Monday, 27 March 2017

Finding a quality plumbing and heating engineer doesn’t have to be difficult

According to a Toolstation survey, a quarter of UK homeowners struggle to find a reliable plumbing and heating engineer, with more people wanting a professional to take on tasks involving gas or water than any other home improvement, meaning the demand for plumbing and heating engineers is consistently high.

But finding a quality plumbing and heating engineer doesn’t have to be difficult. By following a small number of steps, you should be able to source a local, qualified and reputable plumbing and heating engineer.


The first step is to find out whether they are members of a trade association and always check their credentials. Trade associations will always validate a person’s claim to membership, so a two minute phone call could be invaluable. Trade associations usually have minimum requirements to join and should be able to provide you with a list of members in your local area who are able to carry out the specified work.

APHC requires its members to stick to a code of practice and offer recourse if anything goes wrong. You can contact APHC directly on 0121 711 5030 or use their online search facility www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk to source and check that a plumbing and heating engineer is a member.

‘Word of mouth’ recommendations can be useful in determining the reliability of a plumbing and heating engineer, so try and find a trade’s person who has worked for someone you know. Ask friends, family and neighbours and don’t be afraid to ask to look at their work to gain an understanding of how well they carried out the work.

You should also ascertain whether the plumber or heating engineer is qualified, competent and capable of carrying out the work. Make sure you check the person's qualifications and experience of carrying out similar work and get two or more references. Check online for any customer feedback. Read the trader's Facebook page and Twitter feed to see how they are interacting with other customers.

Once you've decided on your plumbing and heating engineer, ask for a detailed written quotation with start and finish times and agreed payment terms. Always use a written contract as it offers you protection should anything go wrong.

When it comes to maintenance work only pay for work that has been done and not by advance payments. Where materials need to be bought in advance, it is reasonable for the plumbing and heating engineer to ask you to pay a fair percentage of these costs as the job progresses, but the amounts have to be reasonable. APHC warns against using a plumbing and heating engineer who demands 100%, or a large proportion, of the fee up front.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Wastewater, an untapped resource

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly officially designated March 22 as World Water Day.

World Water Day is about taking action to tackle the water crisis.

Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

Each year World Water Day has a theme and this year the theme is wastewater.


World Water Day


Throughout the world, the vast majority of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to the land without being treated or reused. According to UN-Water, the organisers of World Water Day, this causes great concern as it is polluting the environment, and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.

The campaign is aimed at raising awareness about the fact that instead of wasting wastewater, we should reduce and reuse it. In our homes, we can reuse waste water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances on our gardens. In our cities, we can treat and reuse wastewater for green spaces. In industry and agriculture, we can treat and recycle discharge for things like cooling systems and irrigation.

The campaign believes that by exploiting this valuable resource, we will make the water cycle work better and increase water recycling and safe reuse.

“Wastewater is a valuable resource in a world where water is finite and demand is growing,” says Guy Ryder, Chair of UN-Water and Director-General of the International Labour Organisation. “Everyone can do their bit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase safe water reuse by 2030. It’s all about carefully managing and recycling the water that runs through our homes, factories, farms and cities. Let’s all reduce and safely reuse more wastewater so that this precious resource serves the needs of increasing populations and a fragile ecosystem.”

The United Nations World Water Development Report 2017, ‘Wastewater, The Untapped Resource’ will be presented around the world on 22 March.

You can download the World Water Day Factsheet here and visit www.worldwaterday.org to learn more.

You can get involved over social media:

Twitter @UN_Water #WorldWaterDay
Instagram @un_water
Facebook @UnitedNationsWater

If you need a local and reliable plumber, use www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk to source a qualified APHC member.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The average household water bill will rise by £6 from April, but there are lots of ways to save money

According to Water UK the average water and sewerage bill in England and Wales will rise by £6 to £395 in 2017/18, an increase of two per cent.

These figures are based on an average bill, but what you and I will actually end up paying will vary depending on our individual circumstances. Some people will see increases that might be more or less than this average.

Households can’t switch provider, but there are things that you can do to help reduce your water consumption:

1. Store cold water in the fridge. Instead of running the tap until the water is cold why not fill a bottle or container and store it in your fridge? This works particularly well if you use a jug with a water filter.

2. Reduce how long you shower for. By reducing the time you shower by two minutes, you can save almost 5660 litres of water per year.  Depending on the type of shower you have it may also be more cost effective to shower instead of having a bath which uses an average of 80 litres of water compared to 62 litres for an 8 minute shower. However, a note of caution is needed as some power showers can use up to 136 litres in 8 minutes. 

3. Don't let the water run when shaving or brushing your teeth. To rinse off your razor while shaving, you can use a cup of hot water and when brushing your teeth, you can fill up a cup and turn off the tap. According to Water Wise, if you leave the tap running it wastes 6 litres per minute, so turning the tap off when brushing can save around 12-18 litres per time.

4. Install a low-flow shower head. Installing a low-flow shower head can reduce the amount of water you use while showering by as much as 50 per cent. Other water saving devices can cut consumption by around 25 per cent with some products cutting consumption by 50 per cent. As an example, if you had an average 7 litre toilet and swapped it for a 4/2.5 dual flush then the saving can be roughly 80 litres per day.  However installing a new toilet comes at a cost and should perhaps only be considered if your current toilet needs replacing.
5. Run full loads of dishes and laundry. Running washing machines and dishwashers only when they are full will reduce the number of times you need to run them which will use less water.

6. Consider switching to a water meter.  You can use a water meter calculator available at www.ccwater.org.uk to find out whether you might save money by switching to a water meter.

7. Check pipes, toilets and taps for leaks.  According to Water Wise, leaking taps waste at least 5,500 litres of water a year; that's enough water wasted to fill a paddling pool every week for the whole summer. Mending your dripping tap washer could save you over £18 a year.

8. Low-income households may be able to gain financial support from their water company as 18 out of 21 water companies will have social tariffs in place from April 1, which over time can help to reduce water bills.  Contact your water company to find out if you qualify.

If you are looking to have plumbing work done in your home you can source a local qualified and reputable plumber 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.
 
Note to plumbers.  APHC Certification Ltd. administers a Competent Persons Scheme to enable plumbing and heating engineers to self-certify plumbing and heating works that fall under the scope of Building Regulations.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

When was the last time you gave your plumbing a second thought?

Most of us in our daily lives turn on the tap or flush the toilet without thinking about it, but without good plumbing we would be at the mercy of water-related diseases such as cholera, arsenicosis, bilharzia and typhoid. 
 
Water influences every aspect of our lives, it influences business, it influences industry, it influences politics and economics.
 
In developing countries, plumbing is either nonexistent or at best very basic. People suffer serious health consequences, and millions of people die as a result of lack of access to clean water and in effective sanitation.
 
According to the World Health Organisation, 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access to a safe, clean water supply and 2.6 billion people don’t enjoy the use of an effective sanitation system. The tragic result is that 3.1 million children die each year as a result of water-related diseases that could have been prevented if they’d only had access to basic facilities.
 
Reading this blog will perhaps make you think about how important plumbing and sanitation is in our lives, and perhaps that we should celebrate it? Well the good news is that you can.
 

Celebrated every year on March 11 each year, World Plumbing Day is an international event initiated by the World Plumbing Council that recognises the important role that plumbing plays in our health and safety.
 
World Plumbing Day is used as a means of raising awareness of the significant role which the plumbing industry plays in public health around the world. The day is intended to provide everyone with an opportunity to promote the important role played by the plumbing industry.
 
World Plumbing Day aims to fly the flag for the plumbing industry and you can get involved by:
 
If you need to find a local qualified and reputable plumber, 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, APHC members are fully vetted with their work checked annually to uphold high standards of workmanship.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Is it a smart decision to upgrade our gas and electricity meter?

Smart meters aren’t compulsory and people can choose not to have one, but the government wants energy suppliers to install smart meters in every home in England, Wales and Scotland by 2020.

So, just what are smart meters?

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and are designed to put us in control of our energy use through the provision of near real time information showing how much energy we are using and how much it is costing us in pounds and pence.  This means we can be confident that we're only paying for what we have actually used and we'll always know what to expect in our next bill, so no more nasty surprises.




The move towards installing smart meters came from the European Union who asked all member governments to look at smart meters as part of measures to upgrade our energy supply and tackle climate change.  After an initial study, the British government decided to adopt smart meters as part of their plan to update our ageing energy system which hadn't kept up to speed with improvements across almost every other area of our lives. 

As part of a smart meter installation, each household will receive an in home display which will show:
  • How much energy we’re using in near real time for electricity and every half hour for gas
  • How much energy was used in the last hour, week, and month (and what it cost)
  • Whether our electricity use is high, medium or low



If you have a prepay meter, it will also show:
  • How much credit you have left
  • How much you have on your emergency credit balance
  • Your debt balance (if you have one)
  • If your credit’s getting low


So, should you upgrade?

Ultimately it is an individual decision, but if you are going to analyse the information and are able to make changes to your energy use then smart meters can save you money and reduce your household emissions. They remove the need for estimated billing so we will only be billed for the energy we actually use, which could help with our household budgeting. They also make it easier for us to switch energy supplier.  The only possible negative is around data privacy as energy suppliers will be able to access our energy consumption data.  We will have a choice about how our energy consumption data is used and we can opt-out of certain options such as using our data for marketing purposes, but we won’t be able to opt out of data sharing where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes.

There are no charges for installation or for the actual smart meter and in-home display. Under current arrangements we pay for the cost of our meter and its maintenance through our energy bills, and this will be the same for smart meters.

Ultimately the introduction of smart meters will enable a more efficient, greener, smarter energy system and lay the foundations for smart grids, which are a whole new way of running our energy networks. Smart grids are reportedly going to be much better at integrating green technologies, from electric cars to home rooftop solar panels and heat pumps. They will help us get the most from variable power sources like wind and solar.

Currently, nearly five million smart meters have been installed across Great Britain, but how soon you can get one depends on your energy supplier's plans. You should contact your energy supplier for more information on timeframes.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

You could beat rising gas and electricity prices by using renewable heat sources

Turning your home into a mini-power station using renewable heat technologies could help you cut bills and carbon emissions by generating a significant proportion of your heating and hot water needs yourself.  Plus it means you’re less dependent on sources of energy that are increasingly subject to global demand, so you're more protected from future price rises.



The government launched the Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) to pay households to generate renewable heat through low or zero carbon microgeneration technology.   However, since its launch in 2013, payments have been reduced. You can find out more about the Renewable Heat Incentive here.

You can apply to get payments from your energy supplier if you generate your own electricity using renewable technologies such as solar panels. This is called a ‘feed-in tariff’.  You find out more about this at https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/environmental-programmes/fit

If you're considering installing a microgeneration technology in your home, it’s important to take a long-term view.

Let’s look at the three main renewable technology options available for your home – heat pumps, solar panels and biomass boilers.

 

Ground Source and Air Source Heat Pumps


A ground source heat pump system harnesses natural heat from underground by pumping water through it.   Ground source heat pump systems are made up of a network of water pipes buried underground (generally in a garden) and a heat pump at ground level.

An air source heat pump takes heat from the air and is usually placed outdoors at the side or back of a property. 

In both systems the heat pump increases the temperature, and the heat is used to provide home heating or hot water. They require electricity to work, but should cost less to run than a traditional heating system.

For more information read our guide on Understanding Heat Pumps.

Solar Panels


Solar panels harness the power of sunlight to provide heat and hot water. Solar thermal panels generate heat and solar photovoltaic panels generate electricity and any extra electricity that you generate but don't use will be sent to the National Grid, which you'll get paid for. You will need to consider whether your home is in the best position to harness the power of sunlight.

For more information read our guide on Solar Thermal Hot Water.

Wood-burning Stoves


Wood-burning stoves generate heat meaning that you won't have to turn on your central heating. You can use a stove to heat just one room, such as the room you use most. Alternatively, you can get one installed with a 'back boiler', which means the heat it creates will heat your whole home. If you source discarded wood and dry it out yourself, instead of buying logs especially for your stove, heating your home could cost nothing. But you'll need to be sure you can get a regular supply and that you have room to store wood.

For more information read our guide on Understanding Biomass Appliances.

Sourcing the right installer


You can use APHC’s search facility at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk to find a qualified installer who is registered under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, which will allow you to claim the financial incentives from the Feed-in Tariff and the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Friday, 3 February 2017

How to set your heating controls to keep you warm for less this winter

Your heating system may include a range of controls which can be used to help you run your heating system efficiently.  If your heating system doesn’t include any of these controls, you may be able to have them installed by a qualified heating engineer.

According to the Energy Savings Trust, heating your home and hot water accounts for around 60% of your total energy bill and installing heating controls could save you between £80 and £165 a year.

This blogpost details the main heating controls associated with a heating system and advises on how best to use them.

Programmer/Timer. You use this to manage when your heating and hot water turn on and off.  You should use the programmer to only heat your home and hot water when you need them.  Leaving your heating constantly on low will generally result in your home being heated when you are not there and being not warm enough when you are there.  Timing the heating and hot water to come on half an hour before entering your home or using the hot water should provide enough time to warm your home and water to a comfortable temperature.

Room Thermostat. This regulates the temperature of your home by turning off the boiler when the room where the thermostat is situated exceeds a set temperature.  This saves energy as the boiler won’t be working when your home is warm enough.  You should set the thermostat to a comfortable temperature (normally around 21 degrees Celsius) whatever the weather.

Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs).  These are fitted to the radiator and are used to control the temperature in individual rooms.  They allow you to control the temperature of a room by changing the flow of hot water to the radiator.  If you do not use a room where a TRV is fitted you can turn the radiator off or down which will help to reduce your heating bill.



Boiler Thermostat. This controls the temperature of the water which is sent through the radiators.  Generally, this should be set to a high level to ensure that you can effectively control the temperature of your home using a thermostat and TRVs.

Hot Water Thermostat. This controls the temperature of the hot water you receive from taps and shower heads.  If you have a hot water tank the thermostat will normally be located on it.  If you have a combi boiler, which heats water as you need it and therefore doesn’t require a water tank, the thermostat will look like a dial and be situated on the front of the boiler.  Please note, to prevent the build-up of legionella bacteria the hot water temperature should be set to a minimum of 60 Celsius.

You can use our search facility at www.FindAQualityPlumber.co.uk to find a local qualified and reputable heating engineer able to advise and install heating controls. Our online database allows you to search via a number of criteria including postcode, town or by specific business name.

You can learn about Smart Heating Controls by reading our blogpost: How smart are Smart Heating Controls?