It's that time of year when lots of us are preparing to jet off on our summer holidays and are busy ensuring that everything will be ok at home while we're away. However, as well as remembering to reset the thermostat and asking the next door neighbour to feed the cat, it's also important to ensure that your plumbing system remains in good condition in your absence.
It's pretty much everyone's nightmare scenario - returning from a break to discover your beloved home destroyed by a flood. As such, it's always worth taking a few minutes to prevent unwanted leaks by turning off your stoptap.
A stoptap, otherwise known has a stopcock or stopvalve, is the tap which turns off the cold water coming into your house from the street. In the early part of the year, be sure to locate your stoptap and regularly ensure that it hasn't seized up. The valve should turn easily to a closed position, allowing you to check at the kitchen tap to ensure no water is running. Once fully open, turn the valve back a quarter of a turn.
Before you go on holiday, it's also important to be aware of and take precautions against the risk of Legionnaire's Disease - a potentially fatal lung infection caused by the bacteria legionella pneumonophila. Rather than being passed from person to person, Legionnaire's Disease is contracted when a person inhales water droplets containing legionella bacteria. These bacteria lie dormant at a temperature below 25 degrees but start to multiply and grow above this temperature until around 60 degrees. Legionella is particularly dangerous as an aerosol (mist/droplets in the air that can be easily inhaled) therefore the appliances presenting the greatest risk include hot tubs, spa and whirlpool baths, showers and cisterns.
In the weeks leading up to your trip, read the safety instructions for your appliances carefully and thoroughly clean and condition them to minimise bacteria growth. Remember that scaled-up shower heads are the perfect breeding ground for legionella, so don't forget to carry out a full descaling session as part of your cleaning routine.
If your property is going to be vacant for over a week be sure to turn on the boiler and run the hot water for 10 minutes when you get back. Note that this advice does not apply to combination boilers. If you're likely to be away for several months there may be a need to have the system thoroughly flushed and disinfected - you'll need the services of a specialist plumbing company to help you with this.
Taking the appropriate steps to prevent unwanted leaks and outbreaks of Legionnaire's Disease before your holiday could well save you from returning to a disaster - whether damage caused by flooding or contamination by dangerous legionella bacteria. For a full risk assessment of your property, search by postcode to find a local competent person in your area at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.