Water heater scalding hazard

Safety and Energy Concern: Check your hot water temperature excessive hot water can result in a scalding hazard, damage some fixtures and sink basins, and result in higher energy bills.

If your hot water temperature is set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, it takes three seconds to burn your skin seriously enough to require surgery. Three seconds isn’t long at all. What’s more, The American Burn Association found that 41% of the homes they inspected were at unsafe levels capable of causing these types of significant burns to your skin. Imagine if your hot water temperature was set to 150 degrees or more. To put it into perspective most hot tubs have the water set to 106f to prevent injury.

The CDC recommends your water heater temperature be set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. OSHA has a different hot water temperature recommendation. OSHA however, recommends you keep your water heater at 140 degrees Fahrenheit so your risk of being exposed to microorganisms and Legionella is reduced.

Older water heaters may also be an energy hog due to antiquated installation and heating technology. If your water heater is past its statistical life expectancy you may want to consider a replacement. Check with your local energy provider there may be some rebates or tax credits.

An ENERGY STAR-certified electric water heater uses a different technology and can save a household of four approximately $470 per year on its electric bills, compared to a standard electric water heater, and more than $4,500 over its lifetime. Larger families—that typically use more hot water—will save even more. By making this switch, homeowners can not only enjoy energy savings but can also reduce their carbon footprint. With these significant costs and environmental benefits, it makes sense to invest in an ENERGY STAR-certified electric water heater when upgrading your home’s appliances.
Some considerations are the brand, manufacturer’s warranty, and whether it is on well water or city. How often is the water heater serviced and maintained and how many people live in the home? A fuel-fired system should be serviced annually. With most conventional storage-type water heaters we recommend turning off the heating source and draining a few gallons off annually to remove sediment accumulation. You should routinely inspect the water heater for rust and signs of leaking. Water heaters on city water or a closed system require expansion tanks. These are prone to failure and make them lose pressure charge or become waterlogged. Annual inspection by a licensed plumbing contractor can help prevent a catastrophic failure. If you have a tank-less water heater most require descaling annually to help ensure a proper life expectancy.

Some other safety considerations with the water heater include the temperature pressure relief discharge. This should be directed down within 6" of the floor surface and never be capped off or reduced in diameter. If the TPR ever discharges, it should do so to a safe termination point.

If you ever install insulation on your gas water heater, keep it away from the a metal flue draft hood or vent pipe and the burner opening, as this can pose a potential fire hazard. Be sure to have your vent pipe inspected annually for proper condition and termination.

Stephen Lee Showalter, NACHI® CMI, ASHI ACI
Home Inspector, Environmental Consultant
Maryland State Home Inspector License #29634 
ASHI ACI Certified Membership
NACHI® CMI Certified Master Inspector
InterNACHI® CPI Certified Membership
Certified Commercial Property Inspector Association
FAA Certified UAS Pilot #3987636
CRT Certified Residential Thermographer
Showalter Property Consultants providing quality home inspections and environmental testing throughout Maryland since 1988. For a quality home inspection contact us on schedule online.

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