The statistics show that scalding remains a serious problem in the United States, especially for the very young and very old. No one is better positioned to do something about scalding than the service plumber. Moreover, the plumber can avoid the unintended consequences of simply lowering water temperatures.

The Nature of the problem

According to the American Burn Association, there are nearly half a million scalding injuries annually. By this time tomorrow, 300 children will visit an emergency room because of scalding and two will die from injuries due to burns.

Infants and the elderly have thinner dermal skin layers. They burn deeper and faster. When either is present in the home, the necessity to lower water temperature is greater.

Three seconds in 140° F water can cause a serious burn. Accordingly, some codes require plumbers to set water temperature at 120° F. Unfortunately, Legionella can grow at temperatures below 140° F. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control recommends storing water at 140° F, which is often counter to code. Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions to this Catch-22.

Mixing valves

Use mixing valves to store water at 140° F in storage water heaters and deliver water at 120° F to taps, tubs, and showers. Point-of-use mixing valves can also be used at sinks and/or tub/showers.

Tankless water heaters

The second option is to do away with the storage tank and go tankless. This isn’t always practical, but where it is, it presents a clean solution.

Spotting opportunities

On service calls, plumbers need to be observant about the opportunities to add-on mixing valves or replace storage water heaters with tankless. If it appears small children are in the home, ask about them. Not the problems with high temperatures and the necessity to keep temperatures high to prevent Legionella. If homeowners show interest, discuss the mixing valve and tankless options.

When elderly are present in a home, a similar approach can be taken, though it is usually the elderly who make the decision for themselves or a spouse. Once again, the message is health and safety.

Whenever a storage water heater is being replaced, the water temperature issue related to both scalding and Legionella should be raised. This is the time to replace a storage water heater with tankless or at least to add a mixing valve to the storage water heater replacement.

Supporting collateral

Since field service plumbers are not always the best at communicating, contractors should prepare factual flyers and brochures that describe the problem and solution. These can be given to homeowners deemed good candidates prior to the diagnostic on a service call or simply given to all homeowners.

On service calls, plumbers need to be observant about the opportunities to add-on mixing valves or replace storage water heaters with tankless.

When the homeowner reads the collateral piece on the scalding/Legionella paradox and the appropriate solutions, she will ask or forget about it. If she asks, all the plumber needs to do is answer honestly.

This is one more way where plumbers protect the health of the nation. This one is especially important due to the statistics noted above and the general lack of awareness on the part of many homeowners. If more service plumbers talk about the problem, more consumers will want solutions. Not only does this help the consumer, it means greater revenue and profit for the plumbing company. Everybody wins.