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Keep your family safe from Legionnaire’s Disease

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Keep your family safe from Legionnaire’s Disease

We’re all worrying about Covid-19 right now, but it’s worth just checking that your heating and hot water system isn’t giving a potential entry point to another nasty invader, Legionnaire’s Disease.

Fortunately it’s not common, but it’s still something you want to be aware of. Legionnaire’s Disease is a type of pneumonia which is potentially fatal. Anyone could be susceptible to infection, but like Covid-19, older people, smokers and heavy drinkers may be particularly vulnerable. Most people exposed to Legionella don’t become ill, but the more of it you inhale, the higher the chances of illness.

Legionella can be found in heating and water systems. It can grow and spread when water is kept between 20ºC and 45ºC. Any modern combi boiler system would be at very low risk, since they keep the water moving and heat it as it’s about to be used. But older boilers can be more of a risk, and central heating systems where water is stored likewise.

The key principle for any system is that hot water should be stored at higher than 60ºC, and should be distributed at 50ºC or higher. Cold water should be stored at below 20ºC. There shouldn’t be anywhere in your system where stagnant water just sits. Poor insulation of the tank, and open lids giving exposure to the air can be negative factors.

Generally speaking, it’s a problem more often associated with larger communal areas, and with spa pools and similar.

Nevertheless, a proper qualified heating engineer will be able to advise on your boiler installation if you think it might be a problem, and in any case they should notify you if they’re carrying out work for you and become aware that your system could be susceptible to the growth of Legionella.

At a time when lots of people are feeling anxious and unsafe about the world outside the doorstep, it’s definitely not a time to be exaggerating risks of what’s indoors. But a smart and sensible moment’s reflection on the set-up for your system, and whether it might be a factor to check when things get back to normal and you get your boiler serviced, wouldn’t go amiss.

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