe & pump.
  2. Retrofit hot water heat loop – A pump with a cross connection on hot & cold water pipes.
  3. Thermosyphon – An extra hot water pipe circulating hot water using convection.

Standard heat loop

In this post we’ll be discussing the standard heat loop. For this type of hot water heat loop you’ll need access to all hot water pipes. These are usually installed during home construction.

Standard hot water heat loop construction

In a home there is normally a cold water pipe that enters the home from the city utility provider. From this point it’s distributed throughout the home. Where hot water is needed the cold water will be directed into a heating appliance such as a hot water heater. From there the water will be heated and a second configuration of piping will distribute hot water to various plumbing fixtures.

Standard heat loop components

A standard heat loop is installed at the base of the water heater & run to the point of usage; usually the furthest plumbing fixture from the water heater. To install this you’ll need the following:

  1. A hot water pump
  2. An extra run of piping
  3. A check valve
  4. Two water shut offs
  5. Various pipe connections

For any of these parts you can go to Reeves – Wiedeman plumbing parts.

How a standard hot water heat loop is installed

At the base of a water heater is a drain valve. You’ll need to install a tee connection between this drain valve and the water heater. Then install a water shut off on the tee’d branch. Then, in a horizontal direction of flow install a check valve. This will prevent inadvertent backward flow. Then the hot water pump is to be installed. Then a second water shutoff is to be installed. The check valve and pump are between the water shut offs so that maintenance may be performed as needed. Then the pipe is run to the furthest plumbing fixture. The pipe is tied into to the hot water pipe closest to the furthest fixture.

How a hot water heat loop works

A heat loop is a second hot water pipe that leads from the furthest plumbing fixtures hot water pipe to the base of the water heater. A pump will draw water from the hot water pipe and circulate it toward the bottom or coldest part of the water heater. This will maintain the temperature in the main hot water pipe and therefore allow almost instant hot water at that particular plumbing fixture. And the other hot water branch lines will get hot faster when used. The check valve will prevent backward flow if a pump fails or during maintenance. The water shutoffs will allow for maintenance without draining the water heater.

In Conclusion

I never realized how much water I wasted when waiting for the kitchen faucet to get hot. And the other plumbing fixtures get hot much more quickly too. A hot water heat loop is good for the environment. It also saves money. Does it pay for itself? I don’t know. But I think so. But even if it doesn’t it’s a luxury that is good and is justified. If you find yourself waiting too long for the water to get hot give your local Lees Summit plumber a call. We’ll save you money and improve the efficiency of your hot water heater system. Advocate Master Plumbing is the homeowners advocate.