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Home Page > Consumer Assistance > Consumer Tips > Tip of the Week

Consumer Tip Sunday, January 23, 2005

Water Heater Safety and Efficiency
"Hot tap water accounts for nearly one-fourth of all scald burns among children and is associated with more deaths and hospitalizations than other hot liquid burns. Tap-water burns most often occur in the bathroom and tend to be more severe and cover a larger portion of the body than other scald burns." 
National Safe Kids Campaign

This statement should cause us to ask ourselves, "Just how hot is hot enough?"

The United States Department of Energy recommends that water heaters be set no higher than 120 degrees, which is adequate for most household chores with a minimal risk of scalding.  The only appliance that requires water hotter than 120 degrees is the dishwasher.  Since most dishwashers pre-heat the water to the proper temperature, this should not be a problem.  Check to be sure your dishwasher does have this feature before reducing the temperature on your water heater.

Lowering the temperature not only makes your home safer, it saves you money.  Reducing the water heater temperature just 10 degrees can save as much as 3 - 5 percent of the part of your energy bill that goes to heat water.

Most water heaters come from the factory set at the MEDIUM setting which is about 140 degrees.  Setting your temperature to LOW/WARM should keep the temperature at about 120 degrees.  Be careful not to set the thermostat below 120 degrees because you will have to use more heated water to get the same temperature at the shower head or faucet.

If you are going to be gone from home for at least three days, you can save money by turning the water heater down or off.  Electric water heaters are easy to turn off by switching the circuit breaker off.  Gas water heaters can be set to their lowest setting.  Make sure you know how to relight the pilot light before turning your gas water heater completely off.  If you have to ask the gas company to come relight it, they will probably charge you for the service call.

For more information on these and other tips on energy-efficient water heating, visit the United States Department of Energy at