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Learn more about ways to save on your energy bills. Our home improvement articles contain topics on plumbing, heating, air conditioning and home performance.

Adjusting Your Water Heater Temperature

Summers in Pennsylvania can be scorching, with temperatures rising into the triple digits.

As the temperatures rise, so too do our electric bills as our air-conditioning units and fans do their best to keep our homes comfortable. For many of us, this makes summer a stressful time as we worry about everything from high electric bills to excessive energy consumption.

One of the easiest things you can do to help your wallet and the planet out this summer is to try adjusting the temperature on your water heater. Your water heater might seem unrelated to keeping you cool, but it’s a big part of your home’s infrastructure and can help you cut down on energy use during this peak energy-consumption season.

Not sure how to do adjust your water heater or how to set the best water heater temperature? This guide shows you how you can complete this small fix yourself.

What Are the Benefits of Adjusting My Water Heater Temperature?

Your water heater controls the temperature of your water, and thus, can deliver water of varying temperatures depending on which knob you turn in the sink or shower. Your water heater works tirelessly to produce hot water. Even at night when you’re in bed sleeping, it’s still plugging away keeping your water hot for your morning shower. But during the summer, much of this work is unnecessary. Because your water heater is working so hard to give you water at the temperature you want, it’s using up tremendous amounts of energy. Often, this translates into sky-high energy bills for you. You’re spending money on energy your appliance doesn’t need to expend in the first place.

The best way to control this type of energy usage in the summer is to adjust the temperature of your water heater. By regulating your water heater temp, you better equip it to deal with the strain of higher ambient temperatures. Adjusting your hot water heater in the summer can save you money by making this simple, small tweak. Once you do, there are a few benefits you’ll experience.

benefits of adjusting water heater

1. Save More Money

Your HVAC system is the biggest energy consumer in your home, but your water heater is a close second. Just as your heating and cooling need to work their hardest during the height of winter and summer, your water heater is under the same strain. And while the idea of a mechanical system struggling might sound like an abstract concept, there’s one notable way in which this concept has genuine implications in your day-to-day life — your bills.

Most of us understand more energy usage translates to higher bills. Since we pay for every bit of energy we use, it follows that the more we use, the more we’ll owe to our electric or gas suppliers. Therefore, it also follows that if we want to save money on utilities, the best way of doing so is to cut the amount of energy we’re using. By adjusting the water heater temperature to a lower temperature, cutting our energy usage is exactly what we’re doing.

2. Help the Environment

Each of us can do our part to keep the planet a little bit greener and help the environment. One of the most significant changes you can make as an individual is the decision to consume less energy.

Because your water heater is working so hard to give you water at the temperature you want, it’s using up tremendous amounts of energy. Instead of a hot shower, a warm or cooler shower might feel even more refreshing.

To generate the electricity we use in our homes, power plants must generate that power — fossil fuels, wind, solar and maybe even hydroelectric. You’re spending energy your appliance doesn’t need to expend in the first place, and this too translates into sky-high energy bills for you.

By turning your water heater temperature down, you allow your water heater a little bit of a break. This, in turn, translates to less energy spent, which translates to your home consuming less electricity overall. And just like that, you’ve done your part to keep our planet green and beautiful.

3. Avoid Burns

With the combined forces of a water heater working at full blast and water that already is resting at above-average temperatures, you have a recipe for extremely hot water. In many cases, this water might even cause burns.

One of the best ways to avoid burns is to turn down the water heater. That way, you can feel sure the water will not reach these unprecedentedly high temperatures.

What Is the Recommended Water Heater Temperature?

water heater set too high stats

Did you know a whopping 42% of the population leaves their water heater set too high? Most water heaters will come pre-programmed to rest at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and many homeowners will not give this temperature a second thought. They leave this temperature set as they install the heater and carry on using it to heat water for their showers, dishwashers and washing machines. The problem is that while this is a decent catch-all temperature setting, it’s also more heat than you need during the summer. As a result, this temperature leads to wasted energy.

To achieve the best temperature, you’ll need to vary the water heater temperature dial to reflect the changing seasons. Going too low creates the risk of bacteria growing in your pipes or water heater, but going too high leads to the danger of burning. To avoid either extreme, you’ll want to find a happy medium. We recommend always keeping the heater set between 110 and 120 degrees.

In the summer, try setting your water heater temperature at the low end of this scale, placing it close to or at 110 degrees. In the winter, lean toward the high end of the range. During this season, 120 is a much more acceptable temperature.

This difference of only 10 degrees or less may not seem like much of a difference, but it can be all you need to save up to 5% in energy spending. You’ll notice the difference in the shower, too, with the water temperature feeling far more comfortable and natural.

How to Adjust Water Heater Temperature

Now that it’s clear why adjusting your water heater temperature is helpful, it’s time to talk practically. How do you change these temperature settings? Is it something you can do yourself, or do you need to call in the professionals?

The process will be slightly different in every case, as each heater and system has a set of varying control mechanisms. Nevertheless, we think the process is simple enough that anyone can complete it on their own. Let’s break things down to demonstrate how you can easily adjust the water heater temperature in your home.

1. Test the Water

test water heater temperature

The first step toward adjusting your water heater temperature is testing the water to make sure the temperature readouts on the heater itself are accurate. You can complete this test easily by turning on the tap in your sink and letting it run until it reaches maximum heat. Once it’s fully heated, hold a thermometer under the stream and check the temperature. Ideally, it’ll match the setting on the heater.

2. For Tankless Water Heaters

If you have a tankless water heater in your home, you’re in luck. Adjusting the temperature settings couldn’t be easier. The process is very similar to changing your home’s thermostat and requires about as much effort. Use the digital control panel to dial the hot water temperature up or down as desired, and you should be all set.

3. For Gas or Electric Water Heaters

Some gas water heaters may have a straightforward dial located near the bottom of the tank that you can turn to adjust the temperature. In the case of many newer models, however, the process is a little more complicated. Follow these instructions to adjust your electric or gas hot water heater temperature.

  • Locate your circuit breaker and turn off power to the water heater.
  • Search for the water heater access panel that leads to the thermostat. Once you find it, use a screwdriver to remove the panel and reveal the thermostat underneath.
  • If there’s any insulation covering the thermostat, peel this out of the way.
  • Using a flat-head screwdriver, adjust the thermostat to your desired position. In some models, you may find your heater has two thermostats. If this is the case, change them both an equal amount. It’s usually best for the top thermostat to rest a few degrees higher than the bottom, so if this is what you encounter, maintain this balance.
  • Replace the insulation and screw the panel back into place over the thermostat.
  • Head back to the circuit breaker and flick the power to the heater back on.
  • If you’re working with a gas water heater, you may also need to relight a pilot light. Check to see whether this may be the case before walking away from the job.

How Do I Know When to Adjust My Water Heater Temperature?

One of the most fundamental ways you can tell that it’s time to adjust your water heater for the season is by running the water in your sink. If it’s winter, turn the tap to hot, and if it’s summer, try running cold water. See how long it takes for the water to come out at your desired temperature. If it does so right away, your water heater is probably fine. If it seems to be taking a while, it might be time to give that water heater thermostat a little fine-tuning.

Another way to decide when to reset your water heater is to mark the dates when you plan to raise or lower the temperature. Perhaps every year, you might set calendar reminders for May 15 and Oct. 1, or whichever dates are appropriate for your climate and location. On these days, you’ll adjust the temperature. This way, you don’t have to worry about running any tests, and can just rest easy knowing you don’t have to do anything until these dates.

Contact a Water Heater Service Professional Today

contact us for water heater adjustments

Can’t seem to locate your water heater thermostat? Or, perhaps you have found it and made the suggested adjustments, but nothing seems to have changed. If you’re encountering problems that go beyond the scope of what we’ve mentioned here, and that seem beyond your ability to deal with, it may be time to call in the pros.

Here at Summers & Zim’s, we want to be your home service professionals. We serve Lancaster, Delaware and Chester counties, and we make it our business to get the job done right the first time around. With our service-first attitude, friendly approach to helping our customers and extensive knowledge of how water heaters and other home appliances work, we have everything you might be looking for in a team of home service providers.

Are you ready to start getting to the bottom of your question? Contact us today. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

How to Know if the Air in Your House is Too Dry

In winter, we keep the windows and doors shut, run the furnace all the time, use our fireplaces and create really dry air inside our homes. That warm and toasty home feels good when it’s cold outside. But here are some signs the air in your home is too dry:

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Toilet Repairs May be Needed due to In-Tank Cleaners

Given the dirty nature of bathrooms, and toilets in particular, all homeowners want to find fast and easy ways to clean in these spaces. That’s why many choose to use the drop-in toilet cleaners that often come in the form of bleach-chlorine tablets. These tablets may seem like simple solutions, but they are often more trouble — and damage-causing — than they are worth.

If you use drop-in toilet cleaner tablets, we recommend you change to a different method for keeping your toilet bowl clean. You may like the fresh blue look of the water when using in-tank tablets, but you are actually damaging your toilet — and the long-term cost of repairs and replacements to your toilet far outweigh the short-term ease of dropping in a cleaning solution.

Here’s a look at how these drop-in tablets came to be, why they are harmful and what you can choose to do as an alternative.

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What Is an Air Conditioning Wet Switch/Float Switch?

Air conditioning is a convenience we rely on during the hottest days of summer and — for those of us who live in the Southern United States — for many months of the year. While these useful appliances don’t usually give us any trouble, they are also known to leak, which can cause extensive water damage to your home. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to easily prevent this potentially catastrophic situation with a simple, affordable and easily installable device called an AC float switch or safety switch.

How Do Air Conditioning Units Work?

Most air conditioners serve two primary functions — Removing heat for the air and dehumidifying that air. We’ll briefly describe each of these functions below:

1. Cooling

Air conditioners remove heat from the indoor air by making use of a remarkable law in physics. When a liquid turns into a gas — a process known as phase conversion — it absorbs heat. An air conditioning unit takes advantage of this law by forcing certain chemical compounds to evaporate and condense over and over within a coil system.

air conditioning coil system graphic

The chemical compounds used in this process are called refrigerants, which have properties that allow them to evaporate at fairly low temperatures. Air conditioning units are equipped with fans that bring in the relatively warm air from the surrounding environment and move it over these coils filled with cold refrigerant, which are known as evaporator coils. Central air conditioners contain entire duct systems that funnel air to and from these coils.

This cooling cycle consists of two main stages:

  1. The refrigerant is converted to a gas: When warm air flows past these low-pressure, cold evaporator coils, the heat from the air is absorbed by the refrigerant inside the coils as the refrigerant converts from liquid to gas.
  2. Compression and conversion back to liquid: To continue cooling efficiently, air conditioners must convert these refrigerant gases back into a liquid, which they accomplish with a compressor. This compressor puts the refrigerant gas under high pressure, which creates undesired heat. The heat that results from compressing this gas is then channeled outside the building with the help of another fan and another set of coils known as condenser coils. This causes the refrigerant gas to cool and condense back into a liquid, and then the cycle starts over.

2. Removing Moisture

In addition to removing heat from the indoor air, most air conditioners also serve a second function — removing moisture from the air as it passes through the evaporator coil. As you now know, when warm air is moved over the evaporator coils and the refrigerant liquid inside evaporates, the surrounding air cools. As this air cools, moisture from the air will condense on the outside of the evaporator coils.To get rid of this moisture, air conditioning equipment contains drain pipes that allows the collected water inside the unit to drain. The water runs down the evaporator coil to a drip pan that temporarily contains the water until it goes down the drain.

What Is a Wet Switch/Float Switch?

Every once in a while, however, the drain pipes become clogged with debris and dirt, in which case they will no longer be able to effectively remove the water. Considering that a single HVAC unit can collect up to 20 gallons of condensed water a day, it’s not hard to imagine the damage that could occur if the water could not be adequately drained.

wet switch prevents overflow graphic

An HVAC wet switch/float switch, also known as a condensate overflow switch, serves to prevent this pan from overflowing if the AC drain stops working properly. The switch is activated when the level of the water in the pan comes above a certain point, causing the switch mechanism to trip/float to rise. When this happens, the switch will then send a message to the AC unit, and it will shut off, stopping the phase conversion and creation of condensation. At this point, a technician can locate and fix the source of the leak before water damage occurs. 

Where Is the Wet Switch/Float Switch Located?

The location of the wet switch/float switch depends on the orientation of your HVAC equipment. Horizontal units typically have a secondary drip pan, which is found under the unit to prevent excess condensation from doing damage. The wet switch/float switch is attached to this secondary drip pan.

For vertical units or horizontal ones that don’t have a secondary drip pan, you can install a float switch on the PVC drain pipe of the unit, which will become activated if the flow of water becomes obstructed. Some HVAC equipment have a condensate pump installed with it, which the condensation drains into from the AC equipment and is pumped out rather than letting gravity drain it. These pumps also come equipped with a mechanism that resembles a float switch and works in the same way by shutting off the equipment and thereby preventing serious water damage.

Why Do I Need a Wet Switch/Float Switch? What Benefits Does It Provide?

Regardless of the location of your AC, it is critical to have a wet switch/float switch, or, depending on the type of unit, a condensate pump. An AC wet switch/float switch provides the following benefits:

benefits of a wet switch/float switch graphic
  • Reduce or prevent water damage: This safety switch will turn off the compressor, which, as you learned above, is in charge of the AC unit’s condensation process. By installing an AC wet switch/float switch, you’re avoiding what could be a disastrous event.
  • Prevent dangerous mold growth: As any homeowner knows, areas that collect moisture are susceptible to mold. If not prevented from leaking moisture can get into unnoticed areas and microbial spores can grow and spread to other nearby areas such as the wall. Mold is not just an eyesore, but can also be foul-smelling and endanger the health of those who breathe it in. If your AC equipment is leaky, mold removal is an issue you might be forced to deal with. Of course, by installing an AC wet switch/float switch, you’ll no longer have to worry about this happening in the first place.
  • Save money: Water can cause more damage than you might imagine. A leaky pan or drainage pipe can cause serious structural damage. It may leak into a nearby wall, ruining your AC unit and the wall as well. Installing this simple, affordable switch may save you thousands of dollars worth of damage.

To give you a better idea of how destructive water damage can be, keep in mind that the average cost for drying your property out from a water leak that is “clean,” which means no other damage occurred, is $2,700. The average cost of drying out a home and fixing the damage done to carpeting, drywall and other areas is around $7,500. Costs can be even higher depending on how much water is involved and how extensive the damage is. 

While a leak may seem like just an inconvenience, a leak can severely damage a home if not dealt with quickly. In addition to damaging areas like drywall and carpeting, it may also eventually lead to:

  • Fire caused by water coming in contact with electrical sources
  • Rotting or softening of wood and various other organic materials
  • Staining as a result of particles or minerals found in the water that seeps into wood, stone and other porous materials.

Wet Switch or Float Switch?

A common alternative to the float switch is a wet switch, which also detects when condensate water overflows. However, it does this in a different way. Unlike float switches, wet switches are normally placed in a secondary drain pan, which is usually dry. If there is an overflow in the primary pan, it will flow over into the second one. The wet switch, upon detecting this moisture, will turn off the unit to prevent water damage.

Contact Summers & Zim’s for Your Air Conditioning Repair or Installation Needs

If you’re a homeowner in Lancaster, Chester or Delaware Counties in Pennsylvania, you can come to Summers and Zim’s for any of your cooling, heating or plumbing needs. We offer a wide variety of services for your AC system, including: 

contact summers and zim's graphic

1. System Repair and Replacement

A properly functioning air conditioning system is critical for your comfort and — if it’s extremely hot — your safety as well. Summers and Zim’s will ensure your house stays the reliable refuge you need it to be when the outside temperatures push 100. Don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us for AC maintenance, replacement or repair.

2. Routine Maintenance and Cleaning

We frequently respond to emergency calls to repair central air conditioning problems that the homeowners could have avoided by scheduling a maintenance service earlier on. Maintenance services let professional technicians examine your system and locate any potential problem areas before they cause emergencies.

3. Thermostat and Home Comfort System Service

Although you may give little thought to thermostats or comfort control, if either of these fail, you’ll certainly want them fixed very quickly. At Summers and Zim’s, we offer repair, maintenance and replacement services for your thermostat and home comfort system.

4. Split Ductless Cooling and Heating System Service

Although split ductless systems are not one of the more common heating and cooling methods, they work well in many specific situations, including in homes without ducts, multifamily housing and in smaller home additions and apartments. Although highly dependable, this system will eventually require maintenance, repair or replacement. We have the tools and experience to address any of your split ductless system needs.

5. Air Purification Technology Installation

When creating an ideal home environment, one thing that is often overlooked is overall efficiency, which refers to how well your HVAC equipment can keep the heated or cooled air in your house. The home efficiency testing we perform includes:

home efficiency testing graphic
  • Carbon monoxide testing: We make sure that the air in your house is safe to breathe and will not endanger the health of your family or your guests.
  • Window and insulation inspections: We also inspect your windows and insulation to see if you’re paying more than necessary for your cooling and heating. We search for areas that are not sufficiently insulated, including those tiny, unnoticeable places that are decreasing the energy efficiency of your home and increasing your utility bills.
  • Air infiltration testing: We also perform testing for air infiltration that can identify places with leaks, which may include inefficient doors, windows and skylights.
  • Duct system testing: The ducts in your home can also significantly decrease the energy efficiency of your home and may make your utility bills soar. Our testing system can determine whether your ducts have leaks and how much air is escaping.

Our 5-Point Guarantee

For over 80 years, we’ve been providing this community with high-quality repairs and preventative maintenance. However, our excellent equipment service isn’t the only reason we’ve been in business so long – we also offer superior customer service by following our 5-Point HVAC Guarantee, which includes the following promises:

  • Design Guarantee: When suggesting and designing the perfect system for your house, regardless of whether it’s plumbing, heating or cooling, we guarantee it will work as intended. If the solution that we recommend and design turns out to be unsuitable, we will make any necessary replacements and fixes completely free of charge.
  • No-Lemons Guarantee: For most homeowners, a heating, cooling or plumbing system is a big investment, and we believe you should never need to worry about it breaking. For this reason, we offer our customers a No-Lemons Guarantee, which means that, if your equipment fails, we’ll install a new one. If your boiler fails within 10 years, we’ll replace it. And if the water heater fails within the first six years, or your well pump fails in the first five years, we’ll replace those units as well.
  • $500 No-Frustration Guarantee: There are few home-owning experiences more infuriating than the failure of a new system, which can leave you without hot water, heating, cooling or other convenience that you depend on for comfort. For this reason, we also offer a generous $500 No-Frustration Guarantee. This means that, if your system breaks down within the first two years and leaves you for 24 hours with no water, heat or hot water due to well pump, boiler or water heater issues, we’ll give you $500 for the inconvenience it has caused.
  • Home Protection Guarantee: While most heating system services and plumbing work guarantees include labor and parts, our Home Protection Guarantee offers even more by protecting your entire house. This means all walls, floors, carpeting, door frames and furniture are completely protected. And if we happen to accidentally damage any of your property, we will repair or replace it. Summers and Zim’s technicians use protective covers for their shoes and hall runners where appropriate.
  • 100% Money-Back Guarantee: All of our plumbing guarantees and AC and heating service guarantees come with a 100% Money-Back Guarantee. If you are not satisfied with our installation, we’ll remove the equipment and give you 100% of your money back.

Regardless of what service we perform, you can rest assured that we will always abide by this 5-Point HVAC Guarantee. If you need an installation, repair or routine maintenance, contact us via our online form

What to Look Out for to Avoid Hiring Scammy or Unlicensed Contractors

Hiring an unlicensed contractor, or one who might scam you when seeking out plumbing or HVAC services in Pennsylvania, can be disastrous. When you need plumbing services, you want to be sure you’re hiring a certified, licensed plumber in Lancaster, PA or wherever you need service.

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The Benefits of Home Performance Testing

Of all the services that you engage for your home, one of the most neglected may be home performance testing. There are numerous benefits of home performance testing, and if you haven’t considered home performance testing in Westchester, PA, Coatesville, or homes throughout Lancaster and Chester County, you are missing out on an important opportunity.

Here’s a brief breakdown of the benefits of home efficiency testing in Lancaster, PA and beyond.

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How to Stop a Plumbing Problem Before It Becomes a Plumbing Emergency

Plumbing problems can be annoying, but plumbing emergencies can be disastrous. While plumbing emergencies can’t always be avoided, there are some signs to watch for that can help you stop a plumbing problem before it becomes a plumbing emergency.

Here’s an overview of some of the most common plumbing problems.

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What to Expect From a Trustworthy HVAC Technician

You’d prefer to never have need of an HVAC technician, but when you do need one, you want to know you’re getting one you can trust. You want an HVAC technician who is licensed and certified to work on your system and one you know will provide the service they promise at a fair price.

An unlicensed, untrustworthy HVAC technician is certainly not going to announce that fact to you, but you’ll find out when that technician reneges on any heating system service guarantees they offer when their work fails to fix your system, if they offer any guarantee at all.

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The Many Different Heating Systems Available to Homeowners

You rely on your heating system to get you through the tough cold spells of winter. But how well do you understand the type of heating system you have? Are you aware that there’s a wide variety of options when it comes to heating systems?

Here’s a brief breakdown of the many different types of heating systems available to homeowners and how they work.

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What to Expect From a Trustworthy Plumber

If you need plumbing services, it’s very important that those services come from a trustworthy plumber. Why is a trustworthy plumber so important? Because many plumbers can deceive you as to their level of expertise, licensure or certification. You may think you’re getting a certified, licensed plumber in Lancaster, PA, for example, when in fact you’re getting someone who wants to represent themselves as one but who lacks the requirements to be certified or licensed.

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