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How Do You Set Your Water Heater Temperature?

With record low temperatures around the country right now, let’s re-explore how you set your water heater temperature.

Have you noticed that you can’t get your shower as hot as you want? Or do you feel like sometimes the water gets to a painfully hot temperature? You can do something about it! Don’t settle for a water heater that doesn’t perform the way you want.

Before you set your temperature, however, you need to know that there are some risks. Yes, water temperature can be a dangerous thing! If the water isn’t hot enough, it can be a cesspool of bacteria. Legionella pneumophila thrives in water temperatures that aren’t hot enough. If you make it too hot, you can accidentally have water that scalds your skin. It only takes 2-3 seconds for a person to suffer third-degree burns.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that the optimal temperature for a water heater is 120 degrees. This is hot enough to kill bacteria, but not so hot that it will scald you.

With that out of the way, here are 7 steps to setting your water heater temperature:

  1. Turn off power to the heater at the circuit breaker panel
  2. Find the dial or thermostat on the heater. It’s usually located behind an insulated panel. If you have an electric heater, you probably have two—one each at the top and bottom
  3. To determine the temperature, find a dial near the bottom of the tank. It’s easy to adjust—counterclockwise to increase the temperature or clockwise to decrease it. If your heater is electric, the dial is likely behind an insulated panel.
  4. Does your heater have two thermostats? Make sure you set them both to the same temperature!
  5. Test the water temperature after you’ve adjusted it to make sure it’s at a safe level. Go to a sink and let the water run until it gets as hot as it can. Collect some in a cup and then use a thermometer to check the temperature. It may take your heater almost an hour for it to reach the new temperature.
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