Every year nearly 24,000 children are burned from scalding shower water, and over 500,000 burns occur annually. It doesn't take much either. At 120 degrees Fahrenheit, water will burn the skin in about 5 minutes. Raise that by 20 degrees, and it'll only take 5 seconds.
However, sometimes you need to have the water temperature set that high, whether it's for dishwashers, washing machines, or even cooking. Even if you set the water at a lower temperature before jumping in the shower, sudden temperature shifts can leave you burned.
So, how can you keep your water heater set at a high enough temperature to help you finish the jobs you need without worrying about being burned? Install an anti-scald valve. They come in two different forms: pressure balance valves and thermostatic valves.
Pressure Balance Valves
Pressure balance valves work by adjusting to changes in pressure during water usage. Hot water is low pressure and cold water is high pressure. This is because of the basic fact that as the amount of energy rises the molecules begin to spread out. What this also means is that when someone flushes a toilet or runs cold water in the sink while you're showering, the amount of high pressure water decreases. When this happens, your plumbing system increases the amount of hot water being fed through the pipes, leading to hotter water.
A pressure balance valve will notice this difference and adjust the flow of the hot water to keep you from being blasted with an increase in hot water. It does the opposite if someone uses hot water, preventing you from being frozen with a blast of cold water. However, the downside is that this valve only adjusts for pressure, not temperature.
Thermostatic valves adjust for temperature. They include a sensor that monitors the temperature of the water and adjusts it before it leaves your shower head or faucet. They can also be installed anywhere along the plumbing system, whether next to the water heater or in the bathroom only.
If installed near the water heater, they will prevent the temperature of the water from reaching any dangerous temperatures throughout the entire house. Whether you're taking a shower or washing dishes, you won't have to worry about someone using water somewhere else and affecting the temperature.
If installed in the plumbing leading up to a shower head or faucet, the valve will moderate the temperature of that source only, allowing you to set your water heater at a constant temperature. As an example, you can prevent your shower or bath water from ever reaching a dangerous temperature, but still keep the water hot for washing dishes.
The downside to this is that it only controls the temperature and leaves you with pressure changes. If you want something that does both, you can find a combination pressure-balance and temperature valve.
For more help with issues like this, it's best to speak with different plumbing services.