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How hot is too hot?

hot water running out from sink faucet

The Ins And Outs of Hot Water Safety

Hot water is one of the simple luxuries of modern life, and there is often nothing better than a scolding hot shower to wash the day away.

As important and enjoyable as hot water, some dangers come with it.

Many people don’t consider hot water safety to be at the top of their priority list, however, it is as important as knowing your smoke alarms are functional and how to correctly operate your stove.

We’re here to give you the rundown on all things hot water safety so you can enjoy your hot shower with complete peace of mind. 

It’s Just Hot Water; What Could Go Wrong?

Water that is 70 degrees Celsius or higher will burn skin almost instantly, so the water in your home doesn’t even have to be ‘boiling’ to cause real damage.

Most people can withstand water set at 50 degrees Celsius for up to 5 minutes, but the ideal temperature is around 45 degrees Celsius maximum.

The water in your tank needs to be set at around 70C to minimise bacteria growth; however, your taps have temperature regulators to ensure the water doesn’t come into your shower at its highest heat. Thanks to these regulators, even straight hot water without some cold meticulously added in isn’t enough to cause burns. 

Many moving parts and elements work together to make your hot water safe to use. If any of these aren’t operating as they should, that’s when things start to heat up. 

The ideal hot water temperature is around 45 degrees Celsius maximum.

Hands washing under a kitchen sink

Reasons why your water comes out scolding hot include:

  • Your thermostat is set too high, or is on the fritz 

Both electric and gas hot water systems have a thermostat to tell the water when to stop heating up.

The temperature sensor in your thermostat tells your heating elements to heat the water or stop heating when the ideal temperature is achieved. If your thermostat is wrongly calibrated or broken, your heating elements have no frame of reference and will keep heating until they are boiling. This can cause intense burns with water over 50 degrees, causing burns in minutes. 

  • There is a build-up of minerals 

Residential water has a high concentration of minerals which are typically filtered out during treatment processes.

An excessive amount of build-up in your water (known as hard water) can be enough to make your water temperature skyrocket. The minerals settle at the bottom of your water heater and form a hard layer of sediment, forcing the heater to work harder and produce more energy. This can result in the heater overcompensating, overheating, and sending it to an early demise. 

  • Your heating element is malfunctioning 

Your water heater has one or two heating elements on the interior that are responsible for heating the water. If one or both elements are stuck on, the water will continue to heat and come out of your taps at a scalding temperature. 

  • Your pressure valve is blocked 

One of the most important elements of the hot water system is the pressure-temperature relief valve, which is responsible for releasing excess pressure and regulating the tank’s pressure. At the same time, it works to heat your water.

If the pressure inside the tank is left to build, it will overheat your water at best and cause the tank to rupture or explode at worst. 

Each of these issues places your hot water system and, therefore, your hot water at risk. If your hot water heater is old or due for a check-up, a qualified plumber will be able to prevent the risk to your family and make sure your hot water will be at the perfect temperature year-round. 

A mom and son brushing teeth in bathroom

Your Hot Water Heater Protects Your Family

Waters at high temperatures are dangerous to more than just our skin. If your hot water boils over or overheats more than what is recommended in your cylinder, it can dramatically reduce the life expectancy of your hot water heater.

This happens through the formation of tiny cracks in the vitreous enamel lining on the inside of the tank. With prolonged overheating, these cracks will become worse and worse, eventually eating away at the steel tank cylinder.

The primary form of protection for an electric hot water system is the energy cut-off (or ECO). The ECO is responsible for de-energising the interior temperature disk from heating the water any further than around 85 degrees. If, for any reason, your water becomes excessively high, the ECO will cause a halt in production, and your hot water system will require a professional reset from our crew or a crew near you. 

For gas hot water heaters, the unitrol valve is their primary protection from overheating water. At temperatures ranging between 70 and 85 degrees, the ECO will activate cutting the gas off. At this stage, you will need to call us here at Same Day Hot Water Service to get you back in hot water!

The secondary form of over-temperature protection is done through the pressure-temperature relief valve. The relief valve usually has a setting between 95 and 99 degrees before it fail-safes and dumps water to cool down the tank.  It does this through a wax element inside the valve that detects high temperatures and opens to relieve that pressure.

hot water tempering valveMake the switch for peace of mind today

All working elements have an expiry date, and your hot water heater is no exception. Your heater should last up to ten years, and if it’s survived past this point – trouble could be just around the corner. 

Whether you’re concerned that your hot water system is outdated, you think something may be wrong with the interior fail-safes, or if your system has stopped producing hot water altogether, the safest choice is always to get a professional opinion.

Each part of your hot water system, including the hot water heater, works together harmoniously to keep you and your family safe from scalding hot water.

By having a professional by your side, along with the best hot water system recommendations for your property, you can be sure that your system is doing its job. Get in touch today to discover the difference that perfectly tempered water can bring to your home. 

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