Published onMarch 29th, 2021
How Hot Is Too Hot? What Temperature Should Your Water Be?
If you are a property owner in New York City, especially if you are a landlord, hot water can be an issue. Tenants may complain that their water in the shower or bath isn’t hot enough. How hot should your water be anyway? Calray Boilers offers advice about hot water heater and boiler settings, as well as water temperature tips to keep everyone happy. Here’s what you should know about water temperature.
New York City Laws Regarding Hot Water for Tenants
Landlords must follow city laws
If you are a property owner with tenants in New York City, you have a legal responsibility to provide adequate heat and hot water. Hot water must be provided 12 months of the year. Hot water from all taps must reach at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit. In properties where a shower scald device has been installed, temperatures should reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot water isn’t just a pleasant perk of modern-day living. It’s necessary for household cleaning, and it prevents illnesses like Legionnaires’ disease, which is caused by Legionella bacteria. These microbes can multiply in cooler water sitting in a water heater. Legionnaires’ disease is a type of pneumonia and can be fatal.
Each year in the city, there are thousands of complaints filed with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development accusing landlords of not providing the proper level of heat and hot water. You want to avoid being the target of one of these complaints, as you may wind up being cited and fined by the city. Even worse, tenants can withhold rent while pursuing legal action in court.
Therefore, when tenants come to you with hot water problems, it’s best to investigate the issue before things escalate. Test the temperature of the water in the units in question to see if you are meeting the legal requirements for New York City (or that it’s not too hot, as discussed below). Also, be aware that there may be special hot water requirements for certain types of properties, such as nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Make sure, if you own a property that’s not a standard residential apartment building or commercial rental property that you understand your unique hot water requirements as dictated by city law.
Why Too Hot Is Not Better
Excessively hot water is dangerous and costly
Some landlords’ first instinct is to overcompensate for tepid water by going in the opposite direction and making the water extremely hot–as hot as 150 or 160 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this solution is no better, as it can be both hazardous and expensive.
Hot water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or above can severely burn the skin in as little as two seconds. Burns caused by water at temperatures above 140 degrees can require surgery and long-term hospitalization. As you might imagine, young children and the elderly are most susceptible to these types of burns for several reasons:
- Their skin is more fragile.
- They don’t have control over bathing water temperatures.
- They don’t have the reflexes to withdraw quickly from a stream of hot water.
- They may not realize the water is too hot before using it.
- They may not be able to verbalize what’s happening when exposed to scalding water.
As a property owner, whether you have a single-family home or a large apartment building, overheating water is costly. You’re paying to fire the water heater or boiler far more often than you need to, which ends up costing you in gas or electric bills.
Water Temperature Tips
Adjust your boiler or water heater to achieve the proper temperature
The first place to start if your water is too hot or too cold is with your boiler or hot water heater, whichever you use to provide hot tap water. Make sure the thermostat is set properly and that it is firing when it should to warm the water to the right temperature. Check that it’s not running constantly, which could overheat the water and run up your utility bills (see maintenance, below).
Insulate your water distribution pipes
If you are losing heat between the time hot water leaves your boiler or heater and the time it reaches its final destination, you might be tempted to increase the temperature on the thermostat accordingly. While this works in most cases, it’s not very cost effective. A better solution is to make sure your pipes are properly insulated. This may also save you money if you use steam heat via radiators.
Don’t overheat to kill bacteria and remove odors
You want to find the right balance between eliminating bacteria and odors, like sulfur, from your water and making it dangerously hot. The temperatures that kill Legionella are actually hotter than the safe, recommended temperature for tap water: above 135 degrees Fahrenheit.
Instead of overheating your water, which presents scalding risks to your family or tenants, try these solutions. First, make sure your anode rod is working in your hot water heater, which will help remove unpleasant odors in your water. Additionally, you can install anti-scald devices in bathrooms, which automatically mix in cold water to keep tap water from being too hot. This allows you to keep your supply tank a little hotter without making users’ water excessively hot.
Educate tenants about hot water safety
Make sure your tenants understand hot water safety, particularly with regard to children, the elderly, and the disabled. It’s easy to put together a quick brochure with all your heat and hot water information, including reminders like:
- Always test hot water before showering or bathing.
- Start a shower or bath by turning on the cold water first, then adding hot water to achieve the desired temperature. Have children learn this skill too when showering on their own.
- Always check the water temperature before using the bath with a very young child, senior citizen, or anyone who has reduced sensitivity to temperature or can’t verbalize if the water is too hot.
- Never leave a young child unattended in the bath.
- Color-coded spout covers or floating thermometers can alert parents or caregivers when water is getting too hot.
Keep your boiler or water heater in top running condition
Hot water issues can also be avoided by keeping your water heater or boiler in its best operating shape. Rust and corrosion can encourage bacteria and cause heat loss through leaks. Failure of other parts can result in your water heating system not firing often enough or firing too frequently. Be sure to schedule routine maintenance with boiler professionals to check wiring, burners, gas supply, thermostats, and safety sensors.
Need more help with your hot water concerns? Call Calray Boilers today at 212-722-5506, or schedule an appointment online at your convenience. We’ve been New York City’s hyper-local blue-chip boiler experts for nearly 100 years, and we can help you find the solutions you’re looking for.