According to the Quebec Construction Code, the water in your tank should be maintained at 60 °C (140 °F). Yet every year, many people suffer burns because of this recommendation.
In hospitals across the province, 59% of burn victims attribute their injuries to scalding tap water. For this reason, the authorities contemplated whether this rule should be modified. In the end, they decided that the recommended temperature of 60 °C was necessary to avoid other issues.
The dangers of insufficiently hot water
Every year in Quebec, nearly 100 people are hospitalized for a type of pneumonia caused by bacteria found in domestic water heaters. This rare strain of pneumonia, known as Legionnaires’ disease, is caused by a bacterium called Legionella. The disease mainly affects children, the elderly and those with a weak immune system. It can attack the immune system via the respiratory tract, particularly when people are in the shower.
Legionella, like many other types of bacteria, breed in stagnant water below 50 °C. Maintaining the water in your tank at 60 °C helps to prevent the proliferation of the bacteria that cause Legionnaires’ disease. That’s why it’s so important to follow this temperature rule.
For a long time, it was believed that draining your water heater every year would prevent the formation of bacteria and deposits, but today the procedure is deemed ineffective. In fact, some plumbers and manufacturers will tell you that draining your unit reduces its service life.
The solution? Install a temperature regulator.
To reduce the risk of burns caused by scalding tap water, it’s a good idea to install a temperature controlling device. Fixed to the water heater outlet, a thermostatic mixing valve lets you set a constant water temperature, such as 49 °C. It automatically mixes hot and cold water to achieve the desired temperature. The device is compatible with all types of units and for approximately $150 it reduces the risk of scalding.
Point-of-use thermostatic mixing valves are installed on faucet or shower outlets in the kitchen and bathroom. They cost between $10 and $50 and must be installed on each fixture.
Tips for your home
If you don’t have a temperature regulating device, take extra care to prevent scalding and bacteria growth by following these tips:
- Never let a child run a bath alone
- Always check the water temperature before giving your child a bath
- Teach your children to turn on the cold-water tap first and turn off the hot-water tap first
- Don’t drink hot water from the tap. Instead, heat cold water in a kettle or on the stove
- Don’t change the temperature on the thermostat
- Don’t disconnect the water heater fuse before leaving your home for a few days. The tank water must always be maintained at the recommended temperature