Causes of Bacterial Contamination in Faulty Hot Water Systems

Blog | May 1st, 2019

As a rule, unless a water supply is sterile, it contains fractional amounts of bacteria. Measured in parts per million (PPM), about the only effect those trace contaminants can produce is a bad smell. Even then, there are home filters and appliance filters, which exist to prevent vestigial odours. However, hot water systems can become home to some nasty bacterial contaminants, mostly because their energies encourage microbial growths.

Thermally Nourished Bacterial Contaminants

Water is a life-sustaining fluid. It feeds all creatures, large and small. That means a tiny parasitical germ, whether friendly or full of pathogenic influence, will flourish in water. Worse still, if the liquid warms to a germ-hospitable temperature, the heat producing environment will act as a breeding ground for those potentially harmful elements. Not that this is a problem, not as long as a hot water system boils away those bacterial impurities.

Functional Hot Water Systems Are Germ Killers

As long as electrical elements or gas flames maintain high water temperatures, then any floating impurities will wither and die. Essentially, they can’t live in liquid temperatures that rise above 60°C (140°F). Ironically, if the temperature drops lower, then the system impurities take this opportunity to burst forth and flourish. They like warm or tepid water. Finding those lower heating levels perfectly hospitable, they colonise the water. Freshness is now an issue, as is that unpleasant scent. Left like this, a sore stomach comes next, followed by a range of serious medical issues. Somehow, whether checked by a responsible system owner or a heating engineer, someone needs to do something, and it needs to happen fast.

Analysing the Causes of Bacterial Contaminations

In faulty hot water systems, a thermostat has maybe gone awry. Alternatively, with the thermostat calling out for more heat, an electrical element or fuel regulating valve isn’t responding properly. Maybe a valve is sticking or an electrical element is faulty. Whatever the cause, faulty thermostat or faulty heat generating mechanism/circuit, the water temperature is dropping below that 60°C minimum temperature safety limit. Worryingly, there are a number of secondary factors that can worsen this issue. They require careful monitoring, plus the aid of a competent heating engineer.

Low amounts of chlorinated water will make matters worse. If the water resides in a hot water system for extended periods of time, it’ll be stripped of chlorine, so the appliance recirculation function requires inspecting. Temperature dropping faults are another source of bacteria encouraging concern. That level must stay consistently high, by the way. Finally, trapped sediment will support bacterial impurities, which is why an appliance flush is such an essential procedure, both as an efficiency improvement aid and a germ-starving action.

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