Friday, 24 June 2016

Your holiday plumbing checklist

It's that time of year when lots of us are preparing to jet off on our summer holidays and are busy ensuring that everything will be ok at home while we're away. However, as well as remembering to reset the thermostat and asking the next door neighbour to feed the cat, it's also important to ensure that your plumbing system remains in good condition in your absence.

It's pretty much everyone's nightmare scenario - returning from a break to discover your beloved home destroyed by a flood. As such, it's always worth taking a few minutes to prevent unwanted leaks by turning off your stoptap.

A stoptap, otherwise known has a stopcock or stopvalve, is the tap which turns off the cold water coming into your house from the street. In the early part of the year, be sure to locate your stoptap and regularly ensure that it hasn't seized up. The valve should turn easily to a closed position, allowing you to check at the kitchen tap to ensure no water is running. Once fully open, turn the valve back a quarter of a turn.

Before you go on holiday, it's also important to be aware of and take precautions against the risk of Legionnaire's Disease - a potentially fatal lung infection caused by the bacteria legionella pneumonophila. Rather than being passed from person to person, Legionnaire's Disease is contracted when a person inhales water droplets containing legionella bacteria. These bacteria lie dormant at a temperature below 25 degrees but start to multiply and grow above this temperature until around 60 degrees. Legionella is particularly dangerous as an aerosol (mist/droplets in the air that can be easily inhaled) therefore the appliances presenting the greatest risk include hot tubs, spa and whirlpool baths, showers and cisterns.

In the weeks leading up to your trip, read the safety instructions for your appliances carefully and thoroughly clean and condition them to minimise bacteria growth. Remember that scaled-up shower heads are the perfect breeding ground for legionella, so don't forget to carry out a full descaling session as part of your cleaning routine.

If your property is going to be vacant for over a week be sure to turn on the boiler and run the hot water for 10 minutes when you get back. Note that this advice does not apply to combination boilers. If you're likely to be away for several months there may be a need to have the system thoroughly flushed and disinfected - you'll need the services of a specialist plumbing company to help you with this.

Taking the appropriate steps to prevent unwanted leaks and outbreaks of Legionnaire's Disease before your holiday could well save you from returning to a disaster - whether damage caused by flooding or contamination by dangerous legionella bacteria. For a full risk assessment of your property, search by postcode to find a local competent person in your area at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.



Friday, 17 June 2016

Top 10 plumbing myths

It's common knowledge that anyone can fix a leaky tap, right? Well maybe not... When it comes to keeping your home in good working order, commonly held misconceptions about your water systems can often throw a spanner in the works, leaving you open to greater costs and hassle down the line. The APHC On Tap team is here to set the record straight with our list of Top 10 Plumbing Myths, allowing you to tackle your pipework problems right first time.

1. A leaky tap isn't a big deal

Left unfixed, a leaky tap is literally money down the drain. As well as leading to higher water bills (if you're on a meter), leaks are also bad for the environment and can have a particularly bad effect in areas already suffering from water shortages. Deal with a leak as soon as you notice the problem by contacting a local competent installer.

2. Wipes are ok

Unlike toilet paper, wipes are not biodegradable and may build up in your pipework, leading to a costly and bothersome blockage. Don't assume that everything is ok just because they seem to be flushing - they may be causing a real problem further down the pipe.

3. Plumbing fixtures are low maintenance

Adopting an "install and forget" approach to your plumbing fixtures is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Although your installations may look in good condition, without regular maintenance they can begin to deteriorate. In particular, mineral deposits can speed up corrosion, so if you live in a hard water area remember to remove these regularly.

4. You don't need to worry about scraping your plate

It can be tempting to think that because your sink is still draining, waste food isn't doing your pipework any harm, however, in reality it's likely that rubbish is accumulating in your pipes, leading to a problem later on. Prevent against blockages and smelly kitchen sinks by adopting good habits around scraping your plate, and place a trap in your plughole to stop food going down the drain.

5. Washing dishes by hand is better for the environment

Contrary to popular belief, washing dishes by hand often uses more water and energy than an energy efficient dishwasher, especially if you're in the habit of keeping the hot tap running while you wash up! To be extra environmentally friendly, choose your dishwasher's "eco" setting whenever you can.

6. I have noisy pipes. Must be water hammer

As some of us will know only too well, there are a whole range of different bangs and squeaks that can be heard coming from our household plumbing. The term "water hammer" refers specifically to the hammering noise caused when a valve in a pipe is closed too quickly. Our recent blog post identifies the most common plumbing noises, their causes and gives solutions so you can get some peace and quiet again!

7. Asbestos has been banned since 1999, so I'm not at risk

An estimated half a million UK homes were built prior to 1999, meaning they may still contain asbestos. If inhaled, asbestos fibres can trigger harmful or fatal diseases such as lung cancer or mesothelioma. Read our blog post on the topic here to learn more about this dangerous substance and how to keep those around you safe.

8. I would notice if I had a carbon monoxide leak

Because carbon monoxide is a colourless and odourless gas, a potentially fatal leak may go unnoticed until it's too late. To protect yourself and your loved ones against this silent killer, be sure to hire a Gas Safe Registered engineer for any gas work in your home, as well as ensuring you have a carbon monoxide alarm fitted to warn you in case of an emergency.

9. Anyone can fix a leak

Each year, countless homeowners take on "easy" DIY jobs such as fixing a leak in an effort to save money, only to find themselves paying a premium to get their mistakes corrected by a professional. Save yourself time and money in the long run by hiring a professional to begin with.

10. All plumbers are the same

Not all plumbers have the competence and expertise to do a good job first time round. In order to join APHC, installers must have minimum levels of work experience and qualifications, giving you peace of mind that you're receiving quality work at a fair price. To search for a Quality Plumber in your local area, visit http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


Friday, 10 June 2016

Garden without making a splash this summer

When the sun comes out there's no better place to be than the garden, and lots of us enjoy making the most of the good weather to give our flowerbeds a bit of much needed TLC. However, in the attempt to get everything looking lush and green it can be easy to get carried away and lose track of just how much water we're using. While we're constantly being told useful water-saving tips for inside the home, it's easy to forget that there are also lots of ways to save water outside without your garden plants looking any the worse for it.

While it's true that most of the planet is made up of water, in reality only a limited amount of this is fresh water which is suitable for human use, with the majority locked away in glaciers or polar ice caps. Taking steps to save water, not just in hot weather but all year round, helps not only to protect against future droughts but also to conserve this precious resource for future generations. What's more, if you're on a water meter it could also help to keep down those monthly bills!

Watering

One of the greatest outdoor guzzlers of water are sprinklers, which can use up to 1000 litres of water per hour - that's more than a family of four uses in a whole day! If you really have to use sprinklers, try to time them to come on early in the morning or at night, when evaporation rates are lowest. A much more water-efficient alternative to sprinklers is the traditional watering can, which allow you to direct water to where it's really needed - the roots. If you choose to use a hosepipe instead, or when washing the car, the addition of a trigger nozzle can halve the amount of water used.

Grey water

When taking a bath or washing clothes, why not consider reusing the waste or "grey" water in your garden? Simply move the water in buckets or, alternatively, ask a competent plumber to install a special outlet pipe. While grey water is fine for the purpose of watering plants, experts warn against using it on fruits or vegetables due to the likely presence of detergents or other chemicals in the water. Research by the Environment Agency indicates that people who reuse their grey water can slash their water meters figures by up to 5%!

Planting tips

Another approach to outdoor water conservation is reducing the amount of water your garden needs in the first place. One way to do this is by laying down mulch - a layer made from natural materials such as chipped bark or straw, placed over the soil to prevent it drying out through evaporation. It also has the added bonus of preventing weeds from sprouting up! Another simple tip is to plant drought-resistant plants such as Echinacea flowers, that are much less thirsty than other types of greenery. In particular, plants such as tomatoes and courgettes need a lot of watering, so if you're into growing your own fruit and veg try to balance these varieties out with those than can survive without a regular drink.

If you decide to up your water saving efforts with the installation of a grey water outlet pipe, remember to get the right person for the task. Otherwise you may find the money you've saved on your water bills outweighed in the long run, trying to amend a botched job. Find a Quality Plumber in your local area at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Has "spending a penny" become too expensive for the UK's councils?

As they say, "When you've got to go, you've got to go" and we all take for granted being able to get to a toilet in good time when nature calls. However, in recent years, you may have noticed that public facilities have been mysteriously disappearing.

In the last decade, ever-tightening council budgets have been responsible for the closure of at least 1782 facilities across the UK. Data obtained by the BBC from 331 out of 435 councils contacted shows that 22 councils, including Manchester, Stockport and Tamworth, now only have one public toilet, with the best served areas often in popular tourist destinations. Reasons cited for closure of public facilities include the need to rid areas of antisocial hubs, with WCs becoming beacons for drug-taking, sex and vandalism, and the Disability Discrimination Act under the argument that the majority of toilets are inaccessible to those with additional access requirements.

In a bid by councils to save money, WCs are being sold to private businesses, which transform them into all manner of amenities, from wine bars to night clubs. One Clapham wine bar was revamped under the condition that unsuspecting members of the public who wander in to "spend a penny" are allowed to use the facilities without the need to buy anything.

But a lack of public toilets can have significant social and health repercussions. Elderly rights groups say that the closure of facilities can lead to social isolation of the aged, who may begin to avoid going out due to a fear of getting caught short. Campaigners also argue that being desperate to go to the toilet and holding a full bladder can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

In 2014, the British Toilet Association released the Great British Toilet map, showing facilities across the UK at train stations, community toilet schemes, shopping centres and libraries. Another measure designed to combat the UK's lack of loos is the "Can't Wait Card" - a national membership scheme for people with bladder or bowel problems which states that the holder has a medical condition and needs to use a toilet quickly. In the capital, the "Open London" scheme allows members of the public to use facilities in M&S, John Lewis, Tesco and Asda without the obligation to spend a penny.

From "the bathroom" to "the loo", we have many different names for the toilet, however, the need for convenient access to facilities is a universal one. It's clear that the decline of the public toilet could have serious implications, especially for the dignity and wellbeing of society's most vulnerable groups, and that in all likelihood the problem is only going to get worse unless serious action is taken. Other concerns raised as part of the debate include a possible threat to public health, with the risk that a lack of facilities will lead people to relieve themselves in the street instead. Let's hope the issue is addressed before the UK's councils "pull the chain" on our WCs for good...