The graph above demonstrates possible thermal injuries to the skin arising from varying hot water temperatures over time.
Note the nearly logarithmic progression.
In Jacksonville hundreds of people each year are burned by hot water. Last year there were over 3,000 people in this country burned by excessively hot tap water. 34 of these injuries involved death. The majority of these accidents involve senior citizens and children under the age of five. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) urges all users to lower their water heaters to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. We have represented adults and children burned by hot water from baths, showers and even hot coffee.
Most adults will suffer third-degree burns if exposed to 150 degree water for two seconds. Burns will also occur with a six-second exposure to 140 degree water or with a thirty second exposure to 130 degree water. Children and elderly adults will burn even quicker because of their thinner skin.
Various procedures for lowering water temperature in the home exist, depending on the method of heating. Here are some suggestions:
Electric water heaters. Call your local electric company to adjust the thermostat. Some companies offer this service at no-charge. Hot water should not be used for at least two hours prior to setting. To make the adjustment yourself, start by shutting off current to the water heater, then turn off the circuit breaker to the heater or remove the fuse that serves the heater. Most electric water heaters have two thermostats, both of which must be set to a common temperature for proper operation. To reach these thermostats you must remove the upper and lower access panels. Adjust the thermostat following the instructions provided with the appliance. Hold a candy or meat thermometer under the faucet to check water temperature.
Gas water heaters. Because thermostats differ, call your local gas company for instructions. Where precise temperatures are not given, hold a candy or meat thermometer under faucet for most accurate reading first thing in the morning or at least two hours after water use. If reading is too high, adjust thermostat on heater, according to manufacturers instructions, and check again with thermometer.
Furnace heater. If you do not have an electric, gas, or oil-fired water heater, you probably have an on-line hot water system. Contact your fuel supplier to have the temperature lowered. If you live in an apartment, contact the building manager to discuss possible options for lowering your tap water temperature. Reducing water temperature will not affect the heating capacity of the furnace.
The CPSC notes that a thermostat setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) may be necessary for residential water heaters to reduce or eliminate the risk of most tap water scald injuries. Consumers should consider lowering the thermostat to the lowest settings that will satisfy hot water needs for all clothing and dish washing machines.
Never take hot water temperature for granted. Always hand-test before using, especially when bathing children and infants. Leaving a child unsupervised in the bathroom, even if only for a second, could cause serious injuries. Your presence at all times is the best defense against accidents and scaldings to infants and young children.
We all have gotten used to the temperature of our showers and our baths. The problem is that most of us turn on both the cold and the hot water faucets at the same time. Unfortunately we only realize that our hot water is too hot when a child or guest only turns on the hot faucet. We urge everyone to check their hot water heaters. If you or someone in your family has been burned please contact us at (904) 387-6101