It doesn't take long for scalding water to cause serious injuries. Avoid them by setting your water heater to a safe hot water temperature.
It happens in the blink of an eye. You run the bath water or the kitchen sink, wait until the steam rises, then put a hand in the water. The next thing you know, you're being treated for first degree burns (or worse), all because your water heater wasn't set to a safe hot water temperature.
The reality is that if you set your water heater too high, you risk bringing water into your faucets that can severely burn your skin within seconds. Many people take it for granted that their heaters are set to a safe hot water temperature, but a lot of them aren't.
Unfortunately, there is great risk in running a high water temperature. Not only that, but you use up more energy, which ends up costing you more money.
But what is a safe hot water temperature? And how do you ensure that your water heater stays set correctly?
How Hot Is Too Hot?
According to the EnergySmart Library maintained by Aclara, it takes less than five seconds for 140 degree water to cause a burn on human skin. Add another 20 degrees to the equation, and the skin burns instantly. That doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room for mistakes.
The difficulty is that sinks, bathtubs, and showerheads don't have thermometers on them. Unless you want to use a cooking thermometer to test the bath water each time, educated guesswork is about all you can do to figure it out. If you're not careful, that guesswork could result in a burn.
In 1988, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued guidelines that a safe hot water temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. However, that didn't stop manufacturers from producing water heaters that could heat water to well beyond 120 degrees. And anyone who didn't know about the guidelines may have set their heaters to whatever number seemed good to them.
The problem is that those higher temperatures become significantly more dangerous with each uptick on the thermometer. And if you have guests in your home who don't know your settings or if you accidentally turn the water on too hot, someone can become seriously injured.
Who Is Most at Risk?
A safe hot water temperature is especially necessary for children and the elderly. Children's skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, which makes it much easier for them to suffer a burn even at lower temperatures. The elderly, too, are at greater risk because their skin is less sensitive, meaning that they might not feel the full effect of the hot water until the damage is done.
Really, though, everyone is at risk if you set the water heater above 120 degrees. In fact, even 120 degrees can burn after prolonged exposure. The key takeaway is that once you start getting into the temperature range above 120, you're no longer at a safe hot water temperature, and you and your family are at risk for an injury.
Checking and Maintaining Temperature
So how do you maintain a safe hot water temperature? In most cases, you simply have to adjust the thermostat on your home's water heater. Most thermostats are fairly easy to find and read, but if you're not sure, consult the manufacturer's manual or call them to get more information.
If you live in a multi-unit dwelling, like an apartment or a condo, you may have to consult building management, a landlord, or a superintendent to find out about your water heater's temperature. These situations are a little more complicated because there may be one heater that serves multiple homes. In such cases, it's best to share your concerns with your neighbors and see if you can reach an agreement on the water heater setting.
One important detail to know is that thermostats on most water heaters are approximate, meaning the only way to know for sure how hot the water gets is to test it. Let the water heater sit for about an hour, then run the sink until the water is hot and use a thermometer to take the temperature. If it's in range, you're all set. If not, adjust the water heater thermostat. If the numbers are way off, you may need to call for service.
Finally, check your water heater settings once a month to make sure you're still at a safe hot water temperature. Doing so will minimize the risk of injury to you and your family and will also help you to keep your heating costs down.
Remember, no matter how much you monitor your water heater, the only way to avoid burns is to take care when using hot water. Always check the temperature with your hand before getting in a hot bath or washing dishes. And of course, never leave your skin submerged in hot water for longer than necessary.
Request a quote from a Pekin Insurance agent to find out about equipment breakdown coverage enhancements for your home insurance policy and rest easy knowing that if your water heater breaks down, we've got your back.