When it comes to preventing the risks associated with hot water leaving the tap, we must be concerned as much with the dangers of burns as with contamination by bacteria.
To reduce the danger of burns from hot water, the temperature should be lowered. On the other hand, there is a risk of promoting the development of bacteria, because even at 60 ° C – the setting of most electric water heaters – it is estimated that some 25% of these are contaminated by bacteria of the Legionella type.
Evolving at the bottom of the water heater, where the temperature is lower and therefore conducive to their proliferation, these bacteria are responsible for a form of pneumonia. Transmission occurs primarily through inhalation of contaminated water droplets from, for example, hot tubs, showers, and air conditioning systems in large buildings. Each year in Quebec, nearly 100 people are hospitalized for pneumonia attributable to contamination of residential water heaters.
In this context, it would be unwise to lower the temperature of the water heater to 49 ° C. In addition to reducing the amount of hot water available by almost 20%, we run the risk of increasing the number of pneumonia that can be attributed to them. So what would be the best solution?
Hydro-Québec believes that the maximum hot water temperature should be controlled by installing appropriate mixing valves, either at the outlet of the water heater or at the taps. The latter solution has the advantage of allowing water to circulate at 60 ° C. in the plumbing network, thereby helping to reduce the presence of bacteria.
If you are concerned about the issue of Legionella contamination in your water heater, consider purchasing a stainless steel, high-temperature electric water heater that prevents bacterial growth.
Remember the following tips that will also help you maintain the quality of your hot water:
- do not disconnect the fuse of your water heater during your temporary absences.
- heat cold water rather than drinking hot water straight from the faucet.
This message was prepared by the Hydro-Québec Health and Safety Directorate in collaboration with the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services.
Editor’s note: Never prepare your parrot’s pâté with hot water directly from the tap. Bacterial contamination could kill it.
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