Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Not just the goose getting fat

Christmas is a time for feasting, and there's sure to be some fantastic smells wafting through the house this week as preparations for dinner get underway. However, once everyone's eaten and the time comes for washing up, it's important to take the right steps to stop waste food from going down the sink - failure to do so could leave you with some very unpleasant smells (amongst other problems) as drains and pipes become blocked. Luckily for you, reading our APHC On Tap top tips will help you to avoid bothersome blockages, prolonging the life of your plumbing pipes and avoiding costly repairs!

Scrape your plate!

Probably the most straightforward way to stop blockages occurring in the first place is to ensure plates are scraped thoroughly before doing the washing up or loading the dishwasher. What's more, with fatbergs responsible for huge numbers of plumber call-outs each year, it's important not to pour cooking oil and grease directly down the drain. Instead, a good tip is to collect it in a jar and wait for it to solidify before throwing the whole lot in the bin.

Use a drain gate

These fit into place in the plughole to catch food waste and soap scum before it goes down the drain. These deposits can then simply be thrown away.

Clean drains regularly

Ensuring drains are cleaned regularly will help to keep them running freely and smelling fresh. One simple habit to get into is running hot water through the sink after each use, which will help to keep oil products in food running down the drain rather than building up in the interior surface of pipes. For an extra cleaning boost, try pouring one of the following ingredients down your drain:

1. Baking soda

Baking soda is an effective cleaning agent, which has the added benefit of absorbing odours to prevent foul smells escaping from your sink. Try throwing a handful of it down the drain followed by a blast of hot water.

2. Vinegar

Vinegar contains acetic acid, which acts as a solvent to remove organic build-ups of food and other materials in pipes. Pour one cup of vinegar down the drain and leave it to work for 30 minutes before chasing it down with very hot water.

3. Lye

Lye is the active ingredient in many of the drain cleaners you can find in the shops. This works by dissolving soap scum and other materials to leave your plumbing pipework clear. Try pouring a small amount down the drain, follow with a little water and simply wait for the chemical to work its magic! Take note that you should always read the label when using products such as drain cleaners, and remember to use them sparingly.

So this Christmas, remember to ensure that it's only the goose that's getting fat by keeping food products out of your pipework. If you do find yourself with a blockage, you can find a quality APHC member plumber to come to your rescue at

Friday, 18 December 2015

Going away for Christmas?

Whether you're spending December 25th with relatives in another part of the country or jetting off to sunnier climes for a BBQ on the beach, there are a few important things you can do to avoid coming back from your holidays to plumbing problems this Christmas. Burst pipes, leaks and smelly sinks are just some of the costly and bothersome issues than could welcome you back from your travels if you don't take the proper precautions, so read the following tips to keep your plumbing system in top condition this winter season.

Turning off and draining down

Turning off your water supply before going away is important to prevent against burst or leaking pipes, which could cause considerable damage if not attended to. Open taps to drain away any water left in the house and flush toilets to clear water from the tank and bowl. An APHC member can drain your systems and can meet you on your return to refill them. Pouring anti-freeze into toilet tanks and bowls will protect against any remaining water freezing and cracking but if you choose to do this, be sure to use a non-toxic anti-freeze which has been rated suitable for plumbing systems.

Fix leaks

Before leaving your home, take the time to inspect your pipes for any leaks by looking for any drips or puddles of water around the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. If you find any of these, visit to search for an APHC member plumber in your local area.

Lower the thermostat

Remember to put your heating onto the lowest setting and consider putting it on a timed function to prevent pipes from freezing. This also has the added benefit of using less energy and saving you money! Most modern boilers also have a pump control for frost protection which will turn on automatically if the temperature drops to a level which will cause central heating pipes to freeze. Bear in mind though that this method offers no protection to hot and cold water pipes.

Clean your drains

There's nothing worse than returning from a great holiday to bad smells coming from your sink. Guard against this by mixing half a cup of vinegar with half a cup of water and pouring down each of the drains before you go away. This will help to keep them smelling fresh and clean until you get back.

Ask a neighbour

If possible, ask a friend or neighbour to keep an eye on your home while you're away and check for any frozen or burst pipes. Ensure they have the number of a local APHC member to call in case of emergencies.

So as well as leaving enough time for packing, give yourself chance to protect your home from plumbing problems this Christmas. With the all hassle and money it could save you, you may be preventing against a very real case of the January Blues!

Friday, 11 December 2015

Preparing the chimney for Santa this Christmas

Whether you're hanging up your stockings or gathering round it to thaw out after a wintery walk, there's a good chance your fireplace will be at the heart of your family's Christmas celebrations. However, what many of us don't realise is that without some TLC, the chimney of your fire, stove or log burner can become an unexpected hazard.

Old fireplaces in bedrooms and other rooms around the house are an attractive feature, but you should resist the temptation to light the fire without checking the chimney first. Blockages, smoke leaks, poor ventilation, inadequate draw, down-draught and tar build-up are some of the main problems that can arise if you don't take care to regularly check that your chimney is fit-for-purpose, so by ensuring that it's working properly, you'll be looking after the safely of your family as well as keeping everything spic and span for Santa!


Chimneys act a bit like your home's exhaust pipe, funnelling harmful substances such as soot, smoke, ashes and sparks out of the building. If you have a solid fuel fire which is only occasionally used, it should still be swept at least once a year, while fires that are in daily use should be swept twice a year. This will ensure that your flue remains safe and unclogged by soot, birds' nests and other debris that may have dropped down the chimney pot. To ensure work is undertaken safely and to a high standard, be sure to use a NACS (National Association of Chimney Sweeps) registered sweep. The cost can vary between £45-90, depending on where you live in the country and the number of floors in your property.

Smoke integrity tests and chimney lining

Requesting a smoke integrity test when you get your chimney swept will approximately double the cost, however, there are a number of factors making them a very worthwhile investment.

Flues that have lost integrity can leak smoke and deadly carbon monoxide into rooms or other parts of the building, as well as causing other issues such as staining from tar leaks on the outside of the building and poor updraught. Mortar joints and brickwork exposed by deteriorated linings are also prone to corrosion, leaving them eventually vulnerable to collapse! If your chimney fails a smoke integrity test, an installer belonging to a Competent Persons Scheme will have to install a new flue lining. You can find an installer who specialises in Solid Fuel by searching on Lining your chimney also has the added benefits of improving the operation of the appliance.

Finally, when talking about chimneys and flues it's important to mention the issue of ventilation in the room. NEVER light a solid fuel fire, stove or appliance in a room with the air brick or ventilation covered up to stop draughts in the room. Natural ventilation through air bricks ensures that there is enough fresh air in the room to allow the fire, stove or appliance to burn correctly and making sure that all the poisonous gases including carbon monoxide go straight up the chimney. This also increases efficiency, helping to keep you and your family nice and toasty whilst passing round the chocolates and watching your favourite Christmas film for the umpteenth time!

So before the time comes for Santa to get stuck up the chimney this Christmas, make sure it's properly maintained and in a good state to keep your family warm and safe throughout the whole of 2016.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Chennai Floods

This month, the east Indian state of Tamil has experienced serious flooding, with the heaviest rainfall seen in almost 100 years.

Since the heavy rain began on 12th November, the state capital of Chennai has been brought to a standstill, with 188 deaths reported and 1000s of people having been driven from their homes. Chennai Airport has closed, leaving over 400 people stranded and more than a dozen trains have been cancelled after flood waters covered the tracks. Schools and colleges are now approaching their third week of closure since November and nearly 60% of the city's neighbourhoods are living without power.

In Chennai's southern suburbs - the worst-affected area of the city - the army and National Disaster Response Force have been deployed to rescue those still stranded in their flooded homes. 4 helicopters have flown over the city dropping food, water and medicines while fishing boats manned by members of the Indian military collected stranded residents. A larger relief effort involving 5,000 soldiers is now planned.

Each year from June-September the annual monsoon rains bring severe floods to India, however, according to weather experts, the extreme weather has been amplified this year by El Nino, a warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean that can have can have a significant climatic impact. Over the past few years, the number of El Nino events has increased, however, experts are yet to reach a consensus on whether a true link exists between the weather phenomenon and global warming. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has blamed climate change for the extreme conditions in Chennai, emphasising the importance of the upcoming global climate change talks in Paris and exposing the vulnerability of tropical countries such as India when it comes to extreme weather.

While researchers are yet to prove conclusively that humans are having an impact on the frequency of natural disasters like El Nino, this is certainly likely to be the case and the recent events in India should provide a strong reminder to us all of the need to take urgent action in the fight against climate change. The initiative should come from first world countries, who should use the Paris Climate Change Summit to make a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and further embrace forms of renewable heat and power sources.