Friday, 20 January 2017

As we wrap up warm this winter why not do the same to your home?

According to the Energy Savings Trust, 40 per cent of us worry about keeping our home warm in the winter. 

As we are currently experiencing a ‘cold-snap’ in the weather I’m sure even more of us have considered what cost effective measures are available to make our home warmer.

There are many upgrades to your home that can help improve energy efficiency including upgrading your heating, installing smart controls and installing new windows and doors, but have you considered insulating your home? 

Insulation is designed to keep your home warm and protect your property from cold weather, and did you know that insulation can alleviate many causes of damp and mould.  Insulation can also reduce noise pollution, making the inside of your home much quieter.

New homes are typically built with excellent insulation and generally it is homes built before 1990 that can benefit from insulation.

Insulation is important because on a cold day, heat can escape from your home in all directions - up, down and sideways. This means that you should consider insulating the walls, roof and floor.

On average, walls will lose the most heat, around 30% and up to 40%. The roof will be next at around 25%.

What forms of insulation are available?


Cavity wall insulation

If your home was built after 1920, it’s likely to have cavity walls. Cavity walls are constructed from two walls with a gap between. This is the cavity and it’s this space that’ll be filled with insulation.
Solid wall insulation

Solid walls can lose twice as much heat as cavity walls. Insulation for solid walls can be fitted either internally or externally.  Insulating internally is usually cheaper, but it will reduce internal floor space.

Loft and roof insulation

Insulating your loft is perhaps the easiest of all the energy-saving home improvements and will involve laying insulation between and over the wooden joists immediately above the ceiling.  Insulating your loft will mean the loft will become colder, so insulating tanks and pipes may also be required.

Insulating the roof involves installing insulation in the plane of the roof pitch that is immediately below the sloping roof.  This form of insulation means that the loft becomes a heated space. So if you only use your loft to store items it may not be a worthwhile project.


Floor insulation

According to the Building Materials website, floor insulation can help save up to £75 per year on heating bills and there’s the potential to reduce this even more by plugging the gaps around skirting boards. Sealing any gaps between skirting boards and floorboards can done using a sealant available from DIY sores.

In most cases it is only the downstairs that will need insulating unless there is a room above a garage. In older homes, floorboards can be lifted and insulation placed underneath. In new homes where floors are usually made from concrete, rigid insulation will need to be laid on top.
Other considerations

Generally, insulation work does not require planning permission from your local council. The exceptions may include external wall insulation and in areas where there are conservation schemes, however Building Regulations may still apply.

Building Regulations provide standards on how energy efficient any alterations to your home need to be. This means that there is a minimum amount of insulation which needs to be installed.

If you are the owner of the building, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure the work complies with Building Regulations. If you are employing a tradesperson, you should confirm at the start that they will take responsibility for compliance.

You can source a plumbing and heating contractor who is a member of APHC Certification’s Competent Person scheme and is able to self certify again specified scopes of work under Building Regulations at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

From a hook on the wall the bathroom evolved, but the bathroom is the room in the house that has the shortest history

Today most new build houses have a main bathroom in addition to an ‘en suite’ to the master bedroom plus a downstairs WC.  So it is hard to believe that less than 100 years ago most houses didn’t have a bathroom or even an indoor WC.  Instead there was a shed at the bottom of the yard, often shared by multiple households, with a toilet seat over a deep hole.  There was a hook on the wall where the tin bath hung with the bath only being used once a week, with the bath water being shared by the whole family.

Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, steps were taken to mechanise the bathroom. As more homes were plumbed for hot water and gas heaters became widely available, the middle class started to experience bathing inside the home. But lower classes still living in dense tenement buildings still shared bathtubs and toilets.

Only in the nineteenth century, with the improvements to the water supply forced by the fear of cholera, and with the building of underground sewers, did the flushing toilet finally take its place in most homes. Working class houses with bathrooms were first built around 1900, and in the 1920’s council houses were built with bathrooms.  However, in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s there were still many houses with outside toilets some with occupants refusing the authority’s grant to install an inside WC as they considered an indoor facility to be unhygienic.

 
Today, the bathroom combines stylish luxury with functionality. The bathroom is a place to get ready in the mornings and relax in with a warm bath in the evenings. Technology including underfloor heating, steam-free mirrors, televisions, clever lighting, chrome radiators and digital showers are contributing to making the bathroom far more than what could have been envisaged by the Victorians.



If you are looking to have a new bathroom installation or require plumbing and heating work to be done in your home you can source a local qualified and reputable plumber or heating engineer via our search facility at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk. The online database allows you to search via a number of criteria including postcode, town or by specific business name.
 
Fascinating Bathroom Facts
  • The use of baths date back as far as 3000 B.C, but they were used for religious rather than hygiene purposes. 
  • The flush toilet was invented in 1596, but didn’t become widespread until 1851, and in 1767
  • Englishman William Feetham invented the first modern shower.
  • It is rumored that toilet paper was first invented by the Chinese in the 6th century.
  • On average people visit the bathroom between six and eight times every day.
  • 7 million phones are broken every year as they fall into the toilet bowl.
  • George II and Elvis Presley both died on the toilet.
  • 85% of injuries that happen in the bathroom occur when someone falls into the toilet after the seat has been left up.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Make your New Year’s resolution to have all of your fuel burning appliances serviced

Think back to September to the time when you turned your heating on for the first time in a long while, you probably made a mental note to have your boiler, burner or stove serviced.  I’m sure quite a number of you reading this blog post had the good intention but never actually carried the intention through.

Although the cold winter weather is truly upon us, the good news is that it is not too late to get all of your fuel burning appliances serviced.  And if you burn solid fuel, don’t forget to get the chimneys swept too.

It is important to have your fuel burning appliances serviced to not only ensure that they are running cost efficiently, but to also rectify any problems which could be causing the appliances to be malfunctioning.  A malfunctioning gas, oil or solid fuel appliance can create extra problems over and above having a cold home.  There is the potential for pipes to become frozen and burst and of course the serious health problems and life threating implications associated with carbon monoxide leaks.

As a minimum, all fuel burning appliances require annual servicing and maintenance, however this is dependent on the manufacturer’s service and maintenance instructions, which should be adhered to in all circumstances.

 

The range of fuel burning appliances which you need to consider having regular servicing and checks include, Central Heating Boilers, Open Fires, Stoves, Room Heaters, Range Cookers, Instantaneous Water Heaters, along with, Micro Combined Heat and Power Units. Non-fuel burning appliances to also consider include, Air or Ground Source Heat Pumps and Solar Thermal Panels.

The Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps recommends that all non-gas appliances with a conventional flue be swept regularly to stop any problems or blockages occurring. Recommended sweeping frequencies include:
  • Smokeless coals - At least once a year
  • Wood - Up to four times a year
  • Bitumous coal - Twice a year
  • Oil burning - Once a year

Whilst you are thinking about having your fuel burning appliances serviced don’t forget to check your carbon monoxide alarm, and if you have a battery operated alarm, change the batteries.  If you don’t have a carbon monoxide alarm, then add buying one to your New Year’s resolution list.  Read this blog post on choosing the right carbon monoxide alarm.

Finally, only a competent and qualified engineer should service and maintain your fuel burning appliances. Check the engineer’s qualifications to ensure they are competent for the fuel and appliance they are servicing.

How to find a quality plumber


You can use APHC's Find a Quality Plumber search facility at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk to find a qualified and reliable plumbing and heating engineer local to you.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Do you know whether your plumbing and heating complies with Building Regulations?

Building Regulations are minimum standards for design, construction and alterations to virtually every building. They are developed by the Government and approved by Parliament.

How do you comply with Building Regulations?


Many plumbing and heating jobs in a property need to be notified and approved as being compliant with Building Regulations by a Building Control Body, either your Local Authority Building Control or a private sector Approved Inspector, unless the work is carried out by installers registered with a Competent Person Scheme. 

An installer registered with a Competent Person Scheme is qualified to carry out specific types of work. They are able to self-certify that the work has been undertaken in compliance with Building Regulations, and via their Competent Persons Scheme Operator, such as APHC (Certification) Ltd., can issue a certificate of compliance, the detail of which is lodged with their local Building Control Body.

Competent Person Schemes have the added advantage of insurance-backed warranties and complaints procedures, so if there’s a problem the property owner has an independent party to help resolve any issues.

Competent Person Schemes are generally the most cost efficient way in plumbing and heating to ensure that work complies with Building Regulations.

If you do not use a plumbing and heating installer registered with a Competent Person Scheme then you will have to obtain Building Control approval, as detailed above, which can cost considerably more than having the work notified through a Competent Person Scheme.


Competent Persons Schemes for Plumbers


What areas of plumbing and heating work fall under Building Regulations?


Before commencing with any plumbing and heating related project, it may be advisable to ascertain from a member of a Competent Person Scheme whether the work falls under the requirement to notify your Local Authority.  When dealing with a plumbing and heating installer you should always ask to see their identification to ensure they are a member of a formal Competent Persons Scheme.  However broadly speaking, some examples of the types of plumbing and heating work requiring Local Authority notification include:

  • Installation of gas, oil and solid fuel appliances
  • Installation or replacement of hot water and heating systems
  • Electrical installation work in domestic properties
  • Installation of plumbing and water supply systems and bathrooms and sanitary ware
  • Installation of microgeneration and renewable technologies

What if you do not comply with Building Regulations?


If you do not comply with Building Regulations the work will not be legal and as the property owner, you could be prosecuted and face unlimited fines.  Plus as the work will be unchecked or certified it may not be safe, could cause health problems, injury or even death.

What if you do not notify Building Control?


If the work has not been notified to a Building Control Body or carried out by a Competent Person Scheme registered installer the Local Authority will have no record that the work complies with Building Regulations which will be vital when you come to sell your property as you may be asked to provide Certificates of Compliance.  If the work is then subsequently found to be faulty, your Local Authority could insist you put it right at your own expense.

 

What if you no longer have the Compliance Certificates?


If you have had plumbing and heating work carried out and approval was sought but you no longer have the Compliance Certificate then you can request a duplicate copy either from your Local Authority or from the installer’s Competent Person Scheme Provider (dependent on who provided certification).  If you don’t know who the Competent Person Scheme Provider is, you can contact the installer directly.   Alternatively, a list of all current scheme providers can be found here.

 

How to source a plumbing and heating Competent Person Scheme member


APHC Certification runs a Competent Person Scheme in addition to a Green Deal Certification Scheme and Microgeneration Certification Scheme and you can source members at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

An essential guide to underfloor heating

To help you decide whether underfloor heating is right for you we have written this concise but informative blog post.

Underfloor heating uses the basic principle of rising heat and can be either a wet system that pumps warm water through pipes under the floor, or a dry system of electric coils placed under the floor.


Electric underfloor heating


Electric underfloor heating uses a network of wires under each floor that heat up. The wires usually sit on a top layer of insulation and fit under different hard floor types and carpet – subject to thickness. Depending on the size and shape of the room and how well it is insulated you can opt for either heating mats, which cover large areas, or individual wires which can get in small spaces. Heating mats are generally a cheaper alternative.

The electric wires themselves are fairly thin, making them easier and cheaper to install than a water-based system, but they are also slightly pricier to run, making them better suited to smaller areas.

Theoretically a competent DIY enthusiast can install the electric heating sheets or cables, but a qualified electrician will be required to connect the system to the electric mains supply and fit a sensor that connects to the thermostat.

Water underfloor heating


Water-based systems use a network of pipes linked to the boiler that pump hot water around the pipes. The pipes are thicker than wires and so require more room under the floor for the system to be installed, or the floor may need to be slightly raised.  This means they provide a good solution for new builds, but they can be more difficult to install in existing properties.

The Energy Saving Trust says water underfloor heating is typically more energy efficient than radiators and therefore less expensive to run. This is because the heat emitted from an underfloor system is more evenly distributed than a single radiator, and so the system can use water at a lower temperature.

Water-based systems cost more than electric-based underfloor systems and shouldn’t be installed without professional assistance.


Advantages of underfloor heating


  • It can be an efficient way to heat the whole of a room compared to radiators which heat more of an isolated area
  • It is hidden away out of view and frees up walls as there are no radiators
  • It is a flexible heating option that can be fitted in a single room or in every room


Disadvantages of underfloor heating


  • It can take longer to heat up compared to radiators as underfloor heating works at a lower temperature
  • It can cost more to install underfloor heating and consequently is more suited to new builds
  • In some cases, such as with smaller systems, it won't be able to completely replace radiators


 

Costs


You'll need to consider whether you want an electric or water system, the number and type of rooms you want it installed in, the size of each room and whether you want to get rid of the radiators in the room(s) where it is to be installed.

If you are going to instruct a professional and qualified tradesman, it is always advisable to obtain a minimum of three detailed quotations in order to provide a comparison and judgement of cost.   You can source a qualified APHC Quality Plumber here.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Carbon monoxide detectors save lives, here’s what you need to know

On the back of carbon monoxide awareness week, we thought it would be pertinent to write a blogpost about the importance of carbon monoxide detectors, but in order to do this let’s first go into a little detail about carbon monoxide.

What is carbon monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas produced by the incomplete burning of any fuel, including gas, oil or solid fuels. When carbon monoxide enters the body, it prevents the blood from bringing oxygen to cells, tissues and organs. 

Why do you need a carbon monoxide detector?

You can't see it, taste it or smell it, but carbon monoxide can kill quickly without warning or cause serious harm to health if breathed in over a long period of time. In extreme cases paralysis and brain damage can be caused as a result of prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide.  According to statistics from the Health & Safety Executive, every year around 11 people die from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by appliances and flues that have not been properly installed, maintained or that are poorly ventilated.

Who needs a carbon monoxide detector?

It is important to stress that it isn’t just gas boilers and appliances that you should safeguard against.  Oil and solid wood burning boilers, fires and stoves also produce carbon monoxide.  Therefore you should have a carbon monoxide detector in every room where a gas, oil or solid wood burning boiler, fire or stove is situated.

How much should you expect to pay for a carbon monoxide detector?

Prices vary and can start from under £10, but tests carried out by Which indicated that you’re more likely to end up with a safe and reliable carbon monoxide detector if you pay around £20 for one which requires disposable batteries or £25 for a detector with a screen and a long-life sealed battery.
Which recommend that you buy a carbon monoxide detector from a leading retail company such as Argos, B&Q, Currys, John Lewis, Homebase, Screwfix or Wickes.

Carbon Monoxide Detector

What types of carbon monoxide detectors are there?


Sealed battery carbon monoxide detectors. This type of detector sounds an alarm when carbon monoxide is detected and is disposable, typically lasting around 8-10 years.  The detector will make a regular sound when it is time to renew the unit. This solution avoids the need to regularly replace batteries.  

Replaceable battery carbon monoxide detectors. These detectors work in the same way as a sealed battery unit, but are usually cheaper as this type of unit requires batteries which should be changed every 12 months.

Smart carbon monoxide detectors.  When this type of unit detects carbon monoxide it sends an alert to your smartphone or device as well as sounding an alarm.  You will pay a premium over the aforementioned detectors as they offer the lasted in smart device connectivity.

Patch carbon monoxide detectors. Which do not recommend to buy such a detector, as rather than sounding an alarm a patch detector relies on you checking to see if the patch has changed colour.  It won’t alert you or wake you should carbon monoxide be present.

Final thoughts

Which recommends to buy carbon monoxide detectors that are loud enough to wake you up (85db or more) and that you test them regularly every month. 

It is also advisable that you have your cooking and heating appliances regularly checked, serviced and installed by a competent plumbing and heating engineer, such as an APHC member.

You can source a qualified APHC Quality Plumber here.

You can read our factsheet ‘Understanding the Dangers of Carbon Monoxide’ here.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Make the right call if your heating breaks down this winter

We all rely on our boilers in winter for heat and hot water and waking up to a cold shower is not the best start to the day. To avoid the day getting worse by using a rogue trader always ensure you have a plan in place in the event of needing to call out a plumber, especially in the coming weeks.

Make the right call if your heating breaks down this winter
Plumbers are in high demand during the winter season and finding a reputable plumber at short notice can be challenging. To avoid frantic calling around and trusting unreliable website searches take some time to prepare emergency contact numbers; it’s easy to sigh with relief when the first plumber called is available, but if you choose an unqualified tradesman it could leave to more problems and unexpected costs.

If you don’t have a trusted plumber to call upon here’s some advice on how to find reputable and qualified traders.
  • Look for a member of a trade association, such as APHC (www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk), who will ensure that a trader’s qualifications and past work is checked and verified to a high standard. 
  • Check credentials, such as Gas Safe Registration. Take the time to quickly check if the plumber’s membership is current and up-to-date by looking online or calling the organisation.
  • Before confirming a call-out check how much you will be charged. In an emergency a reputable trader will provide a cost for the call-out and rates for on-going time spent on the job. You should never feel pressurised into accepting work without a full explanation.
Employing a member of a trade organisation also has the additional security of codes of conduct to protect both the customer and tradespeople and often have schemes, which can help to resolve problems.

It’s also not too late to arrange a boiler service to prevent a breakdown in the first place and keep your heating system well maintained. To find a local qualified and reputable heating engineer you can use our search facility at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk. The online database allows you to search via a number of criteria including postcode, town or by specific business name.

As well as offering high levels of customer service and workmanship as standard, our members are fully vetted with their work checked annually to uphold high standards of workmanship.

We also have a series of free, impartial consumer guides to provide background information on a host of plumbing and heating topics. The guides range from advice on how to select and employ the right plumber or heating engineer, preparing for cold weather, dealing with emergencies and guides to conventional heating systems. In addition, new technologies are also demystified with information on solar thermal hot water and biomass boilers.