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Should You Turn Up Your Water Heater During Winter?

Settling on the best temperature to keep your water warm and your home safe

Have you ever hopped in the shower on a winter day only to be greeted by a jet of freezing cold water? Many factors make it difficult for your water heater to maintain a consistent temperature during cold weather. Turning up the thermostat is just one potential solution to this problem.

Why Water Temperature Drops

Colder weather means colder temperatures in the air and underground. This chills the water entering your water heater, causing the unit to have to work harder to reach the right temperature. As it’s running, more cold water comes in and cools everything back down. Older heaters may have an especially difficult time keeping up with this cycle.

Small Change, Big Warm-up

While many water heaters come pre-set at 140 degrees, most recommendations say to set the thermostat at 120 to save energy and avoid the potential for scalding. Depending on the outside temperature, this may not be enough to make the water feel hot. A small change of five to ten degrees can make a huge difference in how the heater performs. Be sure to refer to the owner’s manual before making any adjustments.

Safety Concerns

Scalding is the number one danger of a water heater that’s set too high. One way to determine if the temperature works for you is to use a thermometer to measure how hot the water is at the faucet furthest away from the heater. Make adjustments until you get the level of heat you want.


A drop in water temperature could be due to other factors besides the cold. Instead of adjusting the thermostat, you could:

  • Warm up the area around the heater by sealing drafts or raising the room temperature
  • Insulate the pipes that travel to and from the heater
  • Inspect the water heater for damage or sediment buildup
  • Invest in a “jacket” for the heater to keep the temperature consistent

If you need help with your water heater, contact us at ABC Home & Commercial Services. We have both plumbing and home heating specialists on staff to ensure that the temperature of your home (and your water) is comfortable all year long.

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  • This is very good advice.

  • James Harvon

    This will be really helpful come the fall. I want to make sure that our water heater is being properly maintained for the winter. Too high of temperatures could lead to a high bill or damages.

  • Mandeep Bhatti

    This information gives the some idea of water heater.for purchase new water heater visit myiconichom they offer 20% from the the cost and additional 5% for first time purchase. HOpe this information helpful for those who want water heater in online shopping.

  • Caleb Hart

    I didn’t know that you should turn up the heat on your water heater. I suppose it makes sense that if it’s colder outside, you need to increase the energy to heat up your water. My sisters always take really long showers and use up the hot water. I sure hate it when they do that.

  • Dani Grey

    I had never considered this before. Your water heater should already be in an environmentally controlled environment, right? Mine is in my basement, which is kept just as warm as the rest of the house. It stands to reason that there wouldn’t be much of a change then, right?

  • Casey Jones

    Great tip on warming up the room the hot water heater is in. I’ve heard of some people using insulating blankets on the heater to make it perform more efficiently. Perhaps I should look into something like that for this winter.

  • Jeff Bridges

    In most cases you shouldn’t need to turn up your water heater in the winter. As water sits in the pipes it will get very cold, so a quick jet of freezing cold water is to be expected. If you live in an area where a drought is not an issue, you could leave the faucet dripping to help the waterflow a little bit. That may decrease the time it takes until you get warm water.