There seems to be a common misconception that the maximum temperature allowable for a water heater is 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
This idea is compounded by the safety warnings on some water heaters informing owners that temperatures in excess of 125 degrees can cause serious injuries and death.
Similarly, there are plumbing codes capping the maximum temperature flowing from the fixture for showers, tubs, etc. at 120 degrees.
The maximum temperature at your fixture may be much different than the temperature applied to the water heater.
For more information about hot water safety, scalding and how different age groups can be affected, you can read this article by the American Burn Association .
A general recommendation is that you should place a temperature gauge at the point of lowest hot water temperature – usually just before the hot water return.
This should be monitored and maintained at 124 degrees, and the water tank temperature adjusted accordingly. However, this technique can lead to higher water temperatures a potential risk for scalding.
Thus, it is important to approach this method with caution and potentially vary the water heater temperature based on the age of the occupants (as children and elderly are most at risk) and the type of water heater in place.
Homes equipped with gas or oil water heaters should adjust to the lower end of the safe temperature spectrum – closer to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Homeowners of residential electric water heaters can run the temperatures toward the higher range.
In both cases, it is recommended to install anti-scald devices liberally – especially in cases where there are small children and elderly in residence.
Contact Hawthorne Plumbing, Heating & Cooling for your annual water heater tune-up.
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