For every 1/2" of sediment build-up in a water heater, it uses 70% more energy to heat up the water. It is most likely costing more to keep an old water heater running than it would to replace it with a more energy efficient model. A common mistake when running out of hot water is to turn the thermostat to the highest setting on the water heater. Children and the elderly are the most susceptible to burns because their reaction time to scalding water is slower. Small children don't know how to remove themselves from the threat of scalding water either.
Third degree burn at 160F Degree water = less than 1 second
Third degree burn at 150F Degree water = 2 seconds
Third degree burn at 140F Degree water = 6 seconds
Third degree burn at 125F Degree water = 2 minutes
Third degree burn at 120F Degree water = 10 minutes
Even though it is relatively safe, exposure to 110 F degree water is painful. The human threshold for pain is around 106F degrees to 108F degrees. It is best to set your water heater at 120F degrees to 125F degrees for best effieciency and to help prevent burns. Still take proper precautions, especially with children. If you find that you run out of hot water before everyone is done showering; consider upgrading your water heater to a larger, more efficient model or add a second water heater to your existing one. The additional cost is minimal compared to a trip to the emergency room.
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