Each year, approximately 3,800 injuries and 34 deaths occur in
the home due to scalding from excessively hot tap water. The majority
of these accidents involve the elderly and children under the
age of five. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
urges all users to lower their water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
In addition to preventing accidents, this decrease in temperature
will conserve energy and save money.
Most adults will suffer third-degree burns if exposed to 150 degree
water for two seconds. Burns will also occur with a six-second
exposure to 140 degree water or with a 30 second exposure to 130
degree water. Even if the temperature is 120 degrees, a five
minute exposure could result in third-degree burns.
Various procedures for lowering water temperature in the home
exist, depending on the method of heating. Here are some suggestions:
EIectric water heaters.
Call your local electric company
to adjust the thermostat. Some companies offer this service at
no charge. To make the adjustment yourself, start by shutting
off current to the water heater, then turn off the circuit breaker
to the heater or remove the fuse that serves the heater. Most
electric water heaters have two thermostats, both of which must
be set to a common temperature for proper operation. To reach
these thermostats, you must remove the upper and lower access
panels. Adjust the thermostat following the instructions provided
with the appliance. Hold a candy or meat thermometer under the
faucet to check water temperature. Hot water should not be used
for at least two hours prior to setting.
Gas water heaters.
Because thermostats differ, call
your local gas company for instructions. Where precise temperatures
are not given, hold a candy or meat thermometer under faucet for
most accurate reading first thing in the morning or at least two
hours after water use. If reading Is too high, adjust thermostat
on heater, according to manufacturer's instructions, and check
again with thermometer.
If you do not have an electric, gas, or
oil-fired water heater, you probably have an on-line hot water
system. Contact your fuel supplier to have the temperature lowered.
If you live in an apartment, contact the building manager to discuss
possible options for lowering your tap water temperature. Reducing
water temperature will not affect the heating capacity of the
The Commission notes that a thermostat setting of 120 degrees
Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) may be necessary for residential
water heaters to reduce or eliminate the risk of most tap water
scald injuries. Consumers should consider lowering the thermostat
to the lowest settings that will satisfy hot water needs for all
clothing and dish washing machines.
Never take hot water temperature for granted. Always hand-test
before using, especially when bathing children and infants. Leaving
a child unsupervised in the bathroom, even if only for a second,
could cause serious injuries. Your presence at all times is the
best defense against accidents and scalding to infants and young