Friday, 27 May 2016

Uncoding qualifications - what to check for when you hire a plumber.

When you hire someone to fix your broken tap, you want to be sure that they have the specialist knowledge and skills to do a good job the first time round rather than leaving you open to further hassle and costs a few months down the line. But with many of us confused by the wide range of plumbing and heating qualifications and registers out there, it can be difficult to know what to look for as proof of your installer's credentials. We've written this brief guide with the aim of helping you to uncode what different certificates mean so the next time you discover a leaking tap or need your boiler replaced you're quickly able to recognise the signs of a truly competent plumber.

Professional Diplomas

Professional diplomas are the main qualification required in order to begin a career in plumbing. Any plumber contracted to undertake domestic work in your property should have at least an NVQ Level 2 (Level 2 Diploma in Installing and Maintaining Domestic Heating Systems).
Many will also go on to complete an NVQ Level 3 (Level 3 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating). NVQs typically combine wide range of underpinning studying and on the job training. They are accredited by the awarding bodies City & Guilds, EAL and BPEC. The industry recognise NVQs delivered by the industry Awarding Bodies as the measure of competence of a plumbers ability, skills, knowledge and professionalism and at Level 3 can undertake complex sizing, design, installation, commissioning, fault finding and servicing tasks.

Fast-track courses

NVQs should not be confused with short or fast-track courses and Vocational Related Qualifications (VRQs), which are unlikely to cover the full range of skills and knowledge required to become a quality plumber. If your plumber has undertaken such a course, be sure to ask how much practical training the course involved as well as checking whether the course is industry recognised.

Experienced Workers

Mature plumbers who left school and went straight into their first plumbing job may not have qualifications but may possess instead many years of valuable experience. Trade bodies like APHC recognise this through experienced worker schemes.

Gas Safe Register

While installers undertaking traditional plumbing jobs such as fixing taps are not legally required to hold a specific certificate, those installing boilers or work involving gas must be on the Gas Safe Register. This regulatory scheme ensures that contractors are qualified and safe to undertake work on gas appliances so you should make it your number one priority to ask for Gas Safe accreditation when hiring someone to do gas work in your home. Horror stories of whole families dying from carbon monoxide poisoning due to gas work performed by an illegal installer are well documented in the news. Asking for proof of credentials could well save your life so it simply isn't worth taking the risk.

APHC

In order to join the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), installers must pass strict quality assurance criteria and have minimum levels or work experience and qualifications, so by choosing an APHC member you can have peace of mind that work is being undertaken by a professional. To search for an APHC member in your local area, simply visit http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Under pressure: what you need to know about water pressure

Developments in plumbing technology are constantly increasing the power of the showers available on the market, and for many of us there's nothing worse than going on holiday and discovering a weak water pressure coming from your hotel showerhead! However, while water pressure plays a vital role in ensuring our plumbing installations work properly, it also has implications for water conservation. There's a good chance you haven't ever given much consideration to the pressure in your pipework, so read on to discover what this should be and what to do if your shower's a bit of a drip!

What is water pressure?

Water pressure is a measure of the force that pushes water through your plumbing pipework and determines the power of water flowing from your taps. It is measured in "bars" and can be influenced by several factors, such as ground level and time of day. For example, during the morning rush when everyone's hurriedly showering before work, water pressure may be lower due to the high demand placed on the network. OFWAT guidelines state that water companies must maintain a minimum pressure in the communication pipe of seven metres static head (0.7 bar).

Causes of low pressure

While the above factors mean that water pressure can vary slightly between different houses and throughout the day, a pressure below the recommended level may indicate a serious problem in your plumbing system. Some common causes of low pressure include poor pumping facilities, a water mains that is too small or reduced pressure from the water main as a result of a leakage, equipment failures or blocked service pipes.

Causes of high pressure

While low pressure can cause disruption by stopping appliances from working properly, high water pressure can be damaging for the environment, causing a lot of water to be wasted. To prevent against this, choose water efficient showers and showerheads rather than power showers. Read our past post on water efficiency for more easy water saving ideas.

Excessively high pressure may actually damage plumbing fixtures, potentially leading to flooding. Reasons for high water pressure in your home may include reconfiguring within the water supply network (where water is moved around to where it is most needed) or trapped air in water pipes. In this case the problem can usually be addressed by simply leaving taps running for a few minutes to release the air. Additionally, if you've just moved to a new area, there's a good chance that the water pressure may simply feel higher than you were previously used to.

What to do if you have water pressure problems

In the event of water pressure problems, the first step is to check for problems such as leaks or a partially closed internal stop tap. If it's winter, check for frozen pipes which can be another reason there's no water coming from your taps or talk to your neighbours. If pressure problems can't be explained by an issue in your home, contact your local water company who will be able to take pressure and flow measurements to determine whether the issue lies with them.

For leaking pipework and other plumbing problems linked to low water pressure, be sure to get the issue resolved by a professional - attempting a DIY job could leave you open to further issues and costs in the future. To find a Quality Plumber in your area, search by your town or postcode at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.



Friday, 13 May 2016

Protect your family from getting into hot water with a TMV

When it comes to the issue of safety in the home, household water systems can sometimes present a bit of a catch 22 situation. In order to kill legionella and other bacteria, hot water must be heated to a temperature of 60 degrees or above before use. However, such a high temperature brings a different danger in the form of scald injuries. Although well known to any plumber worth his salt, there is still a prevailing lack of awareness amongst consumers of the importance of Thermostatic Mixing Valves (TMVs) in preventing dangerous scalds from baths, taps and showers so we've dedicated this week's blog post to giving you all the information you need about these potentially lifesaving devices.

Every year, almost 600 people in the UK suffer the effects of severe scalding injuries and 3/4 of these victims are under three years old. As well as children, the disabled and the elderly are groups deemed to be particularly at risk of scalding and therefore even more able to benefit from the installation of  TMV in their homes. Not only is recovering from scalding an extremely painful process, treating a scald also costs an estimated £250,000 across a person's lifetime.

Since 2010, it has been mandatory for plumbers to install thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) in household baths in England and Wales, however, this only applies to new build homes. TMVs help to prevent against scalding injuries by blending hot and cold water to ensure that water comes out of the tap at a safe temperature - for bath water this is normally a maximum temperature of 46 degrees). Most TMVs also have a failsafe mechanism so that in the event that the cold water supply fails, the valve will close off, protecting the user from any scalding water and alerting them to a problem. If possible, ask for the TMV to be incorporated directly into the tap fitting as mixing at the outlet helps to prevent against the risk of legionella.

For complete peace of mind, it really is worth getting a TMV installed in your home. The risk is particularly high where whole body immersion occurs, such as in baths and showers, so TMVs should normally be fitted at these outlets. However, if you live with particularly vulnerable individuals such as the very young, very elderly or those with significant disabilities or sensory impairment, the devices should be fitted on hand washbasins and sinks too. Competent plumbing installers will be able to fit these for you, as well as answering any questions you may have. It's also important not to take an "install and forget" approach to TMVs! Quality Plumbers will be able to undertake necessary maintenance to ensure your device continues to keep your family safe from the devastating effects of scalding over time.

To find a Quality Installer in your local area today, search by postcode at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.


Friday, 6 May 2016

Building Regulations - what you need to know

If you don't work in the construction industry, there's a good chance you won't know what Building Regulations are or why they're important. However, the implications for not following these rules can be serious, so if you're planning any home improvements this summer it makes sense to gain an understanding of what's required of you before you start.

What are Building Regulations?


Building Regulations are a set of standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety of people in and around them. Under the 2010 rules, Building Regulations approval may also be required for many alterations projects such as installing a bathroom, installing or replacing a heating system or replacing a boiler. One circumstance in which you're not required to apply for Building Regulations approval is when the work is carried out by an installer registered under a Competent Persons Scheme, such as the one run by the APHC. Under this scheme, installers can self-certify that their work complies with Building Regulations and provide you with that all important certificate of compliance showing that the work has been carried out to regulatory standards.

Penalties and problems of not following Building Regulations

For both the property owner and installer, there are some serious penalties and problems related to failing to comply with Building Regulations. For the individual doing the work, they may find themselves facing prosecution and a heavy fine, while the homeowner could be forced by their Local Authority to pay for the work to be fixed. Contravening Building Regulations can also result in some significant problems when it comes to selling your home, leaving you without the certificates of compliance needed to complete the transaction.

APHC's work with the Government

APHC is currently supporting the interests of competent installers by working alongside Government and aiming to improve the way Building Regulations are enforced in the UK. Quality installers often have to compete with pricing for work with other contractors who may be undertaking non-compliant work and bending the rules. So by lobbying to improve Building Regulations enforcement, APHC is also aiming to make it more difficult for cowboy operators. Fairer trading conditions that favour Competent Persons Scheme members would also result in safer conditions for consumers, helping to ensure that work is completed to a high standard.

Important role of the consumer

Consumers can also play an important role in helping to create fairer trading conditions for installers by being sure to always ensure that work is properly notified to the local building control body or by choosing members of Competent Persons Self Certification Schemes for jobs such as bathroom and heating installations and remembering always to ask for certification as proof of credentials.

Further information on what constitutes work falling under the scope of Building Regulations can be accessed here –

To understand how Competent Persons Self Certification Schemes fit into the regulatory framework follow the link here - https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200137/how_to_get_approval/77/where_to_get_approval/4

To search for an APHC Competent Persons Scheme member in your local area, visit http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.