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How to Adjust the Temperature on an Electric Water Heater?

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

how to adjust the temperature on an electric water heater

Are you anxious about using your electric water heater for the first time because you fear the water might be too hot? You can avoid such concerns if you know how to adjust the temperature on an electric water heater.

Adjusting a water heater’s temperature does not only guarantee optimum comfort, but it can also ensure improved safety and better energy savings. This article describes to you in eight easy steps how you can adjust your electric water heater’s temperature to the preferred level.

Table of Contents

Things You Need for This Tutorial


Adjusting an electric water heater’s temperature is a straightforward process, requiring only a few materials.

Water Heater Owner’s Manual

The manual tells you the water heater’s pre-set temperature. It is handy in determining how much you should adjust the temperature or whether it needs adjusting or not.

You will also know the precise location of the water heater’s thermostats, facilitating the removal of the access panels, and how you can adjust the temperature.

Kitchen Thermometer

You will also need a thermometer to measure the hot water temperature before and after the adjustments. It will give you an idea of how high or low you should change the thermostat settings.

There are different kitchen thermometer types, although I would recommend either a candy thermometer or an instant-read kitchen thermometer.


This hand tool is essential for loosening and removing the fasteners securing the thermostat access panels. You can choose between a flat-tipped and a Phillips screwdriver, depending on the screw design.

A cup

Steps for Adjusting the Temperature on an Electric Water Heater


Step 1. Determine the water heater’s pre-set temperature.

Water heater manufacturers always set their products at a predetermined temperature, reflecting the recommendations of federal agencies or reputable organizations.

  • Some companies set their water heaters to a standard 140 degrees Fahrenheit following the recommendations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OHSA.
  • On the other hand, some manufacturers adhere to the recommendations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, setting the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The US Environmental Protection Agency also supports this temperature as an energy conservation measure.

It would be best to check the manual before you adjust the electric water heater temperature control if you are unsure about your water heater’s preset temperature.

Step 2. Determine the ideal water temperature for your household.

People have different hot water perceptions and needs. For example, it is not advisable to use 140-degree hot water for babies, young children, and elders because their skin is thinner than adults. These people are susceptible to burn injuries if they use very hot water.

On the other hand, water temperature below 120 degrees Fahrenheit can promote the growth and proliferation of Legionella and other waterborne germs. People with compromised immune systems might not be able to fend off the resulting infection.

Hence, many families set their water heaters to 130 degrees Fahrenheit to balance safety and comfort.

Step 3. Measure the water heater’s current water temperature.

It would be best to measure the current water temperature in your household before you adjust electric water heater temperature. Doing so gives you a baseline for making the temperature adjustments.

I recommend letting the electric water heater idle for at least an hour, avoiding using hot water until you get the temperature.

Open a hot water faucet nearest to the water heater and let the water run for about a minute before filling a cup with hot water. Dip the tip of a kitchen or cooking thermometer into the hot water and wait for the temperature to stop increasing. Note the temperature reading.

Alternatively, you can write down the temperature reading so you will not forget.

If the water temperature is within your ideal level, there is no need to change temperature on electric water heater. If the temperature reading is different from the preferred temperature, you can proceed to the next step.

Pro Tip: Immerse the thermometer in cold water to ‘reset’ the temperature to its lowest possible reading.

Step 4. Power off the electric water heater.

I recommend switching off the electricity going to your water heater to be safe. You can do this by turning off the water heater switch at the circuit breaker panel.

If you cannot find the water heater circuit breaker, I suggest switching off all breakers.

Step 5. Access the water heater’s thermostats.

I advise you to check your owner’s manual to see if you have two thermostats. Most electric water heaters have two thermostats and two heating elements. Each pair has an access panel you need to open using a screwdriver.

Check if the thermostat has an insulating layer that you must also peel off to access the component. Be careful when working with the thermostat, and avoid touching or moving any of the wires.

Step 6. Adjust the water heater’s temperature setting.

Look for a knob on the water heater thermostat and turn it clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on whether you want to make water hotter on electric water heater or colder.

Most thermostat knobs have temperature markings to guide you in making the adjustments. Change the temperature settings according to your preferences.

Ensure to adjust both thermostats.

Step 7. Replace the access panel.

Return the insulation over the thermostat and secure the access panel using screws.

Some plumbers recommend deferring this step until you are sure about the water temperature level of your water heater.

Step 8. Evaluate the water temperature after several hours.

Restore the electric power to your water heater by turning on its circuit breaker. Three to four hours should be sufficient to heat the water in the tank.

Repeat the procedure in Step 3 by taking a hot water sample from the nearest hot water faucet. Ensure to keep the water running for at least a minute before filling a cup.

Recheck the water temperature and compare it with the preferred temperature. If it is a match, you are good to go.

However, you might have to repeat Steps 4 to 6 if the water temperature is colder or hotter than you want.

Re-evaluate the water temperature after a few hours. It might take you several attempts to adjust hot water heater to the ideal temperature.

Here is a video about adjusting the temperature on an electric water heater by Home Choice Plumbing worth watching.

Pro Tip: I recommend marking the thermostat dial or knob once you find the sweet spot.


Following how to adjust the temperature on an electric water heater is as straightforward as determining your desired water temperature, accessing the water heater’s thermostats, and adjusting the temperature knob. It might take a few tries before you can find the sweet spot.

I hope you feel more confident about adjusting the water heater’s temperature using this guide. I would also appreciate it if you could share this tutorial with your family and friends. And if you have concerns about this guide, I will be glad to address them.

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