5 tips to prevent legionella bacteria breeding in your home

We’re constantly being warned about the nasty bugs or viruses invading public places. Our workshops, offices, supermarkets, parks and schools are minefields of germ destruction. Just catching the bus or whipping around to the shops for a carton of milk can expose you to millions of tiny bacteria, some of which can make you very sick. Ahhh! It’s enough to make you don the latex gloves and face mask, break out the sanitiser gel and never leave the house again.

The bad news is you don’t have to go out in public to be affected by dangerous bacteria. Without the right care, our home hot water system can breed the potentially deadly legionella bacteria and deliver it quite efficiently throughout the house. This bacteria thrives in the warm, wet conditions in storage hot water systems, including heat pumps and solar. Temperatures between 25 and 50 degrees Celsius are ideal for growth which is why it is really important to make sure your hot water system runs above this temperature.

The good news is it is quite easy to prevent a legionella outbreak in your home, just follow these easy steps.

Tip 1 – Store hot water at 60C or more

Legionella bacteria cannot survive in temperatures above 60C so it is imperative to ensure your hot water system is storing the water above this temperature. You may need a plumber to check this is happening if your hot water system doesn’t have an external temperature display.

Tip 2 – Don’t turn the hot water system off to save

Turning off your storage hot water system for periods of time to save money may lower your power bills but it will also increase the likelihood of a legionella outbreak. To save on hot water heating consider swapping your storage system to an instantaneous heater. An instant or continuous hot water system only heats the water as you use it.

Boosters for solar hot water systems should not be turned off on overcast days.

If you need to turn off the hot water system while you’re away on holidays, make sure the system heats up to 60C and wait 1/2 hour before the water is used to ensure all legionella bacteria have been killed.

Tip 3 – Install a tempering or thermostatic mixing valve

If the water delivered to the taps is at 60C there is a high risk of scalds and burns. Fitting a tempering valve or thermostatic mixing valve to the hot water system allows your plumber to set the delivery temperature to a safe 50C to protect residents from accidents.

Tip 4 – Flush seldom used fixtures

If there are taps or showers in your home which don’t often get used it’s important to regularly flush them out to prevent legionella from multiplying in the pipes and fixtures.

Tip 5 – Regular hot water system servicing

Periodic maintenance on your home’s hot water system will uncover any issues such as a decrease in the storage temperature before they become big problems or health risks.

Symptoms of Legionnaires disease

The disease presents with flu-like symptoms including fever, severe headache, chills, tiredness, diarrhoea, muscle pain, shortness of breath and occasionally a dry cough. Those affected are usually middle-aged to elderly, especially people suffering from lung disease. The bacteria is spread through breathing in contaminated water vapour.

Protect yourself and your family from contracting legionnaires disease in your home by following these hot water system tips. If you need help with any of the above give our team of master plumbers a call on 1300 762 260 or complete our booking request today.

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