Friday, 30 October 2015

Buying a boiler: APHC's top tips!

A boiler is the main component of a central heating system. They come in many shapes and sizes, with different fuel types, energy ratings and delivering various amounts of heat energy. With so many things to consider, choosing a new boiler can be confusing. To help out, we've made a list of the most important things to bare in mind if you've decided the time's come to replace your boiler this winter:

Boiler size

The amount of heat energy a boiler is required to deliver through the home is based on a series of calculations carried out by an experienced and qualified plumber. It will be determined by the size of the property, the building construction, building materials and how the boiler will be used.

Type of fuel

There are a wide range of boilers that burn a range of fuel types. Below is the list of the most common types:

  • Natural Gas - Burns methane from gas mains in most towns and cities.
  • LPG - Burns liquid petroleum gas, normally propane or butane.
  • Oil type C2 - Burns kerosene which is the same as jet fuel.
  • Oil type D - Burns "gas oil" and is mainly used in oil Agas.
  • Solid mineral fuel - Burns wood logs, pellets or chippings.
  • Electric - Works like a kitchen kettle but on a much bigger scale.
Types of boiler
  • Conventional boiler - This boiler is the most basic type, it just burns fuel to make heat for central heating or hot water.
  • System boiler - This boiler provides central heating and hot water, provided by a hot water cylinder.
  • Condensing -This boiler uses the heat in the flue gases given off when the fuel is burnt to provide a ‘pre-heat’ for the hot water, saving energy costs by using less fuel. When a gas or oil boiler is being considered to be compliant with the law is must usually be of the condensing type.
  • Combination boiler - This boiler provides central heating and instant hot water.
 
ErP rating

The Energy related Products Directive (ErP) has been introduced to help countries in the EU reduce the energy they use by 20%, reduce emissions by 20% and increase the share of energy generated by renewables by 20% by 2020. From September 2015, boilers and heating products began to be labelled in the same way fridges and freezers are, so you can easily see how energy efficient they are.

The ErP is made up of two directives, Ecodesign and Energy Labelling:

  • Ecodesign - This ensures that manufacturers are meeting minimum energy performance and environmental standards. High efficiency boilers will be band A, whereas older, non-condensing boilers could be as low as Band G, and therefore not be compliant with ErP regulations.
  • Energy Labelling - Energy labels will be included on every energy-related product, including boilers. The energy label will show you:
1) Energy rating and environmental performance of the product.
2) The most efficient way to use the product.

Finding an installer

For gas and LPG boilers, the installer must be Gas Safe registered. For oil boilers we would recommend that you use OFTEC registered installers. A list of quality installers in your area can be found at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk

As well as keeping you warm, the right boiler can also help you to keep emissions low whilst saving money on your heating bills, so be sure to choose carefully when buying yours this winter!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Be Burn Aware this winter

As the weather gets colder and the nights draw in, there's nothing like taking a hot bath or enjoying a steaming mug of cocoa to warm you up in the evenings. However, what most of us probably haven't considered is that the things that keep us cosy also have the potential to do us considerable harm. 

On Wednesday 21st October, the British Burn Association ran National Burn Awareness Day for the second time to raise awareness of the shocking number of people hospitalised every day as a result of burns, the majority of which are preventable, and also to promote good first aid. On average, over 300 people are seen in emergency departments with a burn every day in England and Wales, with children accounting for 110 of these. What's more, a significant proportion of these injuries result from contact with hot liquid or steam, with 43% of all acute burn injuries result from scalding. However, there are several things we can do around the home to decrease the risk posed by scalding to ourselves and our loved ones:

  • Consider adding thermostatic mixing valves to high risk plumbing equipment such as baths and showers to mix the hot water temperature to below 48 degrees C.
  • Install special bath spouts and shower heads that prevent scalding by sensing if water gets too hot and shutting off the flow of water.
  • Always test bathwater before placing your child in the bathtub, and help them to get in. When running a bath, put cold water into the bath first and then add the hot water, using your elbows to test the temperature.
  • Never leave a child under 5 unattended in a bathtub, not even for a moment.
  • When cooking, try to use the rings at the back of the hob and turn saucepan handles towards the back or centre of the stove so that children can't grab them and tip the pots over.
  • Similarly, don't use a kettle with a cord which could dangle over the side of the work surface and be grabbed.
  •  Ideally keep toddlers and young children out of the kitchen altogether, for example, by putting a safety gate across the doorway.
  • Never warm baby bottles in the microwave - they may heat unevenly and burn your baby's mouth.
  • Use mugs or coffee cups with lids when you're around children and keep hot liquids like soup, coffee or tea away from the edge of counters and tables.
Accidents can happen despite our best laid plans, so in case of you or a member of your family being scalded, remember the "Cool, call, cover" procedure; 1) COOL the burn with running cool tap water for 20 minutes and remove all clothing and jewellery (if easily removable), 2) CALL 999, 111 or your local GP for expert medical help and 3) COVER burn with cling film or a sterile, non-fluffy dressing, making sure that the patient is kept warm.

Severe burns are for life, yet are often avoidable, so it really is worth making a few changes around the home to keep safe and avoid scalding this winter.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Strapped for cash? You could be saving money on your heating bills!

Throughout the autumn months, lots of us will be thinking about ways of saving money for that all-important Christmas shopping - from swapping to supermarket-own brands to opting to eat in rather than out at the weekends. When it comes to pinching the pennies, we tend to think first about things we can touch and see, but have you considered how much money making a few simple changes could save you on your heating bills?

With heat lost due to poor ventilation and draughts accounting for 20% of all heat loss in a typical home, it pays to take steps to insulate your property (£20 a year on your heating bills to be precise!) When choosing foams and sealants, which are available at most DIY stores,
ensure they conform to the standard BS7386. Most insulation materials are both inexpensive and straightforward to fit, so there's no excuse not to make insulating your home your next DIY project!

Loft insulation works like a blanket, trapping heat rising from the floors below. The recommended depth for loft insulation is 270mm deep - so even if you already have some fitted you could save even more energy (and money) by taking it up to this amount. To maximise efficiency, it also makes sense to lag your pipes and water tank too; fitting a British standard jacket around your hot water cylinder will reduce heat loss by over 75%, saving you another £20 a year on your fuel bill. Insulating your cavity walls could save you a further £160 a year and solid wall insulation, despite being more expensive to fit, could save you £260 in the same type of house.

Another change to your home that could help you to make significant savings is upgrading your heating and hot water system, in fact, a new high efficiency condensing boiler with heating controls could save you up to £200 a year! Smart Heating Controls, which have the ability to learn about and adapt to your day-to-day routine will also could also help you to save money by turning the heating on when you want it, but switching off when you don't. To learn more about Smart Heating Controls, read last week's blog post here. Fitting a solar panel to your property could also help you to slash your energy bills by helping you to heat hot water for use around the home and what's more, you may be eligible for a grant to have one installed!

Aside from making home improvements, there are plenty of things you can do on a smaller scale to cut your heating costs. Turning your room heating thermostat down by just 1 degree could cut your heating bills by up to 10%, saving you around £40 a year. Closing your curtains at night prevents heat from escaping through the windows, whilst you can take advantage of the cheapest form of energy (the sun) by opening the doors into rooms that get the most sun and allowing warm air to circulate throughout the house. Finally, fixing dripping taps and ensuring they're always turned off properly prevents energy being wasted in dripping hot water. A dripping tap wastes enough hot water in one week to fill half a bath! When having plumbing and heating work done on your property, remember to source a quality plumber at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk.

So why not spend some time this weekend making your home a little greener, and see how much you can save on your heating bills this winter?

Friday, 9 October 2015

Smart heating technology: gimmick or Godsend?

In recent years, the home heating market has been flooded with a huge range of digital products designed to help customers save money by heating their homes more efficiently. With the ability to show how much heating you're using, programmable digital heating systems have the ability to switch heating on or off remotely via the internet, preventing your home or water from being heated unnecessarily. But do smart heating technologies really save you money, and in any case, how can you decide if one is right for you?

While all Smart Heating Controls can control themselves or be controlled remotely through the internet, they come with a variety of different functions. For example, some have the ability to switch your heating on when you're on your way home to prevent money being wasted when you're out of the house or alternatively allow you to switch the heating off when you forget. Others have the capacity to learn your daily routine and switch themselves on and off automatically or control individual rooms in your home, so you can only heat the rooms you frequently use. Several can even adjust themselves according to the weather outside so you don't unintentionally heat your home on a warm day.

Estimates for savings from Smart Controls vary widely, with some retailers and manufacturers suggesting 20% savings, some saying you can save up to £150 a year on heating bills and one even claiming half your annual heating bill. However, in reality the amount consumers can save is likely to depend on their commitment to learning about the system and teaching it their daily routine.

As such, although Smart Controls can be expensive, for some the savings on their heating bills could make one a worthwhile investment. For example, it could be a good choice if you're someone who wants to keep track of how much heating you're using and how much it's costing you. Digital heating products are also probably better suited to people who are comfortable using computers and smartphone apps and can be very useful for people who are always on the go and want to be able to programme their thermostat to fit around their busy lifestyle. If you have a regular routine, some controls have the ability to remember your comings and goings to ensure that your home is always warm when it needs to be.

For similar reasons, Smart Controls may not be ideal for those prone to forgetfulness, who may not remember to use their app to remotely switch their heating on or off or those not familiar with using smartphones or computers. Additionally, for those planning to stay in their property for only a short period of time it may not be worthwhile paying out high sums for digital technologies, especially if the property isn't well insulated in the first place.

While it probably isn't wise to splash out on digital heating technologies without first considering carefully whether they're for you, it's clear that for tech savvy consumers who are keen to save money on their heating bills, digital thermostats really are the smart solution.

 
Green areas show potential cost savings as a result of installing a Smart Control Heating Programmer.

Friday, 2 October 2015

QPW15: How to find a Quality Plumber

Would you be embarrassed to check your plumbing or heating installer's qualifications or experience? If so, you're not alone! Our latest findings reveal that out of a poll of 2,000 homeowners, nearly half (45%) did not this request information when employing an engineer, despite 82% stating that professional qualifications are an important factor in choosing a plumbing professional!

This week (28th September - 4th October) marks APHC's 2nd ever Quality Plumber Week, which was established to celebrate the essential and highly skilled work plumbers do all year round whilst encouraging people to reduce numbers of rogue traders operating in the industry by always sticking to skilled tradespeople. Using a competent plumbing or heating engineer gives you piece of mind that work undertaken on your property will be carried out to a high standard and at a fair price. To mark QPW15, we've listed our top tips for identifying a truly Quality Plumber the next time you need plumbing or heating work done in your home:

 • Member of a trade association - As trade associations will always validate a tradesperson's claim to membership, it's definitely worth making that 2 minute phonecall to check an installer's credentials. Trade associations also have minimum qualification and work experience requirements in order to join, which can be checked when calling the association. They should also be able to provide you with a breakdown of the types of work carried out by members in your area.


 • Word of mouth recommendations - Has the installer worked for a friend, neighbour or family and what did they say about them? Never underestimate the value of "word of mouth" recommendations in determining a reliable contractor and if possible, ask to look at the work done by the contractor to gain a better understanding of how well they carried out the work.

 • Is your chosen company qualified and capable of carrying out the work? - Be sure to check your company's qualifications and experience of carrying out similar work. If they're not already members of a trade association, ask to see references from other customers. Check online for any customer feedback and don't be afraid to ask about their qualifications and experience.

 • Are they a good business? - Always pick a contractor with a physical address as you may need to make contact both during and after the work. Beware of any company that don't readily provide this information. A contact telephone number is also vital, especially in an emergency situation such as a leak.

 • An established time in business - The length of time a contractor has been in business will give you a good indication of how likely they are to stick around in the event of a problem.

 • Are they Gas Safe Registered? - By law, work on gas systems and appliances must only be undertaken by an organisation in membership to the Gas Safe Register.


You can also source a quality APHC member plumber at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk.

So next time you're having problems with your plumbing system, take the time to ensure you're employing a really competent contractor. It could save you a lot of stress and money in the long run!