Your water heater accounts for about 18 percent of your home’s energy bill. If your water heater is set too high, you will be paying the price in your energy bill each month. On the flip side, if your water heater is set too low your water may not get hot enough (short showers), or worse, be at risk of growing bacteria. Don’t set your water heater to anything below 120 degrees, as diseases can develop in the stagnant water inside the water heater, particularly Legionella, which is quite dangerous.

So, what is the best temperature range for your water heater? The EPA recommends 120 degrees because it’s hot enough to keep diseases at bay, it’s not hot enough to cause scalding, it will supply enough hot water for most small families and is relatively energy-efficient. However, the best setting for you could vary based on a few factors.

Factors That Affect Hot Water Temperature Setting

These factors are not affected by the kind of plumbing you have (PEX, PVC or copper), how the water is heated (gas or electric) or even if you a tankless hot water heater.

  • Homeowners with a dishwasher that does not pre-heat the water may want to set their water heater to 140 degrees.
  • Elderly homeowners or those with small children may want to keep the temperature at 120 degrees. According to, “It takes just two seconds for a child to receive third-degree burns from water that is 150 degrees and five seconds if it is 140 degrees, the temperatures at which hot water heaters often leave the factory.”
  • Homes with occupants that have a suppressed immune system or respiratory disease should keep the hot water set to 140 degrees.
  • In general, many who live alone aim for a lower temperature in the acceptable range since demand for hot water is less and it saves money. Many who live in large household aim for a higher temperature to accommodate increased demand for hot water.
  • If you want to save money, every 10 degrees you turn down the water tank thermometer, you save 3 to 5 percent on your energy bill.

Still undecided? Set it at 120 degrees and increase the temperature in small increments until you find the perfect shower temperature.

What’s Your Current Temperature Setting?

You can find your current temperature setting by looking at the dial on the water heater (if equipped) or taking a temperature reading from the faucet. Turn on the hot water tap and allow it to run for a few minutes before taking the temperature.

Solutions to Common Hot Water Tank Problems

If you’re worried about pathogens in your hot water, and are worried about scalding water, consider a hot water tank booster. This keeps your water at 140 degrees in the tank but mixes it with cold water to lower the temp to 120 degrees before it reaches the tap.

If you live in a large home where it takes a long time for hot water to reach the tap, a hot water circulating system can solve this. This system slowly circulates hot water in the pipes to prevent it from cooling down before it reaches the tap.