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Low-Temperature Heating Systems: The Risks of Bacteria Build-up

What is considered a low-temperature system?

A low-temperature heating system operates at water temperatures typically ranging from 32°C to 60°C which is significantly lower than you operate a gas central heating system.

Low temperature systems, especially ones using condensing boilers or heat pumps, can reduce energy use and save money versus other heating systems, but bacteria growth can quickly prevent these systems from working as efficiently as they should.

Why are bacteria a risk to low-temperature heating systems?

Bacteria grow rapidly between temperatures of 4.5°C and 60°C, making low-temperature heating systems the perfect breeding ground for bacterial growth.

As bacteria builds up, biofilms can attach themselves to the pipework, radiators, and elements in a heat pump or boiler. Biofilms look like slime, and this layering on the system surfaces causes heat transfer and flow issues, reducing system efficiency. According to ALVIM Clean Tech, a company that innovates high-tech solutions for biofilm monitoring, ‘less than 1mm of biofilm in a heat exchanger can result in up to a 30% loss in heat transfer’*.

Bacteria can also cause microbial corrosion, with copper, iron, nickel, aluminium, and steel being the most vulnerable metals to this type of corrosion. Corrosion can eventually lead to pinholes and system leaks, which in turn allow oxygen to enter the system. If left untreated, oxidation will occur in the system leading magnetite, or sludge, build up.

How do I keep low-temperature heating systems working efficiently?

ADEY®’s Best Practice approach is designed to help you keep heating system water as clean as possible throughout its lifetime. When it comes to low-temperature heating systems, it can be applied as follows:

  1. TEST the heating system water for signs of poor water quality using ADEY ProCheck®, the digital on-site water test that gives instant results for corrosion, pH and inhibitor levels.
  2. CLEAN a dirty system with an effective cleaner like ADEY MC3+® in conjunction with a MagnaCleanse® system flush. Performing a system deep clean on a dirty system will help to reset water quality, taking the system back to optimum efficiency.
  3. PROTECT the system by fitting a MagnaClean HP® filter, which is designed specifically to capture both magnetic and bacterial contaminants that can build up in the system over time.  
  4. MAINTAIN the system by testing the water, servicing the MagnaClean HP™, and topping up inhibitor levels annually or as needed.
service and maintain heating system

The government have launched a Help for Households campaign which includes the benefits of deep cleaning a heating system.

With homeowners becoming more aware of the issues that poor water quality can cause, get up to speed with hints and tips about how to get the best clean with MagnaCleanse®, and how you can talk about it with your customers.