Friday, 23 September 2016

Preparing for a flood

With heavy rain and thunderstorms causing flash floods across some areas of the UK last week, we've all been reminded of the devastation and destruction that these natural events can cause. While there's nothing we can do to control the weather, careful preparation can significantly help to mitigate the damage and distress which inevitably accompanies an instance of flooding in our homes.

Beforehand

Follow flood warning and weather warning issued by the met office and the environment agency for your area. These can be found at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/ and https://www.gov.uk/check-flood-risk.

Once a flood warning has been issued it's a good idea to make up a flood kit, containing essential items and information to help you cope should flooding affect your home. The one thing most victims of a flood will tell you is the how fast the flood waters rose. Being prepared could save valuable property such as photographs or valuable jewellery and more importantly the lives of you, family and pets. Your kit should include a plan detailing how to turn off your gas, water and electricity, your evacuation site and a list of what to take with you. Important items to include are blankets, a mixture of warm and waterproof clothing, wellington boots , a first aid kits, rubber gloves and hand sanitizer. When preparing for a flood, be sure to move all valuable items and clothing to a high place and keep a small stock of strong plastic sheeting, sandbags and sand to protect doors and air vents against the rising floodwater. For more long term protection, use domestic flood barriers and fit toilet bungs to all downstairs WCs to mitigate the effects of floodwater rising through the sewage system.

Always be sure to follow the evacuation advice of the emergency services and Environment Agency.

When a flood is imminent
Just before a flood is about to occur, disconnect washing machines and dishwashers to protect them from backflow and turn off gas, electricity and water at the stop valve. Be sure to close the lid on downstairs WCs and put a weight on top or use toilet bungs.

If you have to walk through floodwaters, take care to avoid any hazards that might be lurking below the surface and try to keep children and other vulnerable people out of the water altogether. Remember, drain and other services access covers may be missing and it is easy to get trapped or sucked into these whilst in floodwater. Always let the emergency services rescue you rather than walking through flood water. As it is often contaminated with sewage, chemical or animal waste it's important to wash hands thoroughly after contact.


Once flooding starts to recede
When the floodwater begins to recede, a pump and generator can be used to remove standing water. Bear in mind that these tools should be used with caution and because they produce dangerous carbon monoxide fumes they should only be positioned in the open air. Only pump water when flood levels outside the property start to be lower than inside as this will help to reduce the risk of structural damage. Make sure that gas and heating oil supplies are checked only by a quality plumber or heating engineer. Check that any person called out to work on gas installations is registered with Gas Safe and carries a Gas Safe Register photo ID card.

When drying out your property, keep the thermostat between 20 and 22 ˚C for steady drying but if you decide to dry out your property naturally instead keep doors and windows open as much as possible. If you have any suspicion that drinking water has been contaminated (water running an unusual colour/tasting different) contact a
Watersafe plumber straight away. They will be able to inspect your drinking water and, in some cases, take a sample for analysis and disinfect the water system inside your property.
*Remember that in the event of a flood, emergency services will be busy and can only help where life is in danger. In an emergency dial 999 and for up to the minute information on flooding in your local area call the Environment Agency Flood Line on 0845 988 1188.


Friday, 16 September 2016

Gas Safety Week 2016

We may have just experienced the hottest September day for 105 years, but the fact is it won't be long before the weather cools and we start to think about turning on our central heating again in time for autumn. Just as our thoughts turn to getting our boiler serviced, Gas Safety Week, the sixth annual campaign coordinated by the Gas Safe Register, is returning to remind us of the importance of gas safety. Running from 19th-25th September, Gas Safety Week 2016 will also be providing useful tips for improving safety and reducing fatal cases of CO poisoning.  

The silent killer

Produced by unsafe gas appliances, carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas which can cause serious long term health problems or even death. If inhaled, CO replaces oxygen in your bloodstream, causing body cells and tissues to die. As the six main symptoms of CO poisoning (headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness) are similar to those of food poisoning, viral infections and fatigue, it's common to mistake it for something else, so if suffering from any of these it's important to be aware that your home may have a gas leak.

If you suspect CO poisoning

If you think there may be a gas leak in your home and that you may be experiencing CO poisoning, the first thing you should do is to try and get fresh air; open doors and windows, turn off gas appliances and leave the house. It's also essential to seek medical help immediately via your doctor or by going to hospital, mentioning that you suspect CO poisoning. If you think you may be in immediate danger you can also call the Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999 and ask a Gas Safe Registered engineer to ensure your gas appliances and flues are safe.

Top gas safety tips

As part of Gas Safety Week's efforts to reduce the numbers of people dying from CO poisoning each year, the Gas Safe Register is providing the following tips to help you stay safe and warm in your homes this winter season:
  • Only use a Gas Safe Registered Engineer to fix, fit and service your appliances. Find and check engineers at GasSafeRegister.co.uk or call 0800 408 5500.
  • Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm, which will alert you if there is carbon monoxide in your home.
  • Check gas appliances for warnings that they are not working properly e.g. lazy yellow flames instead of crisp blue ones, black marks/stains on or around the appliance and too much condensation in the room.
  • Know the six signs of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning – headaches, dizziness, breathlessness, nausea, collapse and loss of consciousness. Unsafe gas appliances can put you at risk of CO poisoning, gas leaks, fires and explosions.
  • Have all gas appliances regularly serviced and safety checked every year. If you rent a home ask for a copy of the landlord’s current Gas Safety record.
  • Check both sides of an engineer’s Gas Safe Register ID card and make sure they are qualified for the work you need doing. This information can be found on the back of the card.
To ensure your family stays safe this winter season, find a quality Gas Safe Registered heating engineer in your local area via our website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


Friday, 9 September 2016

Stay on top of your boiler servicing schedule

Running a boiler without regular servicing makes about as much sense as driving your car without its MOT, writes UK boiler manufacturer Baxi’s Jon Phillips.

At first glance, drawing a comparison between your boiler and the family hatchback might seem unlikely.Yet when it comes to servicing, the similarities are obvious.That annual check-up of your motor ultimately ensures it operates efficiently and safely, and will continue to do so for months and years to come – and that‘s exactly why you should have the same approach when it comes to servicing your boiler. One of the best reasons for staying on top of your servicing schedule is that manufacturer warranties, which are designed to protect homeowners from expensive repairs, often require the buyer to commit to the annual servicing of their boiler.

Manufacturers are keen for you to do this for good reason.


When your engineer visits, they will be able to ensure that your boiler is running at peak performance, which will ultimately save you money on your energy bills. Estimates suggest that you can save as much as 10% by regularly servicing your boiler1.

They will also prevent the boiler from incurring unnecessary stresses and strains that could cause damage in the future, and clear out any debris that could affect the efficiency of the system.They’ll be checking to make sure that the seals, gaskets or heat exchanger aren’t showing any signs of wear and tear. In rare cases, a fault with your boiler can cause it to release poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) gasses, which cannot be detected through taste, scent or sight and pose a deadly risk to people living in the home. This check will ensure everything is in top running order, and will ultimately help to keep you and your family safe.

It is also for this reason that it’s important that the engineer who carries out your service or any maintenance is Gas Safe registered. All Baxi engineers are manufacturer trained and carry Gas Safe accreditation, so you’ll know they’ve been trained to the highest level before coming into your home.

You should also make sure that you use only approved, genuine parts from the manufacturer to ensure that your boiler continues to serve your family well for years to come.Remember, it’s always important to look after your boiler – because if you do your boiler will look after you.

To find a quality heating engineer in your local area, simply search via the APHC website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


 

Friday, 2 September 2016

Earn while you learn with a plumbing apprenticeship

Just collected your GCSE results and unsure what to do next? Like the idea of being able to earn while you learn in a rewarding, well-respected and future-proof trade? If so, a plumbing apprenticeship could be the next step you're looking for. This week, the team at APHC On Tap have set out several reasons why you should consider one as a rewarding and viable alternative to university as well as important factors to consider when making your decision.

Avoid student debt and earn while you learn

With a recent report suggesting that student debts wipe out any graduate premiums in most professions, apprenticeships are becoming an increasingly attractive option for school leavers, allowing them not only to avoid substantial tuition fees but also to earn money whilst gaining valuable practical skills and knowledge. Apprentices can earn up to £5.99 in their first year of training and highly experienced plumbers can also bring in very attractive salaries - often equal to or exceeding the amount earned by graduates.

Great job security

Plumbing offers greater job security than many other careers. Plumbers offer a service that will always be in demand, their skills cannot be digitalised and plumbing jobs cannot be outsourced for cheaper labour overseas. Plumbing is also a very varied trade, with lots of options to specialise in an area that takes your interest. For example, installers can choose between domestic and commercial work, whether to undertake contract work or even whether to become their own boss by setting up their own business.

What will I do as an apprentice?

As an apprentice, you'll be required to work under minimal supervision to complete the installation and maintenance of many different plumbing systems and components including domestic hot water, cold water, sanitation, drainage rainwater systems and central heating. An apprenticeship will allow you to develop your skills and enter the profession at a higher level, equipping you with the skills to install, service and maintain systems such as gas fired water and central heating and gas fired warm air appliances.

As a member of the plumbing and heating industry you'll also need to remain at the forefront of technological changes in both traditional systems and new technologies, for example, environmental systems such as heat pumps and solar water heating. Another important part of the job involves ensuring these systems are designed and installed to meet strict legislation and exacting design criteria. For this reason, school leavers with at least a C in maths, English and a science or technology subject are more likely to be successful in a plumbing apprenticeship.

A few things to consider

It's worth remembering that plumbing and heating can be physically demanding at times, for example, when operating tools or crawling under the floor to fit pipework, and also requires a good level of maturity to complete a wide range of tasks under minimal supervision. For this reason, it's important to be honest with yourself when considering whether a career in plumbing and heating is right for you - anyone thinking that an apprenticeship is a "soft option" will soon find out otherwise!

Potential to gain permanent employment

As many plumbing and heating companies treat an apprenticeship as an investment in the growth and development of their business, there's a good chance you'll be offered a permanent position on the successful completion of your training course. With all the advantages a career in plumbing can offer, it definitely makes sense to give it some serious thought!

If this post has convinced you that a plumbing apprenticeship could be right for you, more information can be found at http://www.jtltraining.com/apprenticeships/ or by contacting your local college.


Friday, 26 August 2016

Slice your energy bills with heating controls

Huge savings can be made on household bills by ensuring you’re using the right heating controls within the home, writes UK boiler manufacturer Baxi’s Jon Phillips.With energy prices on the rise*, homeowners are often on the hunt for ways to reduce the cost of heating their property.
One relatively easy way of achieving this is to fit suitable heating controls to ensure that you’re not over or under heating your home, or running your boiler when you have no need for heating or hot water, such as while you’re at work.

If used correctly, and with an energy-efficient boiler such as one of the Baxi EcoBlue range, you should find that you’re never compromising between a warm home and a healthy bank balance again.

Recent figures show that while more than 95 per cent of homes have a boiler, as many as 800,000 have no controls in their property at all, eight million have no room thermostat, and 70 per cent lack the minimum levels of controls specified in the 2010 Building Regulations.**

For homes in any of those brackets, the potential savings could be huge. According to the Energy Saving Trust, simply fitting a basic room thermostat and thermostatic radiator valves, and then using them correctly, could save the average owner of a three-bedroom, semi-detached house up to £165 per year.

In addition, the same household could reduce their carbon dioxide footprint by 680kg per year by simply installing controls - enough to drive a typical family car more than 1,000 miles.

On average, controls should be replaced every 12 years due to advancements in technology, as well as to ensure accuracy. Now is a great time to be in the market as recent innovations allow you to remain in control of your home to a far greater extent than ever before.

Many homeowners are switching from the traditional thermostat to their smart counterparts, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat. This device logs how warm you like your home to be at certain times of the day by learning from your behaviour, and adjusts the temperature accordingly – you can even access it through a nifty app on your smartphone or tablet.

You can also save money by investigating in additions such as zone control, which allows you to heat different parts of your home to suit your comfort requirements, by operating them on separate heating circuits with their own thermostats.

With all the technology now available at your fingertips, the right heating controls can make a big difference to your comfort and lifestyle – and your wallet. So fit the right controls and use them correctly, and you could soon be feeling the benefits.

To search for a quality heating installer in your local area, simply visit the APHC website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


Friday, 19 August 2016

Solar thermal hot water systems

When it comes to heating water for use around the home, most properties rely on a boiler to heat water as needed, or use a hot water cylinder. Alternatively, water can be heated using electricity, for example, in an electric shower or emersion heater. One type of system you may not know as much about is solar water heating systems, which use the energy from the sun to heat hot water in a hot water cylinder.

Using solar energy from the sun to "pre heat" stored water has several benefits, helping us to use less gas, oil and electricity, saving us money and reducing the amount of carbon we produce. In the UK, a solar thermal hot water system will work all year round, although the clear, sunny days we (normally!) enjoy in summer are likely to result in more heat generated during these months and enough hot water produced to meet demand without further topping up. Where there hasn't been quite enough solar energy produced to heat water fully, especially in the autumn and winter months, a boiler or electric emersion heater can often be used to heat stored water further ready for use.

The solar thermal system

Solar thermal systems use solar panels, also called "collectors", which are mounted on the roof of a property and "collect" heat energy from the sun. These systems generally use two types of collector, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. While flat plate collectors are around 30% efficient, evacuated tube collectors are around 40-60% efficient but can be more expensive to install.

How do solar heating systems work?

The solar panels, or "collectors" in solar thermal heating systems house a network of tubes containing a mixture of glycol and water which absorbs the heat from the sun, warming the fluid up. The fluid is then sent through a coil in a hot water cylinder, warming its contents ready for you to use in a similar way as a boiler would warm up water in a cylinder. The temperature of hot water in the cylinder can be topped up from the boiler or using an electric emersion heater.

The two main configurations of systems within the UK are the drainback system and the fully filled system:

  • Drainback system - This system pumps heat transfer fluid from a reservoir through the solar collector and then through a coil in the cylinder. Once the fluid stops pumping around the system, water from the solar collector drains back down into the reservoir, leaving the solar collector empty of fluid.
  • Fully filled system - This system simply gets filled with heat transfer fluid at the testing and commissioning stage, then remains fully filled for the duration of operation or routine servicing.
Costs, savings and earnings

On average, a Solar Thermal Hot Water System costs around £3000 - 5000, but this will change significantly depending on the type of property, existing system installed and your property's heating demands. Most systems will generate moderate savings of £60-120 a year, however, the total savings to be made will depend on the type of fuel used previously to heat hot water.

Considerations

One of the most important factors to consider when deciding whether to install a solar thermal system is whether there is suitable space on your roof for a solar collector. Collectors should ideally be positioned on a roof that faces east to west and gets a lot of sun all day. An alternative to mounting a solar collector on the roof is to fit them to a frame and have them fixed to a south-facing wall.

It's also necessary to think about whether your existing plumbing system is compatible with a solar thermal hot water system, and whether there's room in your home for an increased size cylinder. In addition, your boiler will have to be checked to see if it's compatible with the system, for example, combination boilers do not provide hot water to a cylinder and so cannot be used.

If you decide a solar thermal heating system is right for you, find a quality installer in your local area by searching on our website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.



Friday, 12 August 2016

Understanding heat pumps

Looking for an efficient way of providing heat and energy to your home? If so, it's worth considering heat pumps, which have become increasingly popular with the introduction of the RHI (Renewable Heat Incentive) - a scheme designed to financially reward those who use renewable energy to heat their buildings in England, Scotland and Wales. With tariff payments available to those using certain technologies to heat their homes, the overall aim of the RHI scheme is to help the UK achieve its aim of producing 12% of its heat from renewable sources by 2020.

Read our handy APHCOnTap guide to find out everything you need to know about heat pumps and whether they're right for you.

What are heat pumps?

To find an example of a heat pump working, look no further than your household fridge or freezer! In both appliances, the main compartment is kept cold using refrigerant gases, which extract heat energy from the food compartment before releasing it back into the atmosphere via pipework and grills at the back of the appliance. In the same way as fridges and freezers, heat pumps use refrigeration gases to extract heat energy from cool sources such as the ground, outside air or even water.

In the UK, the main types of domestic heat pumps are ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps, although water source heat pumps are now entering the market.

Ground source heat pumps

Ground source heat pumps work by tapping into heat energy absorbed by the earth from the sun all year round. While the surface of the earth is susceptible to heat losses due to the weather, for example, rainfall, the temperature becomes more stable the deeper we dig, at around 8-10 degrees Celsius.

The heat collector element of a heat pump can be in one of the below forms, which must all be accurately sized for the heat pump being installed:

  • Horizontal collectors - These are used when there is a lot of land, with the pipe generally laid out in long straight runs.
  • Vertical collectors - These are now the preferred choice as they are more efficient, and run inside a bore hole of 75 - 100m deep.
  • Slinky collectors - These are used instead of horizontal collectors when space is limited, taking up to a third less space. The size of the loop or collector must be accurately sized, done as part of the overall design.
Air source heat pumps

This type of heat pump uses outside air to absorb heat and transfer it to the building. One big advantage over ground source heat pumps is their lower installation cost due to air source heat pumps not needing ground loops and trenches or bore holes.

There are some considerable advantages to installing air source heat pumps, which can save you a large amount of money and reduce the overall emissions produced and released into the atmosphere by a boiler. However, before planning to have one installed it's important to consider the following factors:

1. Availability of outside room/space - Ground source heat pumps using pipework laid in the ground will require a considerable amount of space to be effective. Consider whether drilling a bore hole is possible, however, you may only be able to decide this after a survey has been conducted. An air source heat pump will have to be mounted on a wall or be free standing on the ground, with sufficient clean air around it.

2. It's important to make sure your property is well insulated before fitting any renewable technology for heating your home. This will include installing cavity wall insulation and double or triple glazing windows and doors along with draft excluders.

3. The heating system you want to use and the fuel currently available will have a bearing on the effectiveness and suitability of a heat pump. For example, heat pumps work extremely well and save more money when replacing a solid fuel boiler in a property with underfloor heating. It therefore may not actually be advantageous to install one if you already have a highly efficient mains gas boiler with a traditional wet central heating system. A qualified installer will be able to advise you after conducting a survey.

Heat pumps are a very efficient way to heat a home, however, while they could save you money on heating and hot water running costs they should not be considered a straight alternative to a boiler. Careful design and survey work should be undertaken to decide if a heat pump is the right piece of equipment to install in your home. Find a Quality Plumber in your local area on our website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.