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4 ways to minimise legionella build up in hot and cold water systems

Uponor investigates ways legionella can be prevented within a pipework solution.


Legionella cases continue to rise

Unfortunately, this is a topic which keeps arising within the media and has potentially catastrophic consequences. According to the government, there were over 814 Legionella related incidents in 2018.  More recently, it was reported on BBC News that 14 people contracted the respiratory disorder at a Bournemouth Spa, whilst in a shopping development in Barrow over 180 people were said to be experiencing legionella symptoms.
These numbers are staggering and indicates the need for a solution to be adopted within plumbing systems. Before we look at the solution, it is important to understand the cause of legionella.

How does Legionella grow?

Legionella bacteria predominately breeds in any stagnant water between 25C to 45C, including plumbing systems. With the capacity for the number of bacteria to double every eight hours, it is imperative that those designing and specifying water systems are aware of the risk of Legionella, something that is of particular importance in healthcare facilities where those utilising and consuming water are already vulnerable.  

Another factor to consider is the build-up of dead legs- quite simply pipework that is no longer In use- within hospitals or older buildings which have undergone repairs over time. Dead legs are a primary cause of stagnant water, which is the perfect breeding ground for legionella.j
uponor multi layer composite pipe

How to prevent Legionella?

1. Switch from traditional copper piping to MLC (multi-layer composite) pipe or PEX (polyethylene)-  Due to Uponor’s plastic based pipes having such a smooth internal surface, our pipes significantly reduce the risk of calcification (limescale) on the internal wall of the pipe. Deposits such as Limescale will reduce the overall efficiency of the system and their porous nature can harbour bio-film and bacterial growth, including Legionella

2. Ensure you have the right pipework and jointing methods for the job. The number one cause of legionella growth is stagnation. Specifying the correct pipe size will ensure that the water in the building is regularly exchanged and does not stagnate. All Uponor connections seal on the inside bore of the pipe and all our fittings provide a ‘crevice free’ connection. Small crevices between a pipe and a fitting, found in many traditional pipe connections, can be considered as a ‘blind end’ and can also harbour a bio-film and bacterial growth.

Smart Ends alternative image

3. Products such as Smart Ends are available to further safeguard against dead legs and the consequent threat of Legionella. Smart Ends are tap elbow plumbing fitting which eradicate dead legs from plumbing systems, replacing traditional T-piece plumbing systems, whilst also requiring less fittings and improving flow rate. They can be implemented within a loop installation, which flushes out the whole local pipe network every time any water outlet on the system is opened.

4. Adopt a loop installation method- This is probably the most effective way of preventing legionella from occurring in a healthcare or commercial building. Essentially this method flushes water throughout a system every time a water outlet is used. It requires fewer fittings, reduces pressure loss and increases speed of hot water delivery, whilst completely eliminating dead legs and enabling the use of a consistent pipe size throughout the whole

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Uponor are here to help

Before conducting your next project, why not speak to an Uponor representative first. They can guide you on selecting the right pipework solution to prevent legionella and are on hand to provide full project take offs and accurate material lists. Did you know that Uponor also offer onsite installation training with installers before a project to ensure no problems arise?