Lower Your Bills By Lowering Your Water Temperature

How to Reduce Your Energy Bills with a Lower Water Heater Temperature

April 17, 2024

When it comes to saving energy and reducing your household utility bills, lowering your water heater temperature can help. Most water heater manufacturers have the thermostat set at a default temperature of 140 degrees. A water temperature this high results in energy losses and poses a safety risk to vulnerable members of your household. With the exception of situations such as a dishwasher without an internal heater, households maintaining a water heater setting of 120 degrees are more efficient and safe than hotter settings.

Can You Save Energy by Reducing Your Hot Water Heater Temperature?

By reducing the temperature 20 degrees, you can cut the appliance's energy consumption by as much as 10%. When you consider that hot water heating accounts for up to 25% of the total energy usage in most households, it's easy to see how lowering the temperature can provide significant cost savings.

How to Change Your Water Heater Temperature

  1. Turn off the electricity to your water heater, unless your system is a gas model
  2. Use a thermometer to determine the temperature of the hot water exiting the faucets or other hot water devices both closest and farthest from your water heater. Water nearest to the heater will be the hottest but will cool significantly while traveling through pipes to reach distant locations
  3. Mark the beginning setting on your water heater's thermostat, then adjust the temperature setting up or down to meet the needs of your household. You want to provide your most distant hot water location sufficiently hot water without the closest device presenting a scalding hazard. In a home with small children, water of 120 degrees at the closest hot water device and 115 degrees in a distant bathroom is a good choice
  4. Reconnect the power to your water heater and wait several hours, then recheck the water temperature
  5. Adjust the settings as needed to achieve the temperature desired and mark the new thermostat setting

Understanding Your Water Heater's Energy Consumption

A temperature set too high will not only cost you more money, but it places household members at risk for scalding; learning how to adjust your water heater's thermostat properly will save money and protect your family. If you have a storage tank water heater like most American homes, there are a few reasons why it uses such a large amount of energy:

  • Each time you turn on a hot water faucet in your home and water is drawn out of the tank, cold water that's about 50 degrees gets drawn in to replace it. This colder water dilutes the hot water that remains in the tank, so the whole tank full must be reheated to the temperature setting on the appliance's thermostat
  • Some energy is wasted due to heat loss that occurs by transference through the sides, top and bottom of the tank itself
  • A tank-style water heater consumes energy even when you're not using hot water, because the unit's gas burner or electric elements have to cycle on repeatedly to keep the water inside at the thermostat's temperature setting

Commonly Asked Questions About Hot Water Heaters

Does Turning a Hot Water Heater Off Save Money?

Turning your water heater off completely when it’s not in use can help you save a small amount of money each month on your energy bills, but the hassle of manually turning your unit off and on typically outweighs the benefits. Repeatedly turning your water heater off and on may also cause more problems to your unit, such as no hot water in your water supply when you need it, or difficulties turning the unit back on. Simply lowering your hot water heater temperature by 20 degrees can accomplish cost savings while giving you the peace of mind that you will always have hot water when you need it.

How Long Do Water Heaters Last?

A standard tank-style hot water heater generally lasts around 8 to 12 years, though this can vary based on your location, the quality of the installation and unit, regular maintenance schedule and water quality. Energy-efficient units can have a longer lifespan because they operate with less strain and are designed to heat water while minimizing heat loss. If you’re looking to extend the life of your water heater, regular maintenance is crucial to ensuring your unit is running properly.

Water Heater Maintenance Tips

You probably take your home's storage tank water heater for granted, since it does its work quietly and is housed out of the way, but yearly maintenance can make your water heater last longer and work better.

Each year, check the pressure relief valve. This valve displays as a small handle at the top of the discharge pipe that is positioned vertically on the outside of the tank. If you have a problem locating the valve and pipe, check the manual. If this part isn't working properly, it can lead to an explosion in the worst-case scenario. Though rare, this is a very good reason to get your water heater checked annually.

How to check the pressure relief valve:

  1. Put a bucket under the pipe and lift the lever
  2. Water should come out of the pipe into the bucket
  3. If it doesn't, the valve needs to be replaced. You may want to contact a plumbing professional if the valve is broken

For thorough water heater maintenance, consult the appliance manual if you have one. If you don't, you may want to get one from the manufacturer or online, or it may be best to schedule an appointment with a skilled professional.

How to Drain a Water Heater to Remove Sediment

Over time, sediment in the water will settle to the bottom of the water heater tank. Because sediment build-up can affect the efficiency of your water heater and shorten its lifespan, it should be drained at least once a year, whether you do it yourself or have a professional do it. To drain sediment, try the following:

  1. Close the shutoff valve on the cold water supply pipe going into the water heater
  2. Turn on hot water from any faucet in your house to release pressure in the water heater and leave it running until you're done with this water heater maintenance
  3. Turn off the water heater, either by turning off the power at the main electric panel for electric water heaters or by turning the gas off for gas water heaters
  4. Drain the tank of water with sediment, letting the water run out into the bucket until it's clear of sediment. Note: Be careful of the draining water - it will be hot

In Need of Water Heater Maintenance to Keep Your Unit Running Properly? Call Lozier Heating and Cooling!

Do you need a little bit of help maintaining your water heater? If you’re looking for ways to save energy and lower your hot water heater bills, our team of licensed professionals can discuss your needs and provide regular HVAC maintenance to help prolong your unit’s life. Call (515) 267-1000 or request an appointment today!