Do I Need to Turn Up My Water Heater in the Winter?

November 6, 2019

woman testing water temperature

Now that the weather has gotten a lot colder in Massachusetts, we thought we’d write about a specific issue that starts to happen in homes throughout the state around this time of year – it has to do with the shower not getting hot enough.

Have you noticed that when you turn on the shower, it seems to take several minutes to get hot? If so, did you have the problem back in September when the weather was warmer? If this issue only recently started, you may be wondering, “Do I need to turn up my hot water heater in the wintertime?”

Why Your Water Is Taking So Long to Warm Up During Winter?

Before we discuss changing the temperature on your water heater, let’s address the possible reasons why it’s taking longer for your shower to heat up. For starters, there’s a very good chance that the issue has to do with the colder weather outside.

You know how during the summer, it can take longer to get cold water to come from your hose or from your shower because it’s hot outside? Well, the same thing happens during the winter only it’s the opposite – it’s so cold outside and underground that your water heater has to work harder to warm up the icy cold water running through your plumbing pipes to the right temperature.

Do you have an old unit? In that case, it’s probably having an even harder time warming up the cold water. As the water heater works to heat up the water to the right temperature, cold water keeps coming in and cooling things down. If your unit is 8 or years older and you haven’t had it maintained recently, sediment buildup can make things worse. It may be time to replace the older unit.

What could be causing things to take so long?

  • It could simply be the colder air outside making things take longer to heat up.
  • You could have an older unit that’s not running as efficiently as it would if it was new.
  • You could have an old unit with sediment buildup – maintenance could help!
  • Cold air around the heater could be making the unit work less efficiently. Caulking nearby windows or placing foam insulation around exposed pipes may solve the problem. With older water heaters, a special insulation blanket around the unit can reduce heat loss significantly.
  • If your unit has worn out parts, replacing them can help it run more efficiently.

If your water heater isn’t working as well as it should, it’s worth getting some routine maintenance done and finding out if any of its parts need to be replaced. If everything is in good working order, adjusting the temperature from 120 to 130 degrees can make all the difference. Check your manufacturer’s recommendations before you adjust it too high because there are safety concerns to be aware of. You don’t want to set the unit too high where people are scalded by burning hot water, especially if you have children in the home.

Next: Preparing Your Furnace for the Winter

Do you need help with your water heater? For all of your water heater needs, contact Winters Home Services today!