Have you ever hopped in the shower on a winter day, only to be greeted by a jet of freezing cold water? Several different factors could explain why your water heater might be having trouble maintaining a consistent temperature during colder weather.
Should You Turn Up Your Water Heater During Winter?
If it starts taking longer for your shower water to warm up, your first instinct might be to turn up the temperature to your hot water heater. Before you take that step, you may want to consider other solutions, and whether the problem with your hot water isn’t linked to the weather outside.
Why Water Temperature Drops
Just as summer weather makes it harder to get cool water in the shower, colder weather means lower temperatures in the air and underground. These conditions chill 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. If your water heater is older than 8 years old, sediment buildup might be to blame. It may be time to get an inspection or get a new water heater altogether.
Mind Your Gaps
If your hot water heater is having trouble, check nearby to see if colder air might be entering the area around the heater. You may need to caulk around any holes in nearby windows or wrap foam insulation around exposed pipes. If you have an older water heater, you can reduce heat loss of up to 45% by insulating your water heater tank with a special insulating blanket.
Check for Faulty Parts
A few worn out or faulty parts might be keeping your water from getting and staying hot. If your dip tube is broken or cracked, cool water can begin to leak into your hot water supply, thereby lowering the overall temperature. If you have an electric water heater, one of your heating elements might be to blame. Pilot lights and thermostats can also fail over time. O rings and valves on your shower faucets can keep hot and cold water from properly mixing.
Perform Routine Maintenance
Your water heater can accumulate debris over time. To keep this buildup from becoming a problem, flush out our system to keep the parts clean.
Small Change, Big Impact
If your water is still not getting as hot as you’d like, it’s worth checking the temperature on your hot water heater. While many water heaters come pre-set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, most manufacturers recommend setting the thermostat at 120 degrees to save energy and to avoid the potential for scalding. A small change of just five to ten degrees can make a huge difference in how your heater performs. Be sure to refer to the owner’s manual before making any adjustments.
Scalding is the number one danger of a water heater that’s set too high. This is especially critical if you have small children who are at a heightened risk of getting burned. 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.
If your hot water has an unpleasant odor, it may be caused by bacteria. Turning up the heat could solve the problem and kill any bacteria that was able to survive in temperatures under 14o degrees.
Do You Need a New Water Heater?
If you decide that your water heater needs to be replaced, you’ll need to keep several things in mind when selecting a new unit. When choosing a water heater that works best for your family’s needs, you’ll also want to prioritize energy efficiency, since water heaters account for 18% of your home’s energy use. By reducing the amount of hot water you use on a daily basis or purchasing a new water heater, you could save a significant amount of money on utility bills over time. According to the Department of Energy, there are many factors that should factor into your decision of which water heater to choose. In addition to energy efficiency, you’ll need to consider fuel type, availability, costs and size. The size of your home will dictate the proper size necessary for your water heater.
There are five different types of water heaters:
- Conventional storage water heaters
- Tankless (or demand-type) water heaters
- Heat pump water heaters
- Solar water heaters
- Tankless coil and indirect water heaters
After you’ve taken all of the main factors into consideration, you’ll need to research and compare each type so that you make the best choice for your home. Taking time to do the research can save you a lot of money in the long run and help you avoid costly repairs in the future.
ABC Can Solve Your AC and Heating Problems
If you need help with your water heater or are unsure of the cause of your low water temperature, contact us at ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our AC & heating pros will work to ensure that the temperature of your home (and your water) is comfortable all year long.
This is very good advice.
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. http://www.mikebertolinoplumbing.com
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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. http://www.berniebuchnerinc.com/services
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?
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.
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.