Having constant access to hot water is crucial, ensuring you can shower, do dishes, and clean up as needed. The temperature you set your water heater to makes a difference in sanitization and how much energy the unit uses. Many experts recommend setting your water heater to a slightly higher temperature in the winter. This article will explain the importance of water heater temperature and how to determine the right setting.

Minimum and Maximum Water Heater Temperatures

The lowest setting on most water heaters corresponds to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, always leave your water heater set to at least 120 degrees. If the temperature is below 120 degrees, there is a high risk of dangerous pathogens like Legionella virus starting to grow. Legionella can survive in temperatures up to 122 degrees, so set your water heater to 125 degrees just to be safe.

Setting the temperature higher will help in terms of cleaning and sanitization. Most water heaters can reach 160 degrees, but experts recommend never setting your unit higher than 140 degrees. If the water is any hotter than this, it can easily scald you. For homes with young children, you’re better off setting the temperature no higher than 125 degrees to lessen the risk of your kids getting burned.

Suppose you are concerned about sanitization or have individuals in your household with weakened immune systems. In that case, the Department of Energy recommends using a temperature of 140 degrees. Another thing to consider is whether or not your dishwasher preheats the water it uses. If your dishwasher doesn’t preheat, set your water heater to 140 degrees to improve efficiency and thoroughly sanitize your dishes.

Is It Necessary To Turn up the Temperature on a Water Heater in Winter?

The ground can get extremely cold during the winter. In colder months, the water flowing from your main line to your home tends to be notably chillier compared to the warmer seasons. The colder the water, the more your water heater has to labor to bring it to the desired temperature. This problem is most pronounced with tank water heaters, as the colder water will lead to the temperature of the water in the tank decreasing more than usual.

This issue is why many plumbers recommend setting your water heater to a slightly higher temperature any time the weather is freezing. However, whether or not you should turn the temperature up during extreme cold spells depends on what temperature you usually have your unit set to. If your typical water heater temperature is 120-125 degrees, consider raising it by approximately 10 degrees in colder months for optimal performance. If you already have your unit set to 140 degrees, you want to stay the same, or else your water will be too hot and could burn you. If you have a tankless water heater, there’s no reason to adjust the temperature in the winter.

During winter, the impact of increasing the water heater temperature on energy usage is mitigated due to the colder water supply. If you deplete all the hot water, the unit will take longer to heat up, leading to increased energy consumption, especially if you have set the temperature higher. However, if you only use a small amount of hot water, having the unit set higher will often lead to using less energy to reheat the cold water and refill the tank. The hotter the water in the tank is, the less the temperature will decrease when cold water enters the tank.

How Temperature Affects How Much Energy a Water Heater Uses

A water heater averages around 15% of a home’s energy consumption. The water heater’s effectiveness dramatically relies on the temperature at which it is set. Increasing the temperature by 10 degrees will bring roughly a 3-5% rise in your water heater’s energy consumption. This slight rise in consumption means you always want to balance temperature and energy consumption.

If you’re having issues with your water not getting hot enough or your hot water running out too quickly, you can count on Affinity Plumbing and Water Conditioning for help. We offer professional water heater maintenance and repair services, and our plumbers work on both tank and tankless units. For more information on our water heater services or if you need any other plumbing service in the Shakopee area, give us a call today.

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