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Plumbing Tips – Where Should I Set My Water Heater Temperature?

by Ben Wanner of Pro Service Mechanical

Image of water heater gas valve and question mark

Where can you safely set your natural gas/storage type water heater thermostat? The answer is surprisingly not that simple. We have to understand a few things first before we can answer that question.

Bacteria (Legionella) can grow In your water heater tank below 50c

Image of legionella bacteria

Harmful bacteria such as Legionella can grow and colonize significantly in your hot water tank at temperatures between 40c and 50c. This can cause a risk for the home’s occupants for contracting Legionnaire’s disease, which is a serious form of pneumonia. At 60c (140F), Legionella and other bacteria cannot survive. So I guess we should turn our water up to 60c right?……….not so fast

60c water can scald!

Image of hand with scalding burn

According to the Canada Safety Council, 60c (140F) water can cause third degree burns in 6 seconds. This of course is more serious for small children who have more sensitive skin. They could suffer a burn in less than a second. People with mobility issues and the elderly are also more susceptible to these type of burns.

Vacation setting

Image of gas valve thermostat

If we put the water heater on vacation setting while we are away for an extended period, we again have the possibility of growing bacteria and Legionella. So how do we conserve energy when we are away? We are getting there.

Anti scald device

Image of water mixing valve

If we have a temperature actuated mixing valve (anti scald device) installed at the hot water outlet of the water heater, we wont have scalding temperatures of 60c (140F). This will mix cold water in to ensure the temperature stays below 49c. Now we can store the hot water in the tank at 60c to prevent bacteria growth in our tank without the dangers of scalding. We should also note that some newer fixtures have mixing valves installed in them as a safety device. If you are not sure then ask your plumbing professional. So we have solved both issues but there is one more to address.

Vacation setting with anti scald device

If we now still choose to use the vacation setting or low setting on our hot water heater when we are away there is another step when we return. Let your hot water tank heat the water back up to 60c (140F) again for about 4 hours before using the shower etc. With the mixing valve or anti scald device, this generally will still be safe as the water will only be 49c (120F) at the fixtures.

It is recommended to always check the water temperature manually before putting a child, elderly person or person with mobility issues in contact with heated water as a precaution.

If you have any other questions feel free to give us a call at (306) 230-2442

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