How to Turn Down the Hot Water Heater to Save Money

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If you want to save energy and, therefore, money, turn down the temperature on your hot water heater. It takes less energy to heat water to a lower temperature and to maintain that temperature than it does to keep water extremely hot. Turning down your water heater from 140 degrees F to 120 degrees F can shave 10 percent or more from your electric bill, according to the website HomeOwnernet. With most water heaters, turning down the thermostat is a simple process, although the exact procedure varies slightly depending on the kind of water heater.

Things You'll Need

  • Cup
  • Thermometer
  • Screwdriver

Electric Water Heaters

  • Measure the temperature of your hot water. Allow a faucet to run for a few minutes until the water is hot, fill a cup with the water and place a thermometer in the cup. The sample water's temperature should be at least 120 degrees F, which means the temperature at the water tank is higher. Measuring the temperature gives you an idea of how much you can turn down the thermostat on the tank.

  • Turn off the power to the water heater. If you are not sure how to do this, turn off the power to the whole house to be safe.

  • Remove a metal plate near the bottom of your water heater. A thermostat is located behind this plate. You may be able to flip the plate open, or you may need a screwdriver to remove it. If you see insulation behind the plate, gently remove it to expose the thermostat.

  • Adjust the thermostat based on the temperature of your water sample that was determined previously. Then replace any insulation and close the plate.

  • Remove a similar metal plate near the top of your water heater, as well as any insulation behind the plate.

  • Adjust the thermostat behind this second plate to the same temperature as the thermostat you adjusted earlier. Then replace any insulation you removed and close the plate.

Gas Water Heaters

  • Measure the temperature of your hot water. Allow a faucet to run for a few minutes until the water is hot, fill a cup with the water and place a thermometer in the cup. The sample water's temperature should be at least 120 degrees F, which means the temperature at the water tank is higher. Measuring the temperature gives you an idea of how much you can turn down the thermostat on the tank.

  • Locate the water heater's thermostat. To do this, look for either a thermostat knob or a metal plate near the bottom of the water heater tank. If you see a plate, open it to reveal the thermostat.

  • Adjust the thermostat based on the temperature of your water sample that was determined previously. Then close the plate (if applicable).

Oil Water Heaters

  • Measure the temperature of your hot water. Allow a faucet to run for a few minutes until the water is hot, fill a cup with the water and place a thermometer in the cup. The sample water's temperature should be at least 120 degrees F, which means the temperature at the water tank is higher. Measuring the temperature gives you an idea of how much you can turn down the thermostat on the tank.

  • Find the thermostat knob on the side of your oil water heater's tank.

  • Adjust the thermostat based on the temperature of your water sample that was determined previously.

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