Is A Water Heater Supposed To Be Hot To The Touch? [Answered]

It can be concerning when you put your hand on your water heater and you have to pull it away quickly. Is a water heater supposed to be hot to the touch?

A water heater should feel warm when you put your hand on it but it should not be so hot that you have to pull your hand away. Water heaters are well insulated to keep the heat on the inside. If your water heater is very hot to the touch, it needs to be fixed or replaced

If your water heater is excessively hot to the touch, it may be due to one of the following issues:

Tank Sediment – The tank to a water heater was designed to be drained on a regular basis. It should be drained and flushed multiple times throughout the year but most homeowners fail to do so even once.

As sediment and various mineral deposits build up inside of the tank it could cause the exterior of the tank to feel hot. This is a problem that is better avoided but you can also sometimes fix the issue by draining the tank after you realize it is a problem.

Aside from having a hot tank, you may notice some metal or rust in the water. This is a sign of a more serious problem that needs to be addressed.

Ventilation – In most cases, it is a good idea to have a hot water heater in a well-ventilated area. If you have it in an enclosed area and there is little or no ventilation, it will likely be hotter to the touch.

You can fix this issue by adding additional ventilation, such as a fan that will circulate the air. Otherwise, you may need to move the water heater to another area of the home.

Insulation – If the insulation is not adequate, then you will feel additional heat on the outside of the tank. This is not only a problem that causes discomfort when you touch the tank, it means you are wasting energy.

In some cases, you may need to get more insulation in the tank and a plumber can help you to do so. This will help to lower your energy bills. Otherwise, you can wrap the tank with insulation to keep it from losing too much heat.

How Hot Is The Outside Of A Water Heater?

Does your water heater feel hot when you touch it? It may or may not be a problem.

Generally speaking, a water heater should be warm when you touch it but it should not be so warm that you can’t leave your hand on it. A good rule of thumb is that the hotter the exterior of the tank, the less energy-efficient it is. An overly hot tank can also be a sign of a failing water heater.

At times, your water heater may suddenly feel excessively hot to the touch. This could be due to a heating cycle taking place in the hot water heater or it may be a problem with the insulation. As described above, it may also be an issue with sediment in the tank.

Unless the water heater is hot enough that it burns your hand, you can wait an hour and see if it cools down. If it continues to have problems, either consistently or periodically, you should contact a plumber.

A water heater that is excessively hot can be one of the first signs that the heater itself is failing. Look for any other signs of a failing heater, such as water leaking or unusual smells or sounds.

Why Is The Top Of My Water Heater So Hot?

If you touch the top of your water heater and it is hotter than the rest of the tank, there is a simple reason why.

As the water is heated inside of the water heater it rises to the top of the tank. That is why the top of the tank is often hotter than the sides of the tank. If the top of the tank is excessively hot, this could be a problem that needs to be addressed.

The main water supply feeds the water heater and the cold water from outside goes to the bottom of the tank.

Water heaters are designed with the element at the bottom of the tank and it heats the incoming water. As the water heats, it rises to the top of the tank and the colder water sinks to the bottom.

The reason why your water heater tank is hot on top is that heat rises. Not only is the hot water at the top of the tank but the heat is also more likely to dissipate through the top of the tank.

Insufficient insulation can lead to excessive heat coming through the top of the tank. This is a problem because you are wasting energy, as you want the heat to stay inside.

You can buy special wraps for the water heater to help maintain the heat and keep it from disappearing into the surrounding atmosphere. This is true of both the sides and the top of the water heater.

What Happens If A Water Heater Gets Too Hot?

Water heaters are designed to be hot but if they get too hot, it can cause problems.

If a water heater gets too hot it can damage the heating element. For the most part, the heating element will continue to run, either because of a short or because of another issue in the tank. The element will eventually burn out and need to be replaced. In the meantime, it can cause the water to get to scalding temperatures.

The reason we have a water heater in our home is because we want a constant supply of hot water. We want that water to be ready for use when we need it, regardless of whether we are washing dishes or washing ourselves.

When a water heater is no longer sending out a consistent stream of hot water, it is typically a sign that repairs are necessary. A water heater that gets excessively hot can be a sign that the water heater is failing entirely.

You may find that replacing the element or having a plumber check some other features of the water heater can get it working again. This is also a problem that is likely to recur and you may want to start shopping for a new water heater now.

There are several different reasons why a water heater may be running so hot. It could be a problem with the heating element, the thermostat, or even the pressure relief valve.

Make sure that you are draining the tank on a routine basis to keep the buildup of sediment to a minimum. Doing so will add years to the lifespan of most water heaters.

How Do I Fix My Water Heater From Overheating?

If your water heater is overheating there are a number of things you can do to fix the problem.

The easiest fix for a water heater that is overheating is to flush the sediment from the tank. As sediment and mineral deposits build up in the bottom of the tank, it can affect the heating element and cause it to run excessively. Flushing the tank can relieve many of the problems of most water heaters.

Another common reason why a water heater may be running too hot is if the pressure relief valve is experiencing problems. The pressure relief valve is found on the top of the water heater and it allows steam to escape when the heat builds up.

Although it is a simple machine by design, the pressure relief valve does serve a very specific purpose. If the steam is not allowed to escape, the water heater will build up to dangerous temperatures and could even fail.

Finally, check the temperature setting on the water heater and ensure that it is not too high. As a general rule, you should not have water hotter than 120°F coming out of the water heater.

When the temperature setting is too high on a water heater it can cost you a lot in your monthly electric bill. It might also cause scalding hot water to come out unexpectedly, potentially burning someone in the process.

A water heater should be warm when you touch it but it should never be too hot to touch. If your water heater feels like it is burning to the skin when you touch it, it is likely a sign that there is a bigger problem. Drain the tank, check the heater settings and verify the quality of the insulation.


I love doing things around the house. I'm taking my years of experience as a homeowner and a full-time handyman and putting them here for your benefit. When I'm not writing, you can find me on the beach watching the waves come in. Call me Tom or Tommy, it's all the same to me.

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