Common Mistakes When Lowering the Water Heater Temperature (and ways to correct them)

Common mistakes when lowering the water heater temperature

You’d probably think that lowering your water heater doesn’t involve any technical knowledge. But surprisingly, even though it’s not rocket science, many people are still committing mistakes, some of which are downright dangerous, by this we mean accidents that require a trip to the ER.


Most Common Water Heater Mistakes

The list below explains the most common mistakes when lowering the water heater temperature and the corresponding ways to fix them.

Turning the heat up for the winter

You might be tempted to turn the heat up for the winter, a common mistake that can lead to devastating injuries. A good rule of thumb is to set your water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or slightly below to prevent skin burns.

Meanwhile, exposing your skin to a water temperature set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit in just three seconds is enough to cause significant burns that require surgery.

In addition, a temperature that is too high also forces your water heater to work more than necessary, resulting in higher electricity bills and a shorter lifespan. However, it doesn’t mean that you should set it too low, which also comes with its own risk: Legionella bacteria.

This bacterium is commonly found in natural freshwater sources like rivers and lakes in very low numbers. While many people exposed to it don’t develop symptoms, those who do often experience shortness of breath, fever, chills, headache, and cough.

Turning the heat up to kill the bacteria

One of the most common mistakes when using a water heater is turning the heat up with the intent to kill the bacteria or eliminate the sulfur or rotten egg smell.

Take note that you need to raise the temperature to over 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill the bacteria. However, this comes with a caveat: It can result in a burn injury that is enough to send you to the hospital.

To reiterate, 120 degrees Fahrenheit (or slightly below) is the Goldilocks temperature.

Meanwhile, turning up the heat does not eliminate the sulfur smell from the hot water and may even worsen the problem. To address this, there are several options available.

Sanitize the pipes with hydrogen peroxide or chlorine bleach.
Replace the old galvanized iron with copper piping.
Install a special anode.

Turning off the water heater when not in use

According to Patrick’s Hot Water, a water heater and repair installation expert, homeowners should only turn it off if they’re going on vacation for at least a month.

Turning your water heater on/off frequently won’t result in significant energy savings and may even cause more problems, such as putting unnecessary stress on the water heater because it needs to heat an entire tank of cold water constantly.


Related articles:


To see “real” savings, try these tips instead:

  • Insulate your water heater. Most modern tanks don’t need extra insulation, specifically those with a high R-value. But if it’s below 24, most professionals agree that the tanks should be insulated. If your tank is warm to the touch, it means that it loses its heat, causing the unit to work extra hard.
  • Set the water temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to cut energy cost by 4-22% annually. According to previous surveys, water heater units account for 25% of the US households’ energy consumption.
  • Flush your water heater at least once a year. The goal here is to remove the sediment buildup, which can damage your unit and result in higher energy bills if left unchecked.

(Note: If it’s been a while since your unit has been flushed, it’s better to hire a professional to do the draining than resort to DIY.)



To learn more about water heater maintenance, call Patrick’s Hot Water at (916) 824-5131. Since 2001, they have been serving homeowners from Rocklin, Granite Bay, Roseville, Loomis, Lincoln, and nearby areas.


Related articles: