Lowering your utility bill doesn’t necessarily require you to avoid using your air conditioner or limit the length of your showers each morning. While those measures will help, there also are simpler ways that you can save energy and money. One simple trick to lower your energy costs is to turn down the temperature on your hot water heater.

Your hot water heater accounts for nearly 20% of your entire energy bill. If your water temperature is set too high, you not only risk a significantly higher utility bill, but you run the risk of getting scalded when you use the hot water. If the temperature is too low, you run the risk of bacteria growing in your tank.

What is the recommended temperature for your water tank?

The best or optimal temperature for your hot water tank is 120 Fahrenheit or 48 Celsius. This is a temperature that is comfortable and sanitary, yet does not significantly increase your energy costs. While this is the best or optimal temperature for your water tank, it’s not the temperature that is set upon installation. Most hot water heaters are factory set at 140 Fahrenheit.

Save up to 10% on monthly utility bills

Upon hearing that turning down the hot water tank about 20 degrees will result in lower energy costs, most people then ask just how much energy they will be saving by taking this extra measure. Generally speaking, homeowners want to weigh their options — is the benefit going to be worth the effort?

Obviously, it’s difficult to provide an exact amount, because the amount of energy that is saved will vary based on how often the water tank is used and how hot the people who live in the home prefer their water to be. For example, a home that is occupied by two people who take very fast showers each morning and don’t mind if the temperature is lukewarm will realize more significant energy savings than a home that is occupied by a five-person family who takes morning showers and nightly baths at warmer temperatures.

“In Massachusetts and New England, the average monthly bill is $116.97, according to the Energy Information Administration – EIA. This means you can save nearly $12/month by using this tip.”

Homeowners will find that by turning down their hot water tank temperature by about 20 degrees to 120 Fahrenheit or 48 Celsius, they will see cost savings of about 6 to 10 percent. This is a significant drop, and it’s usually enough to get homeowners motivated to head down to their hot water tank and see what the temperature is set at. It only takes a couple of moments to lower the temperature to 120 Fahrenheit, but the homeowner will continue to enjoy the cost savings for the months and years to come.

Is it safe?

Before fiddling with the settings on the hot water tank, many homeowners want to make sure that they are making a safe and responsible choice. Some argue that the default temperature is set at 140 Fahrenheit for a reason and that it shouldn’t be adjusted. However, the reality of the matter is that hot water tank manufacturers are less concerned with energy savings and more concerned with performance. If they made the default setting 120 Fahrenheit, someone is likely to complain that their tank doesn’t get the water hot enough.

For most people, it’s actually safer to lower the temperature to 120 Fahrenheit rather than keep it at the factory settings. Parents with young children, in particular, have to be worried about their children being burned by water that is too hot. When the hot water tank remains at its factory settings, a child’s bath could easily be too hot and they could be seriously injured. When the temperature is lowered to the best or optimal temperature of 120 Fahrenheit or 48 Celsius, the risk of being accidentally burned while taking a bath is much lower.

In addition, most homeowners find that they can still take a shower or bath that is comfortable when the temperature is set to 120 Fahrenheit. In general, 140 degrees Fahrenheit is far too hot to take showers in.

Besides comfort, there are some concerns that there is a sanitary issue with having the temperature set too low. While it’s true that higher water temperatures are more sanitary, 120 Fahrenheit is still a safe temperature to operate the water tank.

Alternative options: tankless water heating

Those who are looking to maximize their energy savings may want to consider an alternative to a traditional hot water tank. Tankless water heaters are becoming more popular, but there are both benefits and disadvantages associated with these systems.

Tankless water heaters are certainly going to provide the most energy savings. They provide hot water directly where it is needed while eliminating the standby losses that are associated with traditional hot water tanks. The water gets to its desired temperature almost immediately, which helps to save on water usage as well. The homeowner does not have to stand by as the water runs and warms up to the desired temperature. Of course, homeowners also appreciate the fact that these innovative water tanks are smaller and can fit in a storage closet versus taking up a large amount of space in a basement or crawl space.

However, there are some disadvantages to consider. Tankless water heaters are not ideal for homeowners who often need to multitask to keep their home running. Generally, these tankless heaters do not have the capacity to supply hot water to two locations at the same time, such as the shower and the washing machine. In addition, while they save on energy, they can use more electricity. In some cases, the overall cost savings is nominal.

When you make an effort to save energy, the benefits extend beyond your own cost savings. You are conserving energy and using it more sustainably, which is good for you and the surrounding community. This is just one easy way that you can lower your energy costs. Follow us to continue to receive easy tips that will help you save energy and reduce your utility costs each month.