Now that it’s getting colder and winter is approaching, you may have noticed that something’s up with the temperature of your water. Perhaps you have to wait 2 to 4 minutes for the shower water to get warm, and even then it doesn’t seem to get hot enough.
Or, perhaps this hasn’t happened yet, but you know that around Thanksgiving, you’ll begin having difficulty getting hot water out of your faucets.
Just as it can be harder to get ice cold water during the summer, it can be difficult to maintain a consistent warm temperature during the winter, and this often has a lot to do with the outside temperatures. Usually, the simplest solution is to turn up the temperature on your water heater’s thermostat.
Why the Water Gets Cold in the Winter
When it’s cold outside, not only is the air a lower temperature, but it’s a lower temperature underground. These colder temperatures cool down the water that enters your hot water heater, and in effect, your hot water heater has to work harder to heat the chilly water to the right temperature.
As your hot water heater is working to heat up the water, cold water enters the unit, thereby cooling the water back down. If you have an older hot water heater, for example, a unit that’s over 8 years-old, it will have an even harder time maintaining the proper temperatures during this cycle.
Adjusting the Thermostat
Generally, water heaters tend to be pre-set at 140 degrees, however, many manufacturers recommend setting the thermostat to 120 degrees for two reasons: 1) to avoid scalding (especially applicable if you have infants or toddlers), and 2) to save energy.
In the late fall and winter, 120 degrees may not be high enough to make the water feel hot. We recommend adjusting your water heater by 5 or 10 degrees and then seeing if it improves the hot water heater’s performance. If you want to try this yourself, we suggest checking the water heater’s manual before you make any tweaks in the adjustments.
Note: Whenever you want to turn up the temperature on a hot water heater, be cautious about potential scalding, which can occur if you turn the temperature up too high. To check if you found a good temperature, test the water temperature at the faucet located the furthest distance from the water heater. Keep adjusting the thermostat until you find the perfect temperature.
Other Possible Causes
Sometimes the water inside a home will get cold for other reasons than the cold outside. In this case, a drop in temperature may not be remedied by turning up the thermostat. If it's not the thermostat, the following may solve the problem:
- If the unit has sediment buildup, flushing it out may help
- Insulate the water heater with a jacket to maintain the water temperature
- Place insulation around the exposed pipes that travel to and from the unit
- Examine the water heater for any possible damage
- To warm up the area near the unit, raise the temperature in the room and seal any drafts
If you are having trouble with your hot water heater and you need to have it inspected, contact Excalibur Plumbing to schedule a service call with one of our Leander plumbers. Our trained specialists can help so you can enjoy the hot water you need all year long!