Friday, 26 February 2016

Legionella in the home

Hot tubs can prove a great addition to your garden, providing a great activity for parties and allowing you to enjoy the pleasure of outdoor bathing all year round! In fact, it's no surprise that around 10% of UK homeowners now own one. However, what many people don't realise is that without proper management, hot tubs and other household plumbing installations and appliances using water such as showers, storage cisterns in warm roof spaces, whirlpool baths and flexible hosepipe tap connectors, to name a few, can become sources of the bacteria legionella, which can lead to the potentially fatal Legionnaires' Disease.

What is Legionnaires' Disease?

Legionnaires' Disease is an often fatal infection of the lungs, caused by the bacteria legionella pneumonophila. Although commonly found in freshwater sources such as rivers and streams, legionella does not usually pose a contamination risk from these sources due to the special conditions it requires to multiply; readily available nutrients and temperatures of between 20 and 45 degrees. Rather than being passed from person to person, the disease is contracted when water droplets containing the bacteria are inhaled. Due to the vulnerability of their lungs compared to other groups of the population, the elderly, young children and smokers are particularly at risk of infection from legionella.

Where am I at risk of Legionnaire's Disease in the home?

Legionella bacteria can lie dormant at a temperature below 25oC, however, above this temperature it starts to grow and multiply, until around 60 oC. The bacteria can infect our lungs so it is dangerous as an aerosol, such as a mist or droplets in the air that can be breathed in. This means that the appliances presenting the greatest risk are often those that produce or store water around 40oC. These could include hot tubs, baths, spa and whirlpool baths, showers and cisterns. Scaled up taps and valves along with certain flexible hose materials can present their own risk, creating the perfect habitat for bacteria.

What can I do to prevent against the risk of catching Legionnaire's Disease?

The most important thing you can do to mitigate against the risk of catching Legionnaires' Disease is to always follow the manufacturer's instructions for whatever installation or appliance you are using, which are written with your health and safety in mind. You should also ensure that your installation is always thoroughly cleaned, maintained and conditioned to help minimise bacteria growth, and consider engaging a Competent Person to undertake a risk assessment of your property. By highlighting any potential sources of legionella risk around your home, the installer will be able to advise you about how to best look after your plumbing system in order to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

I'm a landlord. What action should I take to protect my tenants from Legionnaire's Disease?

As a landlord, you have certain obligations to control the risk of legionella bacteria in your rented dwelling. Read this leaflet to learn about your responsibilities to keep your tenants safe from Legionnaire's Disease.

So this weekend, why not take some time to ensure that your hot tub remains a safe and fun garden feature by following the above advice? If you'd like to search for a member of the Competent Person Scheme in your area, simply visit http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Wet rooms: Are they right for me?

Due to our modern busy lifestyles, more and more of us are choosing to take a quick shower in the morning rather than indulge in a long soak in the bath. Offering a bathroom option that is both stylish and practical, wet rooms are becoming increasingly popular in UK homes. However, while they can offer a range of benefits, there are also several things you should consider before making the decision to get a wet room installed yourself. As always, APHC On Tap is here to help! Read our wet room "need to know" to ensure this modern shower solution really is right for you.

What exactly is a wet room?

Originating from Scandinavia, wet rooms are open, tiled shower areas. Initially adopted in the UK as a bathing solution for those with mobility needs, today wet rooms are chosen by many as an accessible modern alternative to the traditional bathroom.

What's involved in installing one?

The cost of installing a wet room typically falls between £5000 and £10,000. It involves creating a gradient along the floor to channel water into the drain. Most commonly, a ready-made sloping shower former (like a large shower tray) is installed before being tiled over or other waterproof, non-slip flooring is installed. The room is completed with an all-over waterproofing, which involves priming the floor and lower walls around the shower before covering with a membrane. Once set, the room can be tiled. In order to keep the water contained in the case of the room filling with water, it may be worth raising the bathroom door threshold by about 5mm. This will prevent your house flooding in the event that you fall asleep with the shower running!

Although most people choose a tiled wet room surface, you can also opt for sheet vinyl or Corian - a seamless, non-porous material that offers a very low-maintenance option. When choosing a tile, ensure you go for something that is non-porous, such as ceramic or porcelain, otherwise you'll just be creating extra work for yourself due to the requirement to regularly reseal them. Wet rooms can even be installed in conjunction with underfloor heating, allowing you to enjoy the luxury or warm tiles underfoot whilst also helping to dry the floor when not in use. Read more about underfloor heating on our blog here.

Advantages

As well as being a stylish and contemporary bathroom choice, a wet room could well increase the value of your home, especially where installed as a second bathroom. With no shower tray to worry about, wet rooms are much easier to clean than conventional showers and as they are resistant to water damage and leaks, require far less maintenance too. Their non-slip flooring and lack of shower trays also mean that they're a lot safer than traditional bathrooms, making them a great choice for those with disabilities and young children. What's more, the extra space you would gain from removing your old bathtub could make it feel like a whole new bathroom!

Disadvantages

As wet rooms usually require tiling from floor to ceiling they can be an expensive option. Moreover, choosing porous stone tiles introduces the additional bother of having to reseal them every few months - failure to do so could leave you at risk of water damage or leaks. Finally, as wet rooms remove the need for a shower screen, they do leave your towels at risk of getting a soaking!

Where not fitted by a plumbing professional, wet rooms can be prone to expensive leaks, so why run the risk? Click here to find a Quality Plumber in your local area via the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors.


Friday, 12 February 2016

A scaly problem: how to deal with hard water

Have you noticed unattractive white buildups on the spout of your taps and the inside of your kettle? When you go to wash your hands, does your soap give you more of a scum than an imperial lather? Struggling to get your plates and clothes properly clean? If so, you're not alone! Across the UK, an estimated 65% of the population live in an area supplied with hard water, which means that they're also living with the problem of limescale.

A scaly problem

Hard water is caused when water runs through limestone and chalk - rocks containing high amounts of the minerals calcium and magnesium. When these minerals become dissolved in water, they counter the lather-forming properties of soap, instead causing a scummy substance to be formed when you wash your hands. The high concentrations of calcium and magnesium found in hard water can also result in the buildup of scaly deposits on the inside surfaces of your pipes, boilers and household appliances, which can cause a number of problems. Deposits of scale can reduce water flow in pipes, causing an increase in pressure which can result in a costly leak. What's more, while drinking hard water isn't directly harmful to your health, scaly formations can create biofilms in pipes which can harbour bacteria, increasing the risk posed by dangerous illnesses such as Legionnaires' Disease.

Hard on your energy bills

As well as the threats hard water poses to your health, it can also be unhealthy for your bank balance. In boilers, scale deposits impair the flow of heat into water, reducing heating efficiency and allowing metal boiler components to overheat. In a pressurized boiler system this may even lead to the failure of the boiler. The issue also affects appliances such as kitchen kettles, which take much longer to boil when filled with scale. As summarised by British Water, "Doing nothing to counter the problems that hard water causes is probably the most expensive option [when it comes to dealing with hard water] due to the reduced efficiency of water heaters, extra energy and maintenance costs."

The solutions

When it comes to treating hard water, you first need to consider the type of hard water you've got. If you've only got temporary hardness and the water is going to be used for drinking, it can be easily removed simply by boiling. This should result in a scum being formed on the surface of the water, which can be easily sieved away. On the other hand, treating permanent hardness, which cannot be removed by boiling, will require a water softener or ion exchange column. These work by replacing the calcium and magnesium ions that cause hard water with other ions such as sodium and potassium, leaving the user with soft water for use around the home. Water filters are another option for softening water and removing impurities. As they can be applied to kitchen and bathroom taps, filters can be a good solution for washing hands and dishes, allowing soap to form a decent lather.

Get a Quality Plumber

As a water softener is only effective with proper installation, ensure you get it fitted by a professional so that you can enjoy the benefits of soft water for the years to come. Getting regular maintenance on your household plumbing will also prevent your water heater from degrading, keeping your pipes flowing freely all year round. Find a Quality Plumber in your local area on the APHC website, at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


Friday, 5 February 2016

A simple guide to underfloor heating

On cold winter mornings, what could be better than climbing out of bed onto a ready-warmed floor? Underfloor heating systems, which come in electric or hot water versions, allow you to do just that, and have grown greatly in popularity in recent years as an alternative to radiators in many modern homes. However, this luxury heating solution definitely doesn't come cheap, and there are several factors that you should weigh up before reaching a decision on whether underfloor heating is right for you. As plumbing tips are what we do best, this blog post will focus specifically on the hot water type of underfloor heating.

How it works

Hot water underfloor heating uses a system of connecting pipes laid underneath the floor, joined to a manifold (a system used to connect pipes together). The whole system is also linked up to a thermostat, allowing you to regulate the temperature in the same way that you would your usual central heating system. Due to the underfloor space required to fit this system, it is often easier to install underfloor heating in a new build; in retrofitting situations significant work on the existing floor may have to be undertaken to accommodate this.

The pros

As well as allowing you to enjoy the comfort of warm floors in winter, underfloor heating can provide an efficient way to heat a room, with heat rising slowly and evenly around the whole room rather in the "hotspots" created by radiators. As heat is mainly concentrated in the lower part of the room, little is wasted and because underfloor heating systems use water at a lower temperature than standard radiators, you may even find that you have reduced water heating costs! As underfloor heating often removes the need for radiators altogether, the extra wall space can be used for something else, and the valves for each room can be situated together in one spot along with the timer controls (just make sure you have somewhere with enough room for these, such as a cupboard). Finally, as the plastic pipes used are normally continuous, there's less chance of you having to pay out for a plumber to come and fix a leak.

The cons

One of the main disadvantages of underfloor heating is that floors can take longer to heat up than radiators, which are able to reach high temperatures much more quickly. It can be a pricey option, especially if it's going to be used in addition to the existing heating system and smaller systems may not always be able to fully replace radiators. Underfloor heating will also dictate the type of flooring you use. Stone, ceramic, slate and terracotta floorings are good options, however, the heat up time will depend on the thickness of the tiles, with thicker tiles taking longer to reach the optimum temperature. Only carpet with a thermal resistance of 2.5 tog or less is suitable for use with underfloor heating, so remember to check this before purchasing. Timber and laminates or vinyls can also be used, however, as not all will be compatible it's important to check first whether they're recommended for use this way.

If reading this guide has convinced you that warm floors are the way to go, remember to ensure your system works as efficiently as possible and reduce the risk of costly breakdowns occurring by getting it fitted by a professional. To find a Quality Plumber in your area, head to FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk