Whether you are a commercial facility or a private homeowner, bacterial growth in your water system is cause for concern. Commercial facilities must monitor water system bacterial growth as part of their regular operations and compliance mandates. Likewise, private homeowners may worry that bacterial growth in their water heaters could threaten their families. It is important to learn what you can do to stop Legionella, one of the most common bacteria found in water systems, from developing.
This bacterium can cause severe pneumonia-like illness or even death, which means that prevention should be on your radar. One of the simplest ways to kill or prevent Legionella is by utilizing your water’s temperature setting. The exact temperature matters. You will need to consider the risks of increasing (or decreasing) the water temperature as well as how to measure its efficacy across your entire system.
Stopping Legionella Using Temperature
The good news about Legionella is that it is not robust enough to survive at any temperature. While chemical treatments are a powerful tool to prevent and remediate Legionella in your system, sometimes changing the water temperature is sufficient, as the bacteria will die at both very low and very high temperatures. Keep in mind that bacteria can be present anywhere in your water system.
If you are going to use temperature to neutralize the threat, you must be sure that all water in your water system reaches the desired range. If your water system contains dead legs (sections of the water piping system where damage or other influences have stopped the flow of water) or areas of poor water flow, you may not be able to bring all of the water to the right temperature range without fixing those issues first.
The Temperature That Kills Legionella
Legionella thrives in tepid or lukewarm water, which means both extreme temperature highs and extreme temperature lows are not ideal for its growth. Legionella will die immediately at temperatures of 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius), but you need not keep your water in this range forever. In fact, at only 122 degrees Farenheit (50 degrees Celsius), most Legionella bacteria will die over a few hours. Raise the temperature again just a few degrees, and the bacteria will die within minutes.
What Temperatures Inhibit Legionella Proliferation
Achieving high enough temperatures to kill all remaining traces of Legionella bacteria can be challenging, especially if your system is intricate and large. However, if you fear an impending outbreak and need to inhibit further bacterial growth until the issue can be resolved, you do have options. Suppose you reduce your water temperature to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) or below.
In that case, Legionella will not die but instead enter a dormant state that prevents them from continuing to populate your system. Of course, it can be a challenge to keep your water this cool. Even if your water system may be built to maintain cold temperatures, remember that simple factors like water passing through pipes in a sunlit area may interfere with your results.
Issues with Temperature Control
The primary reason temperature control is not used as the main form of Legionella prevention but rather as one part of a larger strategy is that it can be hazardous to maintain temperatures sufficient to kill Legionella . Human skin begins to scald at just 120 degrees Fahrenheit—lower than the minimum temperature required to kill Legionella bacteria slowly. And at the more ideal 158 degrees Fahrenheit required to neutralize Legionella immediately, any human who comes into contact with the water would experience third-degree burns in less than a second.
This is typically considered too dangerous, even in water systems that are not in frequent contact with people (for example, non-potable water). Thus, a combination of temperature control, flushing, chemical treatment, and filtration is used to kill Legionella immediately.
Your water facility’s unique traits and risk factors will determine which method should work best. The best Legionella prevention strategies prevent bacterial growth rather than kill Legionella only after it begins to spread. However, you do not need to figure out the best water treatment process on your own because there are specialists to help with this exact problem.
Trust the Experts to Help You Kill Legionella in Your Water System
Whether you are unsure if your system contains Legionella or know that Legionella is a problem but are less than sure of what to do next, rely on the experts for help. The professionals at Legionella Compliance Solutions would be happy to evaluate your water system.
They can help you develop a customized strategy that factors in potential water temperature changes, chemical treatment options and other methods to keep your facility safe. Reach out to Legionella Compliance Solutions today to schedule an appointment where you can discuss your options with an expert.