Gas and electric water heater temperatures are set at the factory, but can be adjusted for your own preferences with only a couple of tools. If you have already set the temperature and are saying to yourself, “I have no hot water” or not enough of it, there are a few factors that may be affecting the heat. If all else fails, the heating element may be failing, and needs to be replaced.
How To Check Your Water Heater Temperature
Most water heaters do not have a temperature gauge with a readout. Instead, the thermostat is marked with temperatures or heating ranges. To find out the hot water heater temperature, you will need a cup and a cooking thermometer.
Allow the water heater to sit for a minimum of one hour without using it, and then turn on the faucet closest to the water heater. Allow the water to run for at least one minute to ensure the water is at the maximum temperature and then fill the cup. Insert your cooking thermometer, and then adjust the settings as desired.
Recommended Temperature Settings
Water heaters are factory set at OSHA recommended levels, around 140 degrees. On the other hand, the EPA suggests turning the thermostat down to 120 to reduce power consumption, and a booster heater to reach sanitizing temperatures at select outlets.
From the personal point of view, lower temperatures are better for households with small children, while higher temperatures are more efficient at cleaning and sanitizing.
Personally, I believe a water heater should be set to 130 degrees in almost all cases. It’s low enough to prevent scalding yet hot enough to kill off harmful bacteria.
How To Turn Up Your Water Heater
You can adjust hot water heater settings to get more hot water if you are unhappy with the recommended temperature. Hot water heater settings are easy to adjust, although electric heaters will require a screwdriver and possibly a small wrench or socket.
Keep in mind that the thermostat is factory preset to a recommended temperature and changing the setting may increase the potential for serious burns.
How to Set Temperature on a Gas Water Heater
Gas water heaters have a setting knob that can be turned to adjust the temperature. Turning the knob towards the “HOT” or “VERY HOT” setting moves closer to 140 degrees. The “Vacation” setting does not heat water, but keeps the pilot light ignited.
How to Set Temperature on an Electric Water Heater
Turn off the circuit breaker. Remove the access panels. Locate the thermostat adjustment beneath the insulation. Using a straight screwdriver, adjust the thermostat control towards the desired temperature. Replace the insulation and panels, then restore power. Here’s a good video showing the process:
Factors That Affect Water Temperature
Some factors that may affect your hot water temperature are the distance from the water heater to the outlet, how the pipes are installed, and the condition of the heating element itself. Small bore pipes and long distances will require longer times for the hot water to reach the opening, for example, and pipes that run beneath or outside the home may be subject to winter or summer conditions.
If you have a large house, you may want to look into installing a hot water recirculation system which can mean less time to get hot water in all outlets of the house and well as substantial cost savings over time. If adjusting the thermostat still doesn’t give you the right temperature, it may be time to replace the water heater element. If you don’t notice a difference in water temperature after adjusting the thermostat, it’s also possible you may have a faulty thermostat that needs replacing.