If you’re renovating a property for rental, it’s likely that some plumbing work will be involved. Whether you’re extending, refurbishing or installing a new bathroom, kitchen or heating system, we recommend taking the opportunity to review your pipework while you have a qualified plumber on the premises as it could greatly reduce the risk of Legionella.
As the property owner, you have a legal responsibility to control the risk of Legionella so it pays to have qualified professionals on-hand to advise you. However, not all plumbers are trained in Legionella control so if you’re a residential landlord it’s worth making sure that your preferred tradesperson has some knowledge of the issue.
When undertaking plumbing improvements, here are five simple steps you and your plumber can take to reduce Legionella risk:
1. Take out dead legs and blind ends
Water stagnation is bacteria’s friend, so a key objective of your plumbing improvements is to eliminate places where water can collect and pool. Particularly in older properties, or those which have already had building work done, it’s common to find dead legs and blind ends in the plumbing, where pipes have been capped off when a radiator has been moved or an appliance has been taken out. Ask your plumber to consider how such redundant pieces of pipework can be removed by rerouting pipes or redirecting the water flow in a more efficient, streamlined way.
2. Reduce long runs of pipe
Long stretches of pipework can also cause stagnation in a water system, as they make it difficult for water to flow quickly and efficiently around the property. Again, if you have long runs of pipe between different rooms or appliances, think intelligently about how the plumbing layout can be redesigned to shorten the distances water has to travel.
3. Use lagging to regulate temperature
Lagging pipes and water tanks not only improves energy efficiency but also plays an important part in controlling the risk of Legionella. Maintaining the water supply at a safe temperature is one of the most effective ways of reducing bacterial growth and insulating pipes and tanks is a low cost solution. The golden rule with Legionella control is to keep the cold water cold (below 20°C) and the hot water hot (above 50°C). Between these two temperatures is the danger zone, where bacteria can survive and thrive. Too cold and it lies dormant and too hot it is killed.
4. Consider a water softener
The vast majority of the UK’s water supply is hard water, so limescale deposits can be an ongoing problem in much of the country. Not only does this cause damage to pipework and appliances but it also provides an important food source for bacteria. Regular descaling is therefore required in hard water areas, but in a rental property this can be difficult to enforce so some landlords may consider installing a water softener. We always recommend including a clause about descaling in any tenancy agreement, but in our experience it’s tricky to ensure that tenants comply. Unless you have the time and inclination to make regular visits to the property yourself to descale taps and showerheads, a water softener could be a good investment.
5. Inspect and clean the water tank
We always advocate an annual inspection of your water tank to check that it’s in good, clean condition as a dirty tank can present a considerable Legionella risk. Over time there is usually a build-up of sediment and scale and potentially rust or debris too, so it’s worth getting your plumber to drain and clean the tank while he’s on the premises. Similarly, if you have a calorifier or water heater, that should be cleaned and serviced annually too. Always ensure your water tank has a well-fitting lid and that joints, inlets and outlets are rust-free and in good condition.
These are just a few of the important measures you and your plumber can take to reduce the risk of Legionella in your rental property, and should form a part of your ongoing maintenance plan. So, next time you employ the services of a plumber, discuss what appropriate improvements could be made to your system and be on the front foot when it comes to Legionella control.
If you or your plumber need further advice or training, contact us today.