Legionella Risks vs Energy Costs : The Winter Battle You Can’t Ignore
In the midst of the ongoing cost of living crisis, the surge in gas and electricity prices has left consumers keenly searching for ways to reduce their energy bills. Despite government assistance, energy costs remain significantly higher than they were just a couple of years ago, and the prospect of further increases looms large. As a result, people are exploring various strategies to curtail their monthly energy usage. While many look to cut back on heating or employ smaller energy-saving measures, a less-known concern revolves around hot water temperature, separate from central heating thermostats, in gas combi boilers.
Maintaining a careful balance between energy efficiency and safety is paramount. Reducing hot water temperatures too drastically can potentially lead to a proliferation of Legionella bacteria within your water system, a situation best avoided at all costs.
Understanding Legionella Bacteria and Its Risks
Legionella bacteria is the culprit behind the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease and the less severe Pontiac fever. The symptoms often mimic those of the flu, making it possible for some affected individuals to remain unaware of their condition. Common indicators include high fever, muscle aches, cough, and a general feeling of unwellness. In severe cases, for those who are health compromised or elderly, the symptoms can escalate, requiring hospitalisation. If there’s even a suspicion of Legionnaires’ disease, seeking prompt medical attention is crucial, as tests are needed to confirm the diagnosis and for the health-compromised or elderly, sadly untreated can lead to death.
What is legionella?
Legionella bacteria is commonly found in water. The bacteria multiply where temperatures are between 20-45°C and nutrients are available. The bacteria are dormant below 20°C and do not survive above 60°C.
Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal type of pneumonia contracted by inhaling airborne water droplets containing viable Legionella bacteria. For example, such droplets can be created by hot and cold water outlets, showers, wet air conditioning plants, and whirlpool or hydrotherapy baths.
Anyone can develop Legionnaires’ disease, but the elderly, smokers, alcoholics and those with cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory or kidney disease are at more risk.
Safely Reducing Hot Water Temperatures
Given the quest to reduce energy bills, lowering hot water temperatures is becoming a popular great concern. The water temperature at the boiler should never fall below 60 degrees Celsius to prevent Legionella growth. The water exiting your taps should maintain a minimum temperature of 50 degrees Celsius or higher, ensuring your home water systems remain free from Legionella contamination.
Balancing Energy Savings and Safety
Striking the right balance between cost-saving measures and safety is paramount. While numerous news reports offer advice on lowering energy bills, few touch on the potential risks associated with reducing hot water temperatures and Legionella growth. Ensuring that safety measures are not compromised is vital, as they are in place to minimise the risk of Legionella bacteria taking hold in your home.
Neglecting these safety measures can inadvertently increase the risk of Legionella bacteria growth.
Legionella and Water Safety Specialists
For those seeking expert guidance in maintaining water safety, Legionella and Fire Safe Services offer the expertise of water safety specialists. Their team supports business owners and individuals responsible for workplace health and safety, offering risk management solutions to control waterborne pathogens and other safety hazards. Their services include Authorising Engineer (Water) services, Legionella risk assessments, water testing, monitoring, remedials, tank cleaning, and independent compliance auditing.
To speak with one of their water safety specialists, call 0800 080 3045 or click here