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What’s the Best Temperature for My Water Heater?

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Plumber adjusting the temperature on a water heater to 140 degrees Farenheit

Your water heater temperature should be set to 140°F or 60°C. 140°F is usually the default temperature your water heater is set to. If you’ve never adjusted your water heater, chances are, it’s set to this temperature. If you do need to adjust the temperature on your water heater, read these important notes first. 

Important Notes When Adjusting Your Water Heater

Your water heater is, of course, hot. The contents are also under pressure, so anything beyond minor temperature adjustments should be handled by a trained professional. Most plumbers know how to adjust your water heater safely. 

  • Don’t set your water heater below 120°F or 50°C. This can allow harmful bacteria and microorganisms to grow, and will likely leave you with cold water as well. 
  • Don’t set your water heater above 150°F or 66°C. Water this hot can cause burns in only 3 seconds
  • Never try to fix a leaking or visibly damaged water heater. If your water heater is leaking, broken, or damaged, call a trained professional for assistance. 

If your water heater is set to 140°F or 60°C and your water still feels cold, don’t increase the temperature setting. There is likely another issue with your water heater that needs to be assessed by a professional. 

Why is the Right Temperature Important?

Legionella Bacteria & Microorganisms

In addition to providing your home with hot water, your water heater needs to be hot for a very important reason: preventing bacteria growth. If the water in your water heater is below 140°F or 60°C, bacteria and other microorganisms have the potential to grow.

Most notably is legionella bacteria. This is the bacteria responsible for Legionnaire’s disease, which can lead to symptoms like fever, cough, chills, and muscle aches. While most people exposed to legionella bacteria do not get sick, it’s best to limit your exposure, especially considering that your drinking water comes from your water heater. 

A home water test can assess the quality of your water if you’re concerned about legionella bacteria or other microorganisms. 

Hand turning a water heater temperature knob past the recommended temperature to high

Burn Risk

If the water coming from your taps is too hot, it can pose a burn risk to you and your family. This is especially important to consider if you have young children or elderly people in your home. Hot water causes 7% of household scald injuries, the majority of which happen to children under 5. 

At 140°F or 60°C, water can cause third-degree burns in 6 seconds. If you’re concerned about burns in your household, make sure you don’t lower the water heater temperature below 120°F or 50°C, as this can allow bacteria to grow. 

Energy Efficiency

Some energy regulators and home savings blogs might recommend that you turn your water heater temperature down for energy savings. While reducing the temperature of your water heater can reduce energy consumption and save you money on your heating bill, it’s important to stay within a safe range.

If you do choose to reduce the temperature of your hot water, never turn it below 120°F or 50°C. Water below this temperature can allow bacteria to grow. However, if you’re interested in energy savings, the safer option might be a newer, energy-efficient water heater. An energy-efficient model will save you money on your energy bill, without having to reduce the temperature.

What Temperature is Right for You?

Currently, many plumbing codes in Canada recommend 140°F or 60°C for your water heater.  Ultimately, the right temperature for you will depend on your home, your family, and your water heater. 

For example, elderly people are more susceptible to burns from hot water if the water is too hot, but also more susceptible to legionella bacteria if the water is too cold. If you’re concerned about scalding, temperature-controlled faucets that limit the amount of hot water are another option. Many brands have this feature, for example, this temperature-controlled faucet.

If you have concerns about your water heater or your water quality, contact Ace Plumbing. We can check your water heater, test the quality of your water, and install temperature-controlled faucets.  

Written by Jack Devetten

The company was built on dedication to quality services, skilled and experienced technicians, and competitive prices. Our owner, Jack Devetten, brings more than 45 years of experience with him. All our staff members are focused on delivering 100% satisfaction on every job they do – we guarantee it!
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