It’s obvious that everyone enjoys the relaxing hot shower, especially in the winter. However, if the temperature of the water heater is not in the right settings, the water in the shower may be running cold or extremely hot. This might turn out to be a terrible experience!

Basically, the default temperature setting for both gas as well as the electric water heater is set at the factory. However, these units come with a water temperature controller that allows you to adjust the temperature as per your preference.

The default setting for most water heaters is usually set higher than the required temperature. A right temperature setting for your water heater means you no longer have to worry about getting burned while taking a shower. In addition to relaxing hot shower, water temperature also affects energy consumption. Therefore, setting the right temperature for your water heating system also helps to reduce the utility bills.

But what is the best water heater temperature setting for your water heater? Several things might affect the temperature of the water. In this article, we’re going to look up to several factors related to water heater temperature and find out the best water heater temperature setting for your water heater.

So, without further ado, let’s get into it!

Table of Contents

How To Check Your Water Heater Temperature

While some water heaters come with a digital meter to read the temperature, most do not have a temperature gauge with a readout. Instead, the thermostat of the water heater is marked with the heating ranges of temperatures.

If your water heater has a digital indicator, you can simply check the temperature of the system by reading the dial on the water heater. However, if your unit does not have a digital meter, you will need a cooking thermometer and a cup to figure out the temperature of the water heater accurately.

First, let the water heater sit for a minimum of an hour without using it. After an hour, turn on the faucet that is located closest to the water heater and allow the water to run out of it for at least a minute. This will ensure that the water reaches its maximum temperature. Once the temperature of the water is at the maximum, fill the cup. Now, insert the cooking thermometer inside the up and look through the readings to find out the exact temperature of your water heater. This way, you can also adjust the water temperature to the settings you desire.

Recommended Temperature Settings

In the default setting, the water heaters are set at 140 degrees, meeting the recommended levels of OSHA. On the other hand, to reduce the power consumption and reach sanitizing temperatures, the EPA recommends reducing the thermostat down to 120 degrees.

However, for a household with children, lower temperatures are better to reduce burns and accidents. So, what should be the temperature of your water heater? How far should you go?

What is the Best Water Heater Temperature Setting?

If you’re concerned about safety and energy-efficiency, it is best to set the temperature of your water heater at 120 degrees. In addition to that, there are several advantages of this temperature setting, including:

It reduces the risk of scalding. Water temperature set at 140 degrees can possess a safety threat as the hot water can burn your skin. So, water heater at 120 degrees temperature is optimal for regular uses and is less likely to burn your skin.

It decelerates mineral buildup. By reducing the temperature from 140 degrees to 120 degrees, you can actually slow down the mineral buildup in both your tank as well as your pipes. Less mineral buildup in your system will result in optimum performance and extended lifespan of your system.

It also saves energy. According to the EPA, for every 10 degrees less temperature, you can actually cut down three to five percent of the energy consumption of your water heater. So, by reducing the temperature from 140 degrees to 12 degrees, you can reduce the energy consumption of your water heater by six to ten percent.

How to Set Temperature on a Gas Water Heater

Generally, gas water heaters have a setting knob to adjust the temperature. Most gas control valves include a knob with different labels, such as A, B, C, etc. on them. Different water heater brands use different labels in the water heater control valves. However, in most cases, here’s what the label indicates:

Low (or Warm)80-90°
Hot (or Triangle Symbol)120°
Very Hot160°

Some models also include a ‘Vacation’ mode, which indicates that the system is not heating the water but has kept the pilot light ignited.

How to Set Temperature on an Electric Water Heater

If you own an electric water heater and want to set the temperature manually, first, you need to turn off the circuit breaker and remove the access panels. Then, find the thermostat adjustment, which is usually located beneath the insulation. Once you locate the thermostat, adjust the temperature controls using a screwdriver as per your desire. Once you’re done, replace the insulation and panels of the unit. Now, restore power to the system, and its all set!

Factors That Affect Hot Water Temperature

Several factors may affect the temperature of the water. It usually depends on the distance between the water heater and the outlet, the installation of pipes, and the condition of the water heating element itself.

Usually, if the bore pipes are small or the distance between your water heater and the outlet is long, it will require more time for hot water to reach the faucet. Also, if you have a large household, you may want to install a hot water recirculation system, which reduces the time of hot water to reach the outlets. If adjusting the thermostat does not provide the right temperature, it might be because your heating element requires replacement, or it might be due to a faulty thermostat itself.

How to solve it?

  • If your dishwasher does not have a preheat mode, you might want to set the temperature of your water heater to 140 degrees.
  • If you live with elderly people or children, it is advisable to keep the temperature at 120 degrees.
  • If anyone in your home has a respiratory or suppressed immune system disease, you should consider keeping the water temperature to 140 degrees.


Well, that’s all for the water heater temperature setting! We hope this article has cleared some of your queries regarding what should be the temperature setting of your water heater. However, if you are still confused, we advise you to set it at 120 degrees and increase it slightly until you find the most suitable shower temperature for your household.

(Last Updated on June 18, 2020 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Nina Howell is a Rewenable Energy researcher and consultant based out of Houston, Texas Area. She earned her Master's Degree in Energy and Earth Resources from Austin Jackson School of Geosciences in 2010, and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2008. Nina has been working in the energy sector since 2011. She worked as an Energy Supply Analyst from 2011 to 2017 in Bounce Energy and then as a Research and Energy Consultant at GE Renewable Energy from March 2017 to February 2020 . Nina is a mom of 2 beautiful children who are joy to her life. She strongly believes in eco-friendly living and is vocal about renewable energy, environmental issues, water crisis, and sustainable living.