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.