Friday, 27 January 2017

Guard against a boiler breakdown this winter

You may have read in the press this week that a boiler breakdown at Wellington Barracks, which accommodates up to 600 soldiers whilst on ceremonial guard duty at Buckingham Palace, has left the base without central heating and hot water.

The breakdown has coincided with freezing weather and was initially caused by a gas leak.  A MOD spokesperson said: “Alternative arrangements have been made for all personnel affected, including the provision of temporary heaters, and we are exploring the feasibility of installing a temporary shower facility.”

Being without heating and hot water in your home is a major inconvenience particularly during winter.

So what can you do to help safeguard against a boiler breakdown?

The most effective way to protect against a boiler breakdown is to have it regularly serviced by a qualified engineer. When a heating engineer visits, they will be able to make sure that your boiler is running at peak performance whilst ensuring that the boiler isn’t incurring unnecessary stresses and strains that could cause damage and result in a boiler breakdown. 

During the boiler service the heating engineer will also check to make sure that the seals, gaskets and heat exchanger aren’t showing any signs of wear and tear, which again if not checked, could result in a breakdown.

It is also important to note that in rare cases, a boiler fault could cause it to release poisonous carbon monoxide (CO) gasses, which cannot be detected through taste, scent or sight and pose a deadly risk to people living in the home.  A regular service in line with the boiler manufacturer’s guidelines will help ensure everything is in top running order.

Please note that to have a Solid Fuel or Oil burning boiler serviced you will need to ensure you use a heating engineer registered with a relevant competent person scheme. For Gas boilers the engineer will need to be registered with Gas Safe.

You can read more about protecting your plumbing system from winter weather in a previous blog post “Baby it's cold outside” here.

If you are unfortunate enough to experience a boiler breakdown you can source a fully qualified heating engineer, backed-up by the APHC Customer Charter, at

Friday, 20 January 2017

As we wrap up warm this winter why not do the same to your home?

According to the Energy Savings Trust, 40 per cent of us worry about keeping our home warm in the winter. 

As we are currently experiencing a ‘cold-snap’ in the weather I’m sure even more of us have considered what cost effective measures are available to make our home warmer.

There are many upgrades to your home that can help improve energy efficiency including upgrading your heating, installing smart controls and installing new windows and doors, but have you considered insulating your home? 

Insulation is designed to keep your home warm and protect your property from cold weather, and did you know that insulation can alleviate many causes of damp and mould.  Insulation can also reduce noise pollution, making the inside of your home much quieter.

New homes are typically built with excellent insulation and generally it is homes built before 1990 that can benefit from insulation.

Insulation is important because on a cold day, heat can escape from your home in all directions - up, down and sideways. This means that you should consider insulating the walls, roof and floor.

On average, walls will lose the most heat, around 30% and up to 40%. The roof will be next at around 25%.

What forms of insulation are available?

Cavity wall insulation

If your home was built after 1920, it’s likely to have cavity walls. Cavity walls are constructed from two walls with a gap between. This is the cavity and it’s this space that’ll be filled with insulation.
Solid wall insulation

Solid walls can lose twice as much heat as cavity walls. Insulation for solid walls can be fitted either internally or externally.  Insulating internally is usually cheaper, but it will reduce internal floor space.

Loft and roof insulation

Insulating your loft is perhaps the easiest of all the energy-saving home improvements and will involve laying insulation between and over the wooden joists immediately above the ceiling.  Insulating your loft will mean the loft will become colder, so insulating tanks and pipes may also be required.

Insulating the roof involves installing insulation in the plane of the roof pitch that is immediately below the sloping roof.  This form of insulation means that the loft becomes a heated space. So if you only use your loft to store items it may not be a worthwhile project.

Floor insulation

According to the Building Materials website, floor insulation can help save up to £75 per year on heating bills and there’s the potential to reduce this even more by plugging the gaps around skirting boards. Sealing any gaps between skirting boards and floorboards can done using a sealant available from DIY sores.

In most cases it is only the downstairs that will need insulating unless there is a room above a garage. In older homes, floorboards can be lifted and insulation placed underneath. In new homes where floors are usually made from concrete, rigid insulation will need to be laid on top.
Other considerations

Generally, insulation work does not require planning permission from your local council. The exceptions may include external wall insulation and in areas where there are conservation schemes, however Building Regulations may still apply.

Building Regulations provide standards on how energy efficient any alterations to your home need to be. This means that there is a minimum amount of insulation which needs to be installed.

If you are the owner of the building, it is ultimately your responsibility to ensure the work complies with Building Regulations. If you are employing a tradesperson, you should confirm at the start that they will take responsibility for compliance.

You can source a plumbing and heating contractor who is a member of APHC Certification’s Competent Person scheme and is able to self certify again specified scopes of work under Building Regulations at

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

From a hook on the wall the bathroom evolved, but the bathroom is the room in the house that has the shortest history

Today most new build houses have a main bathroom in addition to an ‘en suite’ to the master bedroom plus a downstairs WC.  So it is hard to believe that less than 100 years ago most houses didn’t have a bathroom or even an indoor WC.  Instead there was a shed at the bottom of the yard, often shared by multiple households, with a toilet seat over a deep hole.  There was a hook on the wall where the tin bath hung with the bath only being used once a week, with the bath water being shared by the whole family.

Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, steps were taken to mechanise the bathroom. As more homes were plumbed for hot water and gas heaters became widely available, the middle class started to experience bathing inside the home. But lower classes still living in dense tenement buildings still shared bathtubs and toilets.

Only in the nineteenth century, with the improvements to the water supply forced by the fear of cholera, and with the building of underground sewers, did the flushing toilet finally take its place in most homes. Working class houses with bathrooms were first built around 1900, and in the 1920’s council houses were built with bathrooms.  However, in the 1950’s and into the 1960’s there were still many houses with outside toilets some with occupants refusing the authority’s grant to install an inside WC as they considered an indoor facility to be unhygienic.

Today, the bathroom combines stylish luxury with functionality. The bathroom is a place to get ready in the mornings and relax in with a warm bath in the evenings. Technology including underfloor heating, steam-free mirrors, televisions, clever lighting, chrome radiators and digital showers are contributing to making the bathroom far more than what could have been envisaged by the Victorians.

If you are looking to have a new bathroom installation or require plumbing and heating work to be done in your home you can source a local qualified and reputable plumber or heating engineer via our search facility at The online database allows you to search via a number of criteria including postcode, town or by specific business name.
Fascinating Bathroom Facts
  • The use of baths date back as far as 3000 B.C, but they were used for religious rather than hygiene purposes. 
  • The flush toilet was invented in 1596, but didn’t become widespread until 1851, and in 1767
  • Englishman William Feetham invented the first modern shower.
  • It is rumored that toilet paper was first invented by the Chinese in the 6th century.
  • On average people visit the bathroom between six and eight times every day.
  • 7 million phones are broken every year as they fall into the toilet bowl.
  • George II and Elvis Presley both died on the toilet.
  • 85% of injuries that happen in the bathroom occur when someone falls into the toilet after the seat has been left up.