As homeowners, we often overlook the importance of properly setting our hot water heater temperature. Though it may seem trivial, the hot water temperature plays a crucial role in our energy costs, comfort, and even safety. This blog post aims to help you understand the dynamics of hot water temperature and its implications.

Understanding Hot Water Temperature

When setting your water heater temperature, there’s a fine line between ensuring energy efficiency and ensuring a comfortable and safe home environment. The Department of Energy recommends a water heater temperature setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal energy usage and safety. However, personal preference and specific needs may require some deviation from this recommendation.

How Temperature Affects Energy Costs

One of the most notable impacts of hot water heater temperature is its effect on your energy bill. A higher setting on your water heater can increase energy costs because the heater must work harder to maintain a higher temperature. Conversely, lowering the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or even slightly below can save money by reducing energy consumption. It’s a balance of maintaining comfort while being mindful of your home’s energy usage.

Risk of Scalding and Degree Burns

Safety should always be a top priority when setting the temperature of your hot water heater. At 140 degrees, water can cause third-degree burns in just a few seconds, posing a significant risk of scalding. This risk is especially high for children, older adults, and those with a compromised immune system who may not react quickly to hot water.

While setting your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit reduces this risk, it’s still important to be mindful. Always check the temperature before stepping into a shower or bath to avoid any accidental burns.

The Balancing Act: Energy Efficiency and Comfort

To achieve both comfort and energy efficiency, you must understand your family’s hot water usage. If your household is large and uses a significant amount of hot water daily, you may need to adjust the temperature slightly higher to meet these needs without running out of hot water. Conversely, if your home consists of fewer people or if individuals have compromised immune systems, a lower temperature may be the safest and most energy-efficient option.

How to Check and Adjust Hot Water Heater Temperature

Regularly checking your hot water temperature is crucial. To do this, run the hot water from a tap closest to your water heater for at least three minutes. Then, using a cooking or meat thermometer, check the temperature of the water.

To adjust your water heater temperature, most tank have a dial on the unit that allows you to set your preferred temperature. If you’re unsure how to do this, refer to your owner’s manual or call a professional to help.

Cold Water Mixing

It’s also worth noting that mixing hot water with cold water in your fixtures can help achieve a comfortable temperature without increasing the risk of scalding. This practice is also beneficial for energy efficiency as it reduces the amount of hot water used, therefore lowering your energy bill.


In conclusion, setting your hot water heater temperature is a balancing act between comfort, energy efficiency, and safety. It’s crucial to understand how temperature affects your energy bill and the potential risks involved, such as scalding. Regularly checking and adjusting your water heater temperature setting can ensure a comfortable, safe, and cost-effective living environment. However, always remember that if you’re unsure about adjusting the temperature yourself, it’s best to call a professional for assistance. Your safety and comfort are paramount, so never hesitate to seek help when necessary.