Published onMarch 21st, 2022
Hot Water Safety Precautions: Protecting Kids, Seniors, and Other Vulnerable Tenants
Getting hot water issues just right can be a tightrope walk for property owners and managers of New York City apartment buildings. You want to make sure you are providing adequate hot water. However, you don’t want it so hot that it puts vulnerable tenants, like kids, seniors, and the disabled, at risk. Here are some tips for using plumbing technology that lets you have the best of both worlds: hot water safety precautions for occupants and easy operation of your property’s hot water system for you and staff.
Hot Water Tempering Valves
Prevent scalding injuries at all taps
As a landlord, you probably want to keep the water in your heater tanks very hot. Temperatures over 135 degrees Fahrenheit kill Legionella bacteria that can accumulate there. Legionella can cause serious illness and even death. Less dangerous bacteria can cause water to smell bad, which affects not only bathing but dishes, house cleaning, and clothes washing, too.
The problem with water that’s 135 degrees is that it can scald in just a few seconds. Three seconds is all it takes to potentially send someone to the emergency room with second-degree burns. This makes it particularly dangerous for people without the reflexes or ability to speak up about it, such as young children, senior citizens, and those with disabilities.
So, how do you keep water that goes to your tenants’ taps at a high enough temperature to kill bacteria without endangering them? Use a hot water tempering valve. It’s more reliable and less expensive than installing anti-scald devices on every single hot water tap in your building.
Also known as a mixing valve, a hot water tempering valve is installed in your plumbing system between the boiler or hot water heater and the pipes that lead to individual spigots. It adds in a little bit of cold water to temper (lower) the heat. By the time hot water reaches tenants, it’s the perfect temperature for showering or cleaning but not so hot that it’s a hazard – about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Single-Lever Shower Valves
Replace old dual or three-valve shower bodies
Another way to protect tenants when you’re operating on a tight budget is to get rid of old dual and three-valve shower bodies and replace them with single-lever models. You may need to do this anyway if your old valves are leaking, dripping, molding, or failing to keep the temperature constant by slipping out of position. If your valves have to be repaired for any reason, the building code dictates that they be replaced with single-lever versions.
Unpredictable temperature variations are the downside of multiple-valve shower bodies, which used to be prevalent in many New York apartments. Usually, a change in nearby water pressure, such as when another party flushes the toilet, causes the water in the shower to become too hot suddenly. This can also result in burn injuries.
A single shower handle maintains a constant ratio of hot and cold water. These are easier for children and the elderly to operate, and once in place, they typically result in fewer calls to the plumber as well.
Thermostatic Shower Valves
Enjoy consistent shower temperatures
Thermostatic shower valves are another way to get consistent temperature, although they have to be set properly to prevent scalding accidents. We recommend them when tempering valves aren’t urgently needed. They’re more of a luxury item than a safety one.
Thermostatic shower valves let users select a temperature for their shower. Once the valve is set, they get the same temperature every time, with no fussing because the water is too hot or too cold. You can also get versions of these valves that control water pressure, for the ultimate in convenience and consistency.
Bathtub Filling Technology
Use PerfectFill for remote bath controls
There’s another piece of new plumbing technology on the market that can help with hot water safety precautions in your building. Kohler makes a product called PerfectFill that takes running a bath to another level.
PerfectFill allows you to run a bath simply by voice command, which is wonderful for less mobile seniors and frazzled parents alike. This is accomplished by using speech virtual assistant technology like Alexa or Google Nest or Kohler’s proprietary app on a mobile device.
Even better, PerfectFill draws the bath to a predetermined depth and temperature. A tenant can’t overflow the tub if they forget to turn off the faucet in time. And scalding risks are no longer a worry.
PerfectFill can save settings for up to 10 different household members, which is ideal for large families or renters who have a lot of regular visitors. And it lets users drain the tub with a voice or app command, too. While this isn’t an inexpensive bathroom addition, it could be a nice cherry on the sundae in luxury units that owners can recoup in higher rents.
Tempering valves, single-lever shower controls, thermostatic valves, and PerfectFill should all be installed only by a licensed master plumber to ensure the job is done right. If you need help bolstering hot water protection for your tenants, Sanitary Plumbing can get the job done for you. Call us at 212-734-5000 or schedule a consultation online.