water: how hot is too hot?

138ºF  water. Scalding hot. Waste-of-energy hot. Hurts-my-hands-to-wash-dishes hot. Risky-to-jump-in-the-shower hot.

Sure, it’s better than the other way around–no hot water–but my guess was the water heater in my house was set too high.

The recommended temp is 120 F. It’s good from a utility perspective (for dishwashers and clothes washers) and for safety, especially for children. Also, for each 10ºF reduction in water temperature, you can save between 3%–5% in energy costs (source: EERE).

As part of the Green@Home housecall last week, the volunteers measured the hot water temperature–in the kitchen faucet, which is closest to the water heater–with a candy thermometer. 138ºF. Needless to say, we needed to turn that heater down!

The gas water heater was set at HOT, the highest setting. Some heaters actually have the (approximate) temperature on the gauge, but since this one doesn’t, we turned it down two notches. I felt no change in shower temperature comfort, and had an easier time washing dishes. The new temp? 126ºF.  Need to turn the dial down another half-notch, but for now, the 12ºF difference should mean about 4-5% energy savings.

Other hot-water energy-savings tips:

  • Turn heater to vacation mode when you’re away for a while (3 days +).
  • Insulate the hot water pipes coming out of the water heater. Which I did yesterday. I looked up some resources, and used the leftover pipe insulation foam from my draft dodger project.

More on water heaters from the Consumer Energy Center.

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This entry was posted in energy saving, environment, everyday, kitchen, sustainable, utilities, water and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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