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Turning Down Your Hot Water Heater Can Keep Your Family Safer

Turning down the thermostat on your hot water heater can keep your family safer -- and save you money. Safety experts recommend that you keep your hot tap water at 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) or less. And you'll save about 3 to 5 percent on your energy bill for every 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) you dial it down, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. 

While scald burns can affect anyone of any age, infants, toddlers, and young children up to age 4 are most vulnerable to scald injuries from hot tap water. About 60 percent of all scald injuries -- including those that occur in kitchens -- happen to infants and young children.

Hot tap water accounts for one out of four scald injuries in young children, and it is linked to more hospitalizations and deaths than any other hot liquid burns. Because most tap water burns occur in bathrooms -- especially bathtubs -- tap water burns tend to cover a larger part of the body than other burns, and they tend to be more severe.

Two other groups are also at greater risk of burns from hot tap water:

  • Older adults: Adults 65 and older have thinner skin, which is more vulnerable to burn injury. They are often less mobile and agile than their younger counterparts, making it more difficult for them to move away from a heat source quickly. In addition, older adults may not feel heat on their skin until a scald burn has already occured. The latter is especially true for older adults who have diabetes or who are taking certain medications.
  • People with disabilities: People with a physical impairment may not be able to move away from too-hot tap water before a burn occurs. Sensory impairment may interfere with a person's ability to sense and react to danger. Mental impairment may interfere with the ability to respond appropriately to water that is too hot.

So turn down your hot water. Your family and your wallet will thank you.