How To: Change the Temperature on Your Water Heater

How To: Change the Temperature on Your Water Heater

Typically, once your water heater is installed, your plumber will set the temperature to 120 degrees, which is the recommended temperature to prevent scalding and to save energy. However, there are a few situations which may require you to adjust this temperature.

  • If your hot water has an unpleasant odor, which may smell like sulfur or rotting eggs, raising the temperature might help solve the problem. Smelly hot water is typically caused by bacteria in your hot water tank, and hotter water makes it harder for that bacteria to survive.
  • Some older dishwashers don’t preheat water before washing. If this is the case, 120 degrees might not be sufficient to properly clean your dishes.
  • If you take a vacation and want to save money on utilities while you’re away, lowering the temperature on your water heater will help.

Gas water heaters

If you have a gas water heater, then adjusting the temperature is pretty simple. Most models will have a knob at the bottom which adjusts the temperature. Simply turn the knob to whatever setting best suits your needs. Some knobs have actual temperature amounts; others have settings such as warm or hot. The warm setting will typically be between 90 to 110 degrees, while the hot setting will usually be around 140 to 150 degrees.

Electric water heaters

Electric water heaters are a bit trickier. The first thing you want to do is ensure that power to your water heater is turned off. To do this you’ll want to turn off the breaker for your water heater.

If you have a double element water heater, you’ll want to remove both access panels on the front of the tank. For single element heaters, you only need to remove the lower panel. Once the panel(s) is removed, you’ll need to remove the insulation to get to the thermostat. Once the insulation is removed, you should see the thermostat, and the temperature your water is set at. To adjust this temperature, you’ll need to use a flat-head screwdriver, and turn the screw on the dial to your desired temperature. There may be a plastic cover over the thermostat which you may need to remove to gain access. Once you have turned your heater to the desired setting, replace the plastic cover, insulation, and access panel(s). Now you can turn power to the water heater back on, and you’ll be good to go.

Note: If you are adjusting the temperature because you are having trouble maintaining hot water, you will want to call a plumber to diagnose and fix the cause of that problem.

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