When you need warm water, you probably turn on the hot water tap without a second thought. The hot water coming through your tap is fully customizable and with good reason. If the water is too hot, you risk scalding. If it’s too low, you might shiver through your showers. When you learn to adjust your water heater, you can make your hot water as warm or as cool as you prefer.

Reasons to Change Your Water Heater Temperature

When your water heater is installed, the serviceperson will typically set it at a mid-range temperature. However, this temperature setting doesn’t work for everyone. You might want to raise or lower the temperature to suit your personal preferences.

Even if you are currently satisfied with the current temperature of your hot water, you might still consider changing it for a variety of reasons. In some cases, you might be concerned about safety. Families with young children or elderly members often lower the temperature to reduce the risk of accidental scalds. Lowering the water heater temperature can also help you save energy. When your water heater doesn’t have to raise the water temperature as much, it uses less electricity or gas during the process.

Raising your water heater temperature might also have some perks. If your water heater is located far from your kitchen or bathroom, raising the heat ensures the water is still warm by the time it reaches you. A higher temperature can also kill legionella and other bacteria, which makes it safer for immunocompromised people. Finally, higher water temperatures can make it easier to wash dishes and laundry especially if your washing machine does not have a pre-heat option.

What Temperature Should You Set Your Water Heater?

Most water heaters can heat water to a temperature range somewhere between 90 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit. However, manufacturers often provide preset temperatures from which their customers can choose, These may be listed as “A,” “B,” and “C,” or they might use settings like “Low” to “High” or “Warm” to “Hot.” You can check your water heater manual to see what temperatures match which settings to make your decision a little easier.

Typically, you should not set your water heater below 120 degrees unless you are going on vacation or will not be using the water for bathing or drinking. Higher temperatures discourage bacterial growth. If water is held at lower temperatures for too long, Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease, and other bacteria can begin to grow. If you have family members who are immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable, OSHA recommends setting your tank to 140 degrees to further reduce the risk of potentially dangerous bacteria.

With higher temperatures come other risks, though, and once you are heating your water above 130 degrees, the risk of scalding can increase. Water heated above 140 degrees can cause third-degree burns.

You might need to work with the adjustments to find the best temperature for your needs and comfort level while keeping basic safety precautions in mind. Choose the maximum or minimum temperature you need, and then tweak the heater temperature to see how temperatures in this range feel. To save energy, it’s often best to go with the lowest possible temperature that is still safe and feels comfortable.

How to Adjust Your Water Heater Temperature

Adjusting your water heater is fairly straightforward. Once you get used to doing it, you’ll find that it’s a quick task you can perform in seconds. Start by turning off the power to the water tank. This is important because it reduces the risk of shock hazards or other problems when you’re opening up your water heater. If you have an electric heater, you can turn off the power at the circuit breaker. With a gas heater, you’ll need to turn the gas valve to the off position.

Once the power is off, open the access panel for the water heater thermostat. This varies a lot depending on what model you have. Some have a small door you flip up while others might have a flat piece of metal you have to remove. If you are unsure where the thermostat is located, consult your manual for more details.

You can adjust the thermostat as needed once it is exposed. Modern models are usually designed to make this easy. Some have knobs that you simply need to turn and click into position. Older models may be more complicated, requiring you to insert a flathead screwdriver into a slot to rotate the thermostat. Keep in mind that some tanks have two thermostats that will need to be reset. To ensure all heating elements are used evenly, set the top thermostat a few degrees warmer than the bottom one.

After you have adjusted the thermostat according to your preference, you will simply need to replace the access panel and turn the tank back on. If you have a gas tank, you will need to relight the pilot light as well. The tank will need to run for a few hours to heat the water accordingly, and within three hours, you should be able to turn the hot water on and experience the full effect of the new temperature setting. Holding a cooking thermometer in your hot water will let you accurately measure the tank’s temperature. You can also test by carefully touching the water and seeing whether it feels comfortable.

What to Do If Adjusting the Temperature Doesn’t Make a Difference

If you have adjusted your water tank and the water is still not reaching the appropriate temperature, the water heater itself might be the problem. If your tank is just a little too cold, sediment might be clogging the tank. You can fix this issue by draining and flushing the tank according to the manual instructions or having your water tank serviced. If your tank isn’t heating at all, you might need to replace the heating element or schedule a diagnostic service call.

What if your tank is not too cold but rather heating excessively? This can happen, too, and it is most commonly due to a broken heating element, which is stuck in the “on” position. Other potential culprits can be a stuck pressure relief valve or a faulty tempering valve. Occasionally, your tank adjustment might not work simply because the thermostat is broken. Whatever the reason, a water tank that won’t stay at a comfortable temperature is usually a sign that the tank is broken and needs repairs.

Anchor Plumbing Services is here to help San Antonio residents with all their plumbing needs. We’re happy to examine your water heater and help you get a comfortable temperature for your home. Our team also provides a variety of other installations, repairs, and maintenance services. We can help with everything from toilet installations to sewer line repairs. To schedule a visit with Anchor Plumbing Services, give us a call now.

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