Setting Your Hot Water Heater Thermostat

Jan 01, 2011

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hot water heater thermostat

Set your hot water heater thermostat to provide 120 degree-water and you'll save energy and money. If you have a tank heater, it works by keeping a reserve of water heated at all times for your convenience. Most manufacturers have the thermostat set to a default of 140 degrees, which is quite hot and not applicable to most residential needs. If you have an older dishwasher, check the owners' manual. Without a heat booster, you may be only be able to set your hot water heater thermostat to 130 degrees. Most new dishwashers can clean using 120-degree water.


Save Money: According to the US Department of Energy, for each 10-degree reduction in water temperature, you can save between three and five percent in energy costs, which can add up to $20-30 a year. Also, if you are going on vacation, why expend the energy having the water heater continuously heat water that will not be used? Turn your hot water heater thermostat off, or at least set in on the lowest temperature.

Go Green: You save over 170 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year by lowering your tank from 140 to 120 degrees.

Preserve Plumbing: If your hot water heater thermostat is set to 120 degrees, it will slow down mineral buildup and corrosion in your water heater and pipes, extending the life of both.

Safety: Setting your hot water heater thermostat to 120 degrees can prevent scalding. This should be on every parent's child-proofing checklist.


Anyone who can hold a screwdriver can perform this simple project. If you have a gas hot water heater, make sure you know how to safely relight the pilot light. Of course, it's best to consult your owners' manual, but if you don't know where it is, this is a general how-to for setting your hot water heater's thermostat.

1. Turn off the circuit breaker for the water heater at the electrical box. If it is not listed on the location sheet inside of the panel, be on the safe side and turn off all the power.

2. Remove the access panel on the water heater with a screwdriver.

3. Carefully remove the insulation.

4. There may be an upper and a lower heating unit, in which case there will be two thermostats behind two panels.

5. Set both, or one if that is all there is, to the same temperature using a flathead screwdriver. The US Department of Energy suggests that homeowners note the beginning temperature and adjusted temperature and check the tap temperature at the faucet farthest from the heater. Make adjustments until the desired tap temperature, in this case 120 degrees, is reached.

6. Replace insulation and access panel.

7. Turn the circuit breaker on.

Setting the hot water heater thermostat to produce 120-degree water is an easy way to save money and energy, as well as keep your family safe.

Author Anne Burkley is a writer from central Pennsylvania. She specializes in marketing writing and feature articles on health and home improvement. Want to ask Anne something about her article? Sendher a message.

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