Do you ever find yourself wishing that your warm shower would last just a little longer in the winter? When the air outside gets colder, people tend to take longer and hotter showers, and you may find yourself with less hot water than you would prefer. With colder air outside and colder temperatures underground, you may notice that it also takes a little longer for your water to heat up. This is because the unit has to work even harder to heat the water to the desired temperature in the winter. However, if the temperature difference is significant in winter versus summer, and your hot water use has not increased, it may be an indicator that the water heater needs service.
So, if you find yourself with less hot water than you would like this winter, should you turn up the temperature on your water heater? Typically, we do not recommend adjusting your water heater’s temperature. In areas like Austin, where we usually have mild winters, it is just not necessary. The effect of the outdoor temperatures should not be significant enough to cause major changes to the temperature of your water if the unit is working properly.
Most manufacturers set the temperature at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the temperature we also recommend. Anything above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, puts you at risk of scalding. This is especially dangerous to children, the elderly, and anyone with sensitive skin. Most manufacturers believe that 120 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for safety and energy efficiency, while still providing enough hot water for comfortable showers and household use. If you have never adjusted the temperature, it is likely at the perfect setting already.
In addition to safety concerns regarding scalding, increasing the temperature of your water heater could put you at a greater risk of frozen pipes. Contrary to popular belief, hot water does freeze faster than cold water. Increasing your water heater’s temperature can also be costly. The higher the temperature, the higher your energy bill will be. Typically for every 10-degree increase, you can expect your energy bill to go up 3% to 5%.
Most water heaters do not display the temperature on the outside of the unit, but instead will have a dial showing different temperature intervals. The dial may indicate “A,” “B,” and “C” as different temperatures, or it might say “hot” and “very hot.” Your water heater manual will explain the temperature intervals, and what temperature each level correlates to.
If you no longer have the water heater manual, run the water inside for a few minutes and then fill up a glass. Once the glass is full, immediately place a cooking thermometer in it, and you will find the approximate temperature your water heater is set to.
If your water heater is set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and you notice significantly less hot water in the winter, it may be a sign that something is wrong with the unit. Your water heater should be able to produce consistent amounts of hot water, regardless of the outside temperature. In some cases, the fix may be as simple as installing a recirculation system to help the water in the tank stay at a consistent temperature. Recirculation systems also help prevent bacteria inside the tank because they keep the water moving.
Your water heater will be under more strain during the winter, as cold weather causes it to work longer and harder to provide hot water, so it is not uncommon for water heaters to fail in winter months if they are not properly maintained, or if they are close to the end of their lifespan. To help improve the likelihood of your water heater making it to the end of its lifespan, and to help prevent malfunctions, we recommend an annual flush from a licensed plumber. The most efficient way to have your water heater flushed annually, is to join our Gold Service Club. We will remind you when it is time to have your water heater flushed, and you will also receive 15% off plumbing repairs. Click the link for more information on Stan’s Gold Service Club.
If the demand for hot water in your home is greater during the winter, you may want to consider upgrading to a tankless water heater. This will provide your family with a consistent, nearly endless, supply of hot water all year long! We would be more than happy to send a licensed plumber to your home in Austin, TX to provide a free estimate on a tankless water heater. To read more about the benefits of a tankless water heater, check out our blog Conventional vs. Tankless: What’s The Right Water Heater For You?
Regardless of what is causing your water heater to underperform this winter, our licensed plumbers are standing by ready to restore your hot water! Choose Stan's today for help with all of your water heater repair and replacement needs.