At one time or another, we all have turned on a hot water faucet and been caught unaware by steaming hot water. You may have been lucky to pull your hand out of the flow just in time to prevent a burn. This situation creates a real danger for small children who can’t react in time.

The accompanying chart shows how fast excessively hot water can burn. Residential water heaters should always be set to a temperature not to exceed 120 degrees F. Measure the water temperature with a thermometer at a faucet after establishing the flow of hot water.

If the temperature is too high, you can make a simple adjustment at the water heater. A gas water heater has a dial on the front of the gas valve that can be set to a lower temperature. If your home has an electric water heater, you’ll probably need to remove a small access cover and adjust the thermostat with a screwdriver. When in doubt, look for the instructions or seek help from an expert.

In addition to making your hot water supply safer, lowering the water heater temperature can use significantly less energy (and save you money on utility bills).