If it feels like it takes your shower ages before the water is hot enough for you to step in, it may be time to make a couple of adjustments to your water heater. Most water heater manufacturers set the temperature at 140°F. However, if you’ve just moved into a new home or adjusted the temperature when you purchased the unit, checking and changing the setting is easy.
Check Water Heater Temperature
The Department of Energy generally recommends having your tank-based hot water heater set to 120°F, but there are some factors that could warrant a change. Before you increase the temperature, consider other family members in the home. If you have young children, it’s not advised to increase the water heater temperature higher than 120°F for risk of scalding. Plus, leaving the water heater at a lower setting can save you up to $400 each year in utility costs.
To find out your water heater’s current setting, locate the temperature dial. Depending on the style of unit you own, it could have a numbered dial or range from “warm” to “hot.”
For the dials with no specific temperature setting, you’ll need to check the temperature of your water with a thermometer. A food thermometer is best. Fill a glass with water and immediately stick the thermometer in the water. If you need to make an adjustment to the water heater based on the result, move the dial only slightly. Even a small shift can cause a noticeable difference. You’ll need to wait about three hours before retesting the temperature to give your unit time to make the temperature adjustment.
Should I Increase Water Heater Temperature?
If you feel the temperature isn’t as hot as it should be, consider these elements that may indicate it’s time to increase the dial a small amount:
- Multiple people living in the home
- Several water appliances often run simultaneously (shower, dishwasher, washing machine)
- The water heater temperature is set lower than 120°F (This should not be the case. Setting the temperature lower than 120°F promotes mold and bacteria growth in your water heater tank.)
While age and continuous use will create natural wear on your water heater, routine inspections and maintenance can help extend the life of the unit.
Sediment Buildup May Limit Hot Water
If the water temperature in your home doesn’t seem to change even when you increase the temperature, you may need to service your unit. Sediment builds up in the water heater tank over time, and can eventually settle at the bottom of the tank. When someone in your home turns on the faucet expecting hot water, the water heater must first warm the sediment before it can reach the water in the tank. The result is a longer wait for hot water that never seems to last long enough.
To avoid the added strain on your unit, schedule for your local plumber to flush out the water heater once a year. By draining the sediment, the unit can continue to work properly and can last longer since it’s not trying as hard to heat the water.