How to Set Water Heater Temperature

Setting water heater temperature
If you’re frustrated that you can’t get the shower as warm as you would like, or you worry because it feels like the water is at a painfully scalding temperature, you can do something about it. There’s no need to settle for a water heater that runs too hot or too cold. Achieve that just-right shower by learning how to set your water heater temperature safely and correctly—whether you have a gas water heater or an electric model.

Setting the Water Temperature: Know the Risks

Can something as simple as a water heater be dangerous? Yes, it can! There are risks involved in both the process of adjusting the water heater and the problem of water temperature that isn’t right. Any time you are dealing with electricity and water there is inherent risk. To protect yourself, make sure to follow any instructions for adjusting the temperature carefully and call on plumbing professionals if you aren’t sure what to do.

As for the water heater setting, it’s important to have the correct setting to avoid the following risks:

  • Bacterial Contamination

    If the water isn’t hot enough, it can be a breeding ground for bacteria like Legionella pneumophila, the source of Legionnaires’ disease, which is a dangerous lung infection.
  • Burns to the Skin

    If the water is too hot, it can result in scalding injuries to which children and the elderly are especially susceptible. At 150 degrees Fahrenheit, it takes less than two seconds to suffer third-degree burns. Anyone can be scalded but infants, young children, older adults and people with disabilities are more likely to experience burns, require hospitalization from a scald, and are likely to experience a more difficult recovery period than other people.

What is the right temperature setting for your water heater? The recommendation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is to set the temperature of your residential water heater at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Bacteria are less likely to survive at that temperature, and it is not hot enough to cause scalding. Plus, at 120 degrees, your water heater will be able to supply enough hot water for your family while promoting energy efficiency. However, depending on your home’s needs, you may require hotter water. Check with a plumbing professional for a recommendation if you aren’t sure.

7 Steps for How to Set Water Heater Temperature

If you are ready to adjust the temperature for your water heater, follow these steps.

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater at the home’s circuit breaker panel.
  2. Find the dial or thermostat for your water heater. The location of the dial will vary depending on the model and type of water heater. In most cases, you will find the dial behind an insulated panel. For an electric model, there are often two—one at the top of the tank and another at the bottom.
  3. If you are trying to determine how to set a gas water heater temperature, you should find the dial near the bottom of the tank. The temperature for gas water heaters is easier to adjust because you only turn the knob counterclockwise to increase the temperature, or clockwise to decrease it.
  4. For an electric model, you will need to access the dial behind the insulated panel. To do this, open the access panel using a flat-head screwdriver. Then, push aside the insulation covering and use the screwdriver to lower or raise the temperature to the desired range.
  5. If the water heater has two thermostats, make sure both are set to the same temperature.
  6. Replace the insulation and access panel once you are satisfied with the water temperature adjustment and restore power to the water heater.
  7. Always test the water temperature after adjusting the dial to ensure it is at a safe and appropriate temperature. Allow the water to heat to the new temperature setting, then run water from the tap until it is hot, and then catch some water in a cup and test the temperature with a cooking thermometer. Keep in mind it may take as long as an hour for the water to reach the new temperature after having the unit shut down.

Need Help Setting Your Water Heater Temperature? Call Mr. Rooter® Plumbing

If you would rather let the professionals handle the task of setting the water heater temperature or require other plumbing services, you can count on the local team of experts at Mr. Rooter Plumbing. We will be there when you need us to ensure you water is at an ideal temperature to meet your family’s needs. Call to schedule services or request an estimate online now.