How to Turn Up a Hot Water Heater

Cold water can be an inconvenience while bathing, washing dishes, or doing chores around your house. If you consistently notice cooler water temperatures, you may need to turn up your water heater’s temperature. While adjusting a gas or electric water heater requires careful hands and an understanding of the parts, it can be a simple fix. As long as you take precautions while handling your water heater, you should be able to adjust the temperature quickly.

EditSteps

EditAdjusting a Gas Water Heater

  1. Put out any other open flames before adjusting the gas water heater. Natural gas is flammable and, while you should not come in direct contact with the gas, safe is better than sorry. Avoid using candles, cigarettes, or other open flames in the home while you’re adjusting the water heater.[1]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 1.jpg
    • You do not need to turn off the gas while adjusting the water temperature.
  2. Locate the dial on the front of the water heater. This is the gas control valve. It is usually a black or red knob with 2 sides: warm and hot. In some cases, it might also have notches on the side to clearly mark these temperature options.[2]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 2.jpg
  3. Twist the dial from the warm to the hot side. Do not turn the dial completely to hot. First, move it slightly towards hot from where it was before. If the temperature is moved completely to hot, the water may scald your hand. You can always move it further towards hot later on, if needed.[3]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 3.jpg
  4. Wait 3 hours, then check the water temperature. Wait at least 3 hours before you check the water temperature again so it has time to heat. If the water temperature is still too low, or it feels too cool, adjust the gas control valve again.[4]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 4.jpg
    • Avoid raising the temperature above to prevent serious burns.

EditTurning Up an Electric Water Heater

  1. Turn off the water heater circuit breakers. Locate your home’s circuit board at the electrical box. Because most water heaters use about 240 Volts of electricity, you should need to switch off 2 breakers. Consult the location sheet on the inside of the panel for details—if they are unlisted, turn off all of the panels to be safe.[5]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 5.jpg
    • Never adjust the electric water heater without turning off the circuit breakers. To prevent electrocution, contact an electrician if you’re not sure how to turn off the breakers.
  2. Remove the heater’s access panels. The access panel(s) should look like rectangular boxes on the front of the water heater. Water panels have either single or double access panels, so pry open 1 or both to reach the panel’s inner controls.[6]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 6.jpg
    • Most panels do not need a screwdriver to be opened. Your hands should be enough.
  3. Remove the insulation to find the thermostat. You should notice a thin padding of insulation between the thermostat and the access panels. Take out all of the insulation to get a clearer look at the thermostat and raise the temperature as needed.[7]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 7.jpg
    • Store the insulation somewhere safe—it will need to go back in the water heater to keep the thermostat temperature accurate.
  4. Adjust the thermostat to a higher temperature. Most thermostats are turned via a screw in the middle. Place a flat tip screwdriver into the screw and turn it several notches higher. Raise the thermostat temperature no higher than to prevent burns.[8]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 8.jpg
    • The thermostat should show temperatures from about to , though is the recommended maximum.
    • Even if there are 2 panels, there should only be 1 thermostat. The number of panels more has to do with the water heater’s design, as both panels should open up to the same thermostat.
  5. Close up the panels and wait to test the water. Put the insulation back into the heater and close 1 or both panels. When you’re ready to check the water temperature, turn the power back on. Wait at least 3 hours before checking the water and evaluate: if it still reads or feels too low, adjust the temperature again.[9]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 9.jpg

EditChecking Your Water Temperature

  1. Run the hot water for 3-5 minutes. Choose the sink nearest to your hot water heater and let it run for at least 3 minutes. For the first few minutes, any water running out of the sink will have already been in the pipes. It needs to clear out before you test the water heater so you can get an accurate reading.[10]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 10.jpg
  2. Use a candy or cooking thermometer to test the water temperature. Put the water in a bowl or cup and take its temperature immediately. Leave the thermometer in the water for at least 20-30 seconds to get a trustworthy reading.[11]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 11.jpg
  3. Record the temperature number. While cold water is a problem, you also don’t want your water temperature to be too hot. If it reaches anywhere above , you run the risk of sustaining burns. Consult the following numbers to see the relationship between temperature and how long it will take to produce serious burns:[12]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 12.jpg
    • 5+ minutes
      60-120 seconds
      5-30 seconds
      1-5 seconds
      1-1 1/2 seconds
    • or above: Immediately
  4. Check again in about 3 hours, if needed. If the reading is too low or too high, re-adjust the water heater as needed and check the temperature again in 3 hours. The water heater will need time to change its internal temperature and warm or cool the water to the correct temperature.[13]
    Turn Up a Hot Water Heater Step 13.jpg

EditTips

  • Call a plumber if you often get cold water and have adjusted your water heater many times. It may be damaged or broken.

EditWarnings

  • If your water heater is wet or in a pool of water, do not touch it. Call a plumber, who can then assess the damage and danger.
  • Be careful while adjusting your water heater. Never touch or move any open wires. If you do not feel confident in handling your water heater, call a plumber.

EditThings You’ll Need

  • Flat tip Screwdriver
  • Candy or cooking thermometer

EditSources and Citations

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