no. 8 – why your hot water heater temp could be making you sick

Ok, I have been living in this townhouse for nearly two and a half years, and it wasn’t until yesterday when Alina’s dad crawled into the attic that the hot water heater had been adjusted. You would think someone who likes warm baths as much as I do would have looked into this, but…

  1. Attics are creepy as hell!
  2. I learn to live with a lot of things and seldom imagine I can make them better.

Alina’s dad came over to replace our garbage disposal, and I suppose he found out that the hot water takes some time to get to the kitchen.

You see, we live in a three story townhouse with the hot water heater in the attic. And it’s because of this design I always assumed it just took longer for hot water to get to the kitchen. I imagine there is a lot of stagnant water in the pipes that needs to clear out first.

Anyhow, out of sheer curiosity I asked what the temperature was set on, and he said “Oh, 100, maybe 105 degrees.” He then told me he turned it up to 130 degrees.

I thought to myself, Man, that’s nothing. It’s not much higher than 98.6 degrees. It seems like it had to have been hotter in order for me to ever feel like I was experiencing a hot bath. Then again, I never ran a bath before without turning it all the way to hot, and my circulation might not be as robust as others.

So this morning, I am sitting in the bath googling what the best temperature is for your hot water heater, and this lifehacker article comes up called “What’s the Best Temperature for My Water Heater?” The article reports that there are two major concerns with hot water heater temps:

  • Too high, and users get scalded
  • Too low, and you risk pathogens, particularly Legionella, which causes legionellosis (Legionnaires’ disease)


So I was like, Ok. Legionnaires’ disease. No big deal. I wonder how low it would have to be to pose a threat anyhow…

  • 32 to 42 °C (90 to 108 °F): Ideal growth range

Just where my water heater happened to have been set. But it’s ok. No one in the family has Legionnaires’ disease, and we would certainly know if we did.

Now, our only apparent concern with the hot water heater is being scalded; but I would much rather have the water hot enough to travel to my dishwasher and washing machine on the bottom floor than to potentially harbor stagnant, pathogen rich filth. I don’t want to sit in that!


Author: Kate Hill

Hi, I'm a 31 year old adjunct who writes in my spare time. I live with my girlfriend, her 13 year old daughter and the imaginary dog we keep talking about. I live in my head, and I like cheeseburgers. Did I mention a warm bath is a nice thing to come home to?

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