Legionella is a type of bacteria that lives in soil and water. It really isn't a problem in natural environments, but in plumbing, it can become dangerous and cause Legionnaire's disease. The biofilm inside most pipes and the lukewarm temperatures found in a lot of homes' water systems form an environment conducive to Legionella growth. Legionnaire's tends to show up more in commercial environments, but your home is at risk, too. If you're moving into an area that recently had a Legionnaire's outbreak, however, you can prevent problems with some rather easy actions.
Turn Your Water Heater Up
First things first: Ensure the water heater's thermostat is turned up to 140 degrees F. This temperature will kill the bacteria. Not may kill, will kill. This is likely the single most important and effective thing you can do to protect you and your family from Legionella. Because once the water temperature in the heater is too hot for the bacteria to survive, that's it. You're not going to have Legionella spraying out of your showerhead.
There is the very legitimate concern of scalding. 140 degrees F is extremely hot and, if you use just the hot water, it can burn you in a second. When your water heater is up at 140 degrees F—and it should stay there, by the way—you need to install an anti-scald device. You can get some that focus on the water coming out of the water heater, or you can get some that control the temperature at the faucet.
Another thing you can do to control shower water temperature is to install showerheads that have temperature control options. These help tone down the temperature of the hot water as it leaves the showerhead so you don't get scalded.
Flush the Pipes
After you've turned up the water heater thermostat—but before you've installed anti-scald devices or showerheads—run all of the faucets and showerheads in the house using just the hot water. In shower/tub combinations, switch between the two faucets. Let the water run for a few minutes. This flushes out the pipes and washes away lingering bacteria.
Test Your Water Heater's Thermostat
Finally, test your water heater's thermostat. You can do this yourself with a special tester, or you can call a water heater repair company and have them do it, and inspect the whole water heater while they're there. Ensure they don't turn down the temperature below 140 degrees F.
Preventing Legionnaire's in your home is very easy. As long as your water heater temperature is adequate and you flush out the pipes, your home water supply will pose less of a risk. For more information, reach out to a water heater repair service in your area.