Photo By goffkein.pro at Shutterstock
Your hot water heater accounts for around 18% of your total energy bill each month. Some people like to find ways to reduce their monthly bills. However, it’s not recommended to adjust your water heater too much to save on bills, even though it accounts for such a large portion of the energy bill.
The temperature of the hot water heater has to with more than just comfort – there is actually a safety component involved as well. Making sure that your hot water heater is set at an appropriate temperature can also help to prolong the life of your plumbing.
What’s the Optimal Hot Water Heater Temperature?
Most hot water heaters are set at the factory setting of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, but this isn’t necessarily the best temperature for it. The United States Department of Energy recommends that most people set the temperature at 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are some exceptions to that recommendation. For example, certain dishwashers require water that is 130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in order to work properly. Some have a booster heater that increases water to that temperature before it’s used to wash the dishes, but when that isn’t present, you need to be sure that your hot water heater is set to the proper temperature for the dishwasher.
What Happens If It’s Set Too Low?
There is a risk of the water heater being a breeding ground for illness-causing organisms, such as legionellae bacteria, if it is set below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. For this reason, it is recommended that you never allow the temperature to fall below that.
There is also a risk that’s present for people who have a compromised immune system if the water temperature is set too low. There is a chance that a small amount of illness-causing organisms might survive when the water is 120 degrees. Because of that, anyone who has a compromised immune system may need to set the temperature at 140 degrees to protect their health. Most people would agree that the health benefit outweighs the risk of the water temperature being set too high.
What Are the Risks of the Hot Water Heater Temperature Being Set Too High?
The primary risk that people face when they set the hot water heater too high is scalding. This is a huge problem for elderly individuals and households with younger children. It only takes five seconds for a child to end up with third-degree burns if the water temperature is 140 degrees. That time decreases to two seconds if the temperature is 150 degrees. The burns will only get worse with higher temperatures.
Higher water temperatures can also cause damage to the plumbing pipes in the home. Having it set too high can lead to mineral buildup in the plumbing and it can cause corrosion in the pipes. Those problems can also impact the hot water heater. This could mean that you have to replace the hot water heater and some plumbing pipes and fixtures prematurely.
How Does Water Heater Temperature Impact Energy Savings?
Setting the water temperature at 120 degrees instead of 140 degrees can result in a lower utility bill for you. It is estimated that the cost of operating the water heater decreases 4 to 22% when you make this change. This translates to a loss of $31 to $61 each year in standby heat loss and a whopping $400 or more in demand loss.
There are three types of energy factors that are associated with hot water heaters. These are present for all types, but might not be as pronounced for some as they are for others. All of these are considered when the energy usage information and the Energy Star rating are provided for a product.
Cycling loss: This is the amount of heat loss that occurs when the water is moving through the plumbing system, including within the hot water heater and out of the fixtures.
Recovery efficiency: This is how well the heat is transferred to the water. A more efficient unit takes less energy to heat the water, so it is less costly to operate.
Standby loss: This is how much heat is lost each hour when the hot water is stored. It is expressed as a percentage and is usually much higher for a storage tank-style hot water heater. There is a very slight loss with tankless units because the water isn’t stored in the unit, but there is a minuscule amount of water that remains in the system, which is why these units have this type of loss.
How Can You Check the Current Temperature?
Many people aren’t comfortable working on any part of the plumbing in their homes. You can contact bluefrog Plumbing + Drain to schedule an appointment to have the temperature in your hot water heater checked. We can help you to determine the proper temperature for your needs and get the setting fixed on the unit.
We can also install a mixing valve or a temperature regulation device into your plumbing system. This enables you to set the hot water heater at a higher temperature while reducing the risk of scalding. The unit mixes the hotter water from the hot water heater with cold water to produce water in the tap that’s closer to the 120-degree mark. This is often helpful for immunocompromised individuals and those who need to ensure that the water is hot enough to kill organisms in the hot water tank.
Our professionals can also help you with other plumbing projects and emergencies. Just give us a call at 1-844-HOP-TO-IT to get in touch with bluefrog Plumbing + Drain.