How to Turn Up a Water Heater

Alex Gardner

Having a hot bath at the end of a long day or counting on your washing machine’s hot water cycle to do battle with your dirtiest clothes, are two of the most common reasons to have hot water readily available. It’s easy to take hot water for granted -- until you don’t have it.

Adjust the water heater's temperature dial.

If you find that the water coming out of your faucets is not hot enough, increase the temperature by adjusting your hot water heater’s settings.

  1. Test your hot water temperature by opening a hot water faucet fully and letting the water run for a few minutes. Fill a glass with the water and measure the temperature with a food or candy thermometer. This is your baseline temperature. The recommended safe temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid accidental scalding.

  2. Visually inspect your hot water tank. Though models differ, most hot water heaters will have a temperature adjustment dial near the top of the tank or near the bottom by the pilot light on gas models. Once you find the dial, take note of the settings. Dials are generally labeled by degrees or range from warm to hot.

  3. Turn the temperature adjustment dial up a modest amount -- five degrees if the dial is marked in degrees, or 1/4-inch toward hot if the dial ranges from warm to hot. Once you adjust the dial, give the heater an hour to adjust upward, then test the temperature of the water coming out of your faucet again. Repeat this process until you reach the temperature you want.