The daffodils are in bloom which means spring must be just around the corner. It also means that it’s a good time to give the plumbing system of your rental property the once-over, checking for damage or corrosion as well as any build-up of limescale, biofilm, sediment or other nasties. Legionella and other waterborne bacteria like nothing more than dirty, rusty, cracked pipework as it provides them with an ample source of food as well as a way into your water supply.
An annual inspection of your plumbing is a useful way to monitor any maintenance needs as well as a good opportunity to review your Legionella risk assessment (it’s recommended that you review your risk assessment every 2-4 years, or whenever there are any changes to the plumbing system). Arm yourself with a camera (or smartphone) to take photographs of any problems and make notes as you do your inspection. If your risk assessment doesn’t include one, it’s also worth doing a simple schematic drawing of the plumbing system so you have a record of how the various elements (tanks, boiler, thermostat etc.) are connected.
Older properties tend to suffer from the most problematic plumbing, particularly if the building has been converted from industrial to residential use, or it’s a larger house divided up into flats. Pipes which have been chopped up, redirected or added to over the years may have weak joints, lots of twists and turns or, conversely, there may be long runs of pipe where water can collect and stagnate. Dead legs or blind ends are another risk factor as water doesn’t circulate through to clear out any sediment or bacteria which may be lurking.
Have a look in the water tank to check for sediment and biofilm. If the tank is dirty make a note to clean it (see our how-to guide) or call in a professional to handle the job. It’s also important to check the pipework which feeds into/out of the tank, and make sure that the lid of the tank fits well too.
What condition is the lagging in? In order to maintain the temperature of the stored water at a safe level (20-50°C) the tank and pipes should be insulated properly. If the tank is outside and exposed to sunlight the water could become dangerously warm during the summer months, so make sure it is suitably shaded or protected from strong sunshine.
If you’re concerned there may be sediment or biofilm build-up in your pipework it’s advisable to flush it through with a suitable cleaning product. Alternatively, call in a professional firm to make sure it is done properly and safely. Similarly, in a hard water area you may have a significant amount of limescale which needs to be removed. In the worst cases, pipes and other plumbing components may need to be replaced if the limescale can’t be removed.
If water hardness is an issue you should also check outlets such as taps and showerheads for signs of limescale. As part of your Legionella control programme it’s advisable to stipulate that tenants must descale regularly to avoid chronic build-up around taps and showers.
This kind of annual inspection shouldn’t take up too much time but is an extremely useful management process to ensure that you’re keeping on top of water hygiene. Gather evidence as you go and discuss your findings with your tenants so they understand what you’re doing and why, not least so they can report back to you if any new issues arise between inspections.
If you need any help or advice regarding Legionella control or would like a quote for our cleaning and maintenance services, get in touch today.