Home safety Water safety

How to reduce the risk of legionella in your home.

A hand holds a glass that's being filled with water from a kitchen tap

Legionella is a type of bacteria that lives in water, such as rivers and ponds. It’s most often found in stagnant water, so it’s not usually a risk in your home. 

If you go away on holiday or stay away from home for a while, legionella bacteria can sometimes grow in your water system. This is because the water doesn’t move through the system like usual when you’re not flushing the toilet or running taps regularly.   

Not everyone who comes into contact with legionella becomes ill, but the bacteria can cause a lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease.

How do people get Legionnaires’ disease?

People can get Legionnaires’ disease by breathing in tiny droplets of water containing the bacteria. The water droplets come from things like air conditioning systems and hot tubs, as well as taps and showers that aren’t used often. 

You can’t get Legionnaires’ disease from drinking water, and you can’t catch it from other people. 

What are the symptoms of Legionnaire’s Disease?

The symptoms of Legionnaires' disease can be similar to flu and include:

  • a cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pain
  • a high temperature

If you think that you or someone in your home has Legionnaires’ disease, contact your doctor as soon as possible.

What should I do if I have Legionnaire’s disease?

If you’re diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, please contact us immediately so we can check the water system at your home. 

How to reduce the risk of legionella in your home

Although it’s not very common to find legionella in your home, here’s some simple steps to help prevent legionella bacteria from growing in your water system: 

  • Keep your hot water cylinder thermostat set at 60°C. Legionella bacteria thrive at temperatures between 20°C and 45°C, so setting your thermostat to 60°C will kill any bacteria. 
  • Descale your taps and showerheads every three months, or sooner if you spot a build-up of limescale, mould or algae
  • If you have a water tank, make sure that the lid fits tightly to stop the water from getting contaminated and check any insulation around your tank is fitted correctly
  • Run your garden hose into a drain or unused area of your garden for one minute before you use it
  • Keep your water butt clean

When you come back home after being on holiday or being away for more than a week, flush your toilets and run all taps and showers continuously for about two minutes to flush out any bacteria. Keep the lid down when you flush the toilet and run the taps slowly for the first few seconds to avoid being sprayed by any bacteria in the water.  

If you notice anything unusual with the water system in your home, let us know. For example, if there’s rust flowing from your taps or if your hot water is not heating properly.