Adjusting Your Hot Water Heater Temperature

It takes a lot of energy to heat water. Water can also be very dangerous at higher temperatures (see scald chart). If you can't hold your hand under the hot water from your tap your hot water heater temperature setting needs to be adjusted.

Hot Water Heater Temperature Setting Dial

In just a few minutes, you can change the water heater temperature, making it one of the fastest ways to reduce your home energy bills.

The hot water heater temperature setting is controlled by a thermostat located on the heater. For most heaters it's just a dial with Hot and Warm listed.

In most cases, you can just turn the dial to the desired temperature. For energy efficiency, comfort, and safety, 120° Fahrenheit (about 49°C) is recommended by the US Department of Energy. Some people like it a bit higher.

Most hot water heaters don't have the actual degrees marked. If you have a thermometer (a cooking thermometer works fine) you can check it at the tap. Let the water run for a bit before testing—perhaps test after a shower.

Hot Water Heater - BottomTo adjust the temperature of the hot water, just turn the dial towards the lower setting. Use your best judgment but don't go overboard. You may need to make another adjustment later to get it perfect.

Note: once you change the setting it can take a number of hours for the water in the tank to adjust. This may mean you need to make several adjustments over a few days. But each adjustment is pretty quick. Leave a thermometer by the shower as a reminder.

If your hot water heater doesn't look like the one in this article you may want to visit this site for a very, very detailed description of adjusting your hot water heater temperature settings.

Other Things to Check

While you are near your water heater there are two other things you should check.

1. Put your hand on the water heater tank. If it's warm you'll want to consider getting a water heater jacket.

2. Touch the pipes leading away from the water heater. If one is warm you should get some pipe insulation. It's cheap and easy to install (takes 10 minutes). Not only does it save energy, it really makes a difference in how quickly warm water gets to your faucets.

Note: You can always turn your hot water heater down when you are away on vacation (that is, if your family came with you). Anything over a week is worth doing.

See more things you can do around your home.