As I write this month’s column, I’m fresh off the plane from the ASPE 2022 Convention & Expo in Indianapolis. Let me just say, some of the engineers walking around with ribbons down to their knees — ahem Julius Ballanco — made my two little “Press” and “First-Timer” ribbons feel a little inadequate!
I had a great time catching up with many of the names you read here in these pages, as well as some well-known industry experts. I even got a hug from our 2022 Plumbing Engineer of the Year, Dr. Saum Nour! Learn more about Dr. Nour and why he was chosen as this year’s honoree here. And don’t miss our ASPE coverage in next month’s issue!
I want to take a minute to talk about hotels. My team has been laughing at me lately because no matter where we travel, I seem to always have some kind of issue with my hotel room. In Indianapolis, it was the hot water in my room. Pretty sure I lost a few layers of skin on my hands the first time I tried to wash my hands in the bathroom sink. I legitimately could not figure out which handle was for cold water and which was hot. After leaving the handles on one at a time for a couple of minutes each, the water was still coming out visibly steaming hot. While slightly uncomfortable, the sink had nothing on the crazy scalding temperature fluctuation mid-shower.
I always find issues like this ironic when there is a plumbing conference happening at the location because there are so many knowledgeable people walking around that can help fix their problems.
I realize Legionella outbreaks are on the rise, and hotels and resorts are a frequent setting for outbreaks. Listening to Dr. Janet Stout speak at the Emerging Water Technology Symposium earlier this year was eye-opening, to say the least. In light of this, many hotels have been raising their potable DHW storage temperatures to discourage bacteria and Legionella growth. We all know Legionella can grow between 55° F and 133°, with 80° to 120° being most favorable for rampant reproduction.
However, scalding becomes a serious concern once exceeding the factory setting of 120°, so an ASSE-Listed thermostatic mixing valve should be used at the water heater’s outlet or at all points of use where contact would occur. Plumbing codes already require ASSE-compliant scald-guard tub/shower faucets.
Obviously, I am not sure what setup the hotel we stayed in has, but I am certain it was not functioning properly — at least in my room. Luckily, I was not injured, but children and the elderly have thinner skin which is more susceptible to scald burns. Each year in the United States, more than 100,000 people seek medical treatment for hot-water scald burns.
Plumbing engineers need to explain the dangers of increased DHW storage temperatures to their clients and make sure they know why ASSE-Listed thermostatic mixing valves are important to their design. These devices will protect the end users in the building as well as the building owner from being sued should an injury occur.
I think PM Engineer Columnist Dave Yates said it best:
“Sadly, our national plumbing codes do not adequately address DHW scalding issues for all points of contact where folks are left exposed to this danger. Until they do, there will continue to be well over 100,000 scalding incidents occurring in the USA each year, and it remains our responsibility (as installers and specifying engineers) to educate our customers while offering installations that incorporate adequate protections.”