Who doesn’t like a nice hot shower – especially on a cold morning?  But just like most of life’s little luxuries, that shower is not free.  Water heaters are the third largest energy expense in your home, behind air conditioners and furnaces.   However, unlike heating and air conditioning, hot water is an expense homeowners have year round, accounting for up to 25 percent of monthly utility bills.

The best way to control hot water costs is a simple adjustment of your water heater temperature.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the ideal water heater temperature setting is about 120 degrees.  A temperature that is above 130 degrees can lead to unsafe bacteria growth.

Ensuring that your water heater is at an optimal temperature is any easy way to save energy and also lower your water heating bill by up to five percent.  Just follow these quick and easy steps:

  • Turn your water on and let it run at the highest setting for several minutes.
  •  Collect the water in a pan.
  • Immediately test the water temperature with a cooking thermometer.
  • If the temperature needs adjusting, use the thermostat that is found on the heater.  While gas water heaters only have one thermostat control at the bottom of the heater, some electric ones have two gauges, one at the bottom and one at the top.  Be certain to adjust both of them.
  • If the temperature gauge is protected by a plate, be sure to turn of the electricity before removing the plate to avoid electric shock.

If you have an oil water heater or are having difficulty adjusting the thermostat, it is best to contact a professional plumber.  Improper adjustment on an oil water heater can be dangerous and if you are having difficulty working the thermostat on your gas or electric heater, it can be the sign of a problem.

Most water heaters last between 10 and 15 years.  A plumber can determine if the unit is in need of repair or replacement.