Thanks to a comment the author posted on a blog I wrote, I had the fortune to discover the great energy savings blog Energy Boomer. While perusing the site I discovered this article on using a meat thermometer to save money on hot water. This simple yet ingenious idea is a great way to determine if the water in your hot water heater is set at too high of a setting. If your hot water heater is set too high you are wasting energy AND money!
Birney, the author of Energy Boomer, recommends a target temperature of 130 °F. On his post he says, "Any temperature less than 120 is too low for health reasons (mostly referring to Legionnaires disease). Any temperature above 140 is wastefully high if you want to save money on your energy bills." He recommends a temperature of 130 ° F.
I last lamented about how hard it was to set my water heater to the appropriate temperature back in April of 2009. In my blog for better water heating temperature control I had a very important disclaimer:
Recently, I decided that in order to save money on my natural gas bill, I would turn down the temperature on my natural gas fired water heater. (Caution: If you do this without telling your wife, she may get upset when she asks you why she ran out of hot water during her shower and you inform her it’s because you “made a few changes”.)
I decided to take Birney's tip and see how hot our water is. Sure, I wasted some water, but the ends justify the means.
I used our digital meat thermometer for this test. After finding some batteries in our battery drawer I popped them in the meat thermometer and started the hot water. A few minutes later the temperature stabilized and I was happy with what I saw.
My hot water is at a comfortable, yet energy saving, 123.6 ° F. It is important when doing a test like this to make sure you haven't done laundry, taken a shower, or washed dishes right before testing the temperature or else your hot water heater may still be in the process of heating up the water. Of course that is not the case if you have a demand (tankless) water heater.
So readers: What's your water heater temperature set at?