As from April 2018 there will be new rules that must be followed when installing a combi boiler in order to comply with new government legislation in the UK. The reason being the current regulations came about a long time ago and there is new technology out now that makes heating your home and hot water even cheaper. The main aspects of the new legislations means that one of the following needs to be installed when fitting a new combi boiler.
I’ll briefly explain what these four different options are.
Flue gas heat recovery systems – This is another heat exchanger that would sit on top of your boiler, and would extract the very little heat from the fumes that go through the flue of the boiler. This heat exchanger would then apply that heat to the cold water inlet of the boiler.
This flue gas heat recovery system takes up a lot more space and costs around £500 / £800 plus fitting. Not exactly my first choice.
Weather compensation – A weather compensator would be an additional feature of your heating controls (timer). This would measure the outside temperature, using a sensor or online information and switch your heating on later on a warmer day and earlier on cooler days. These can vary in price depending on the boiler you have.
Load Compensator – This means the boiler would increase the water temperature in your radiators when the house is cold and not so much when the house gets warmer. As far as I’m aware these are only available when you use certain boiler manufacturers own more expensive heating controls on their own boilers. Alternatively if you have a boiler and heating control that supports OpenTherm then this would compensate the load, however this is very rare at the moment. Again, as far as I’m aware only certain Ideal and InterGas boilers currently have OpenTherm.
Smart controls featuring automation and optimisation functions – There are a lot of ‘smart’ heating controls available at the moment however, the only ‘smart’ control that would not only provide automation and optimisation functions but would also act as a weather compensator when connected to the internet, and a load compensator if installed with an OpenTherm compatible boiler would be the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Hive, Tado, Salus and all the others do not work like the Nest.
Even though the Nest Learning Thermostat can be used with an internet enabled device the Nest will save you money because it automates your heating. What does that mean? As the Nest has a motion sensor built into the device if the Nest does not see any movement for a while then it won’t switch the heating on. What it also means is you would never have to programme the heating schedule again. All you would do the 1st few days you have the Nest is to turn the temperature to your preferred temperature when you are home and when you are away or in bed and that’s it.
The Nest Learning Thermostat can do a load more stuff, too many to mention in this blog so I’ll just say The Nest or the Nest E (cheaper version) really is the best there is for most boilers. The Nest can be fitted to any heating system, not just combi boilers. The Nest will make even the oldest boiler a lot more efficient. Your standard heating controls would be charged from around £50 upwards. To have a weather compensator fitted could cost an additional £60 plus depending on the boiler. The Nest currently cost £200 and the Nest E will be cheaper when it is available in the UK. Fitting a Nest control to a combi boiler would be my first recommendation because they are easy to fit and comply with the new regulations.
For more information on how to get a new boiler or better heating controls feel free to contact Pavlou Plumbers.
Here’s a picture of Louie because he’s ace!
If there is one device in your home that will save you the most money on your heating bills it’s your room thermostat. This is the control that will switch off your heating when the room the thermostat is in reaches temperature. The thermostat should be positioned in the room that is used the most such as a living room. Previously the regulations stated the room thermostat control should be in the coldest room which was usually the entrance hall but now that has changed.
You may not realise but you do have a choice what heating controls you have. If you have no idea how to use your heating controls, or if you travel a lot, or if you are a landlord of a House of Multiple Occupancy who pays for the heating, or if you would prefer to have a heating control that has some style and is one of the most efficient heating control on the market the Nest heating control is for you.
Designed by former Apple employees amongst others this heating control is simple to use and will save you money. As well as being able to control your heating and hot water using any internet enabled device the nest thermostat is a learning thermostat. It learns how long your property will take to reach temperature and how long it takes for your property to cool down.
Although the Nest heating control does not need the internet to work when it is connected the Nest heating control will get local weather information to make sure your house reaches the temperature you want when you want it.
For those of you who travel a lot or for those of you who randomly have an empty house the Nest control will automatically know the house is empty and will deactivate your heating for you. For those of you who are landlords of HMO properties or if you would prefer certain members of your family or household not to play with the heating controls then the Nest heating controls can be locked so the temperature can not go higher or lower than your chosen numbers.
If you would like any heating control fitted then get in touch.
With all the changes currently going on the world right now non are as important to me as this. The main change I have to do in my working life is the amount of working hours. As many of you will know the 1st few months of a child’s life is the most precious and this time will never come round again. This is why I’m doing my best to spend as much time as possible supporting my wife by being with our son. I am also aware that not sleeping properly can affect one’s performance. This is another reason I think it’s a good idea not to work as many hours as have done.
Even though my wife and I have just had our 1st child I know the world does keep turning and my customers may need serving. This is why I have arranged for a friend who I trust with my customers to help me during this period. This is why Dan may be completing certain jobs for me. I would like to thank my customers who have accommodated my circumstances so far.
Please feel free to still get in touch with any plumbing and heating enquiries you may have as I will do my best to either see to your job myself or arrange for the work to be done by Dan.
Thank you from me and Louie Patrick Pavlou.
Picture by Slinky Media Photography Studio
No one wants to feel like they are getting ripped off which is one reason why I’m writing this article. On small jobs where there is no floorboards to lift up or pipes to bury in walls there is no room to manoeuvre on price. However when on a big job a customer asks if I can do the job any cheaper than the estimate provided I always say the following:- ‘the amount on the invoice may be less than the estimate as there are some unknown factors in the job, because we don’t know what we’ll find when we lift up the floorboards etc which may mean we’ll use less materials however the labour cost will be the same and the we won’t charge more than the estimated amount.’
Pavlou Plumbers offer their best price every time. I believe those tradesman who agree on a lower price than what they have written down are basically saying ‘I thought you were stupid so I tried to rip you off, but you’re not so I can reduce the price’.
On small jobs the VAT is not as noticeable however beware of paying for big jobs for ‘CASH’ in an attempt to save money. I know VAT is a bit of a con however, for those of you who don’t know a company must be VAT registered if their annual turnover is above a certain amount. It’s the law. The only way you can avoid paying VAT is to find a smaller company who is not VAT registered. There are plenty out there. Otherwise if you choose a busier VAT registered company to do your work but pay them cash then don’t expect your new boiler to be registered with Gas Safe or the warranty to be registered with the boiler manufacturer, or the the commissioning checklist of the boiler to be completed as the fitter will want no record or proof of the job ever taking place. In fact you would be lucky if the fitter ever returns even to rectify an issue the fitter had caused.
For any business pricing has got to be one of the most important fundamental parts to get right. Price too high and you won’t get the work, price too low and the business won’t last long. At Pavlou Plumbers a lot of time is spent pricing work which is made easier with the use of spreadsheets. However finding prices for all the required parts, working out how long the job will take, entering the customer’s details into the accounting software, filling out the estimate sheet and emailing it to the customer is a process which needs to be done. Each estimate usually takes between 20 minutes and 2 hours to complete depending on the size of the job. Last month I sent 49 estimates which, if you do the maths is a lot of my time. As I provide free estimates it is vital that I provide the best estimate I can otherwise I am wasting my time which no one wants to do.
In order to provide some customers with an insight of how I work out my labour rates are calculated I have to take the following expenses into account:- Wages, Bank charges because business banking is not free, van insurance, public liability insurance, tool insurance, mobile phone insurance, the excess on those insurances which I must have available, income protection insurance, mobile phone, diesel cost, the cost of replacing tools because they don’t last forever or they get robbed or lost which does happen, personal protective equipment, clothing, the cost of keeping up with training, membership to various organisations such as Gas Safe, Water Safe, accountants fees, vehicle maintenance, software subscriptions, marketing, online storage space, stationery and business savings to pay for any mistakes. Mistakes happen which we always learn from, by putting money aside we are better equipped to deal with mistakes properly. I believe the quickest way to learn from your mistakes is to pay for them.
All the above is vital for Pavlou Plumbers to continue to provide the best service possible for our customers today and tomorrow.
I’m pretty certain when you invest your hard earned money into property and the rental market the last thing you would expect is a prison sentence. Neither did Christopher Hobaiter of Harburn, Stockton-on-Tees. His rental property had wall ventilation grills that supplied air to the boiler. These ventilation grills were blocked up for some time. The appliance was then discovered to be leaking deadly Carbon Monoxide into the living room. This was enough for Christopher to be sentenced to 26 weeks in prison suspended for 24 months and charged £1904.02 in costs.*
Any tenant or owner of a property that has a gas supply is entitled to contact Gas Safe directly and request for Gas Safe themselves to check the property they occupy at no cost. This would be done if you are not happy with any work done on your gas installation or if you suspect something is wrong with the gas installation and your landlord is not willing to rectify the issue. This service would not be suitable for a boiler breakdown or if you need a landlords gas safety certificate.
Last month I was called out to a boiler breakdown which I repaired and I discovered that the air vents in the wall were also blocked up because the occupant sometimes felt a draft that they didn’t like. If a gas appliance does not have enough oxygen the flame will be distorted and will produce a much higher level of Carbon Monoxide (an odourless deadly gas which is heavier than air). After making the occupant aware of the risks I was given permission to unblock the vents.
On another job I was asked to cap off a gas fire which was in a bathroom of all places. We passed through the living room I noticed something wrong with the gas fire in the living room. After checking the manufacturer’s instructions it was confirmed that the new laminate floor the occupant had fitted was positioned too close to the fire. The fire needed a certain amount of space around it where no flammable material was allowed.
The most common issue I come across when servicing or checking gas boilers is not being able to service or check the boiler, because the boiler is situated in a fitted kitchen and the kitchen fitter has not checked the manufacturer’s instructions of the boiler to see the clearance required to service the boiler. So I’m left to give bad news to the customer who has paid thousands for a new kitchen that they are going to either pay me more to modify the cupboard around the boiler in order to service it, or to try to get the kitchen fitter back to rectify the mistake. If a gas appliance can not be serviced this breaches the Gas Safe regulations.
*Referenced from Registered Gas Engineer issue 93
The main purpose for this blog is to save customers money as I am coming across more and more situations where the customer has tried to repair a leaking pipe or pipe fitting and failed.
When you spot a leaking pipe or pipe fitting I can perfectly understand the 1st reaction is to try and repair the leak however unless you are experienced in repairing leaks then your efforts may end up costing you more money, for the following reasons :- your time to go to the store to buy the required materials, doing the repair, the damaged caused by the failed attempt, these are all avoidable. A lot of people like to use an epoxy resin (see pictures below) or tape over the leak which just slows the plumber down adding more costs to the customer. The epoxy resin does have its uses but only in certain circumstances. As a professional I’ve only used it a handful of times. Any tape that claims to repair leaking pipes is designed as a temporary fix and should only be used if the water can not be caught in a container or a plastic rubble bag.
If you spot a leaking pipe and you are not 100% confident that you can fix it then call Pavlou Plumbers. We’ll be more than happy to show you step by step how to fix the leak so you’ll be confident next time.
It is commonly known that your boiler needs regular servicing to make sure it is running efficiently and safely. What is not commonly know is your hot water cylinder may do as well. Unvented hot water cylinders are the hot water system of choice for many new build properties with more than one shower coming from the hot water system. This is because they provide enough water flow for more than one shower to be used at the same time. If you have a hot water cylinder but do not have any water tanks in the loft or high up in a cupboard, then you’ll have an unvented hot water cylinder which looks similar to the pictures below.
These systems have certain safety devices which in effect prevent your cylinder from exploding. As extreme as that sounds it is the truth. When hot water is in a sealed environment the water has to be able to expand. This is the job of the expansion vessel. If however the expansion vessel should fail there will be a pressure relief valve that will automatically open to let the hot water out and the cold water in. This will in turn reduce the pressure in the cylinder. If another fault should occur with either your heating controls or boiler which would cause your hot water to remain on, there is a valve that would automatically open should the hot water temperature get too high. If an unvented hot water cylinder did not have functional safety devices then the picture below will show you what could happen.
This explosion happened in America where unvented hot water cylinders are more widely used. I’m happy to say the UK have better regulations on who can fit and service unvented hot water cylinders which means explosions like this are extremely rare in the UK.
A common symptom of an un-serviced hot water cylinder is a dripping is seen or heard when the water in the cylinder is being heated. The dripping will be seen from outside or the tundish, see below picture. If the tundish is wet then your unvented hot water cylinder needs a service urgently.
Make sure your service engineer is qualified to work on your unvented hot water system. The engineer must have a ‘Domestic Hot Water Storage Systems’ or ‘Hot Water Systems & Safety’ qualification. These comply with Approved Document G of the Building Regulations.
Summer is here and people are doing things outside which would benefit from having an outside tap. Whether it’s gardening, cleaning the patio, cleaning the dog an outside tap can be convenient to have. There are number of outside tap packs that are available however I have not seen one that would be regarded as a quality installation. When fitting an outside tap, or doing any work in the construction industry the work must be done in a way that protects the property and people. Some people may believe that the image below is all that is required for an outside tap.
This outside tap installation has no easy to use isolation valve so you can switch the tap on and off from the inside. It has no back flow prevention. Why is back flow prevention important? Some people like to leave a garden hose attached to their outside tap and control the water flow with a trigger which is on the end of a hose. If the water in that hose was left to heat up in the sun (above 20 degrees Celsius) on a hot day then harmful bacteria could thrive in the water in the hose. Having the correct back flow prevention would prevent the water in that hose from going back into your drinking water. This installation has no protection against corrosion. Copper reacts to building materials including brick, mortar mixed with the moisture in the air over time the copper will decay and water will leak. Should the pipe freeze or decay in this installation and the pipe leaks the water could go in the cavity wall and in to the house, this could be undetected until hundreds of pounds worth of damage has been done. An outside tap fitted correctly would prevent this from occurring.
When Pavlou Plumbers do any plumbing work we realise the work we do will be in there for many years. This is why the parts we recommend and the order in which we fit them will mean the customer can use them for those years easily.
Having warm water come out of your outside tap could be useful for hosing done muddy pets, cleaning the car or filling up a paddling pool. For those of you who would like either hot, warm or cold water to come out of your outside tap this can also be arranged.
If you would like an outside tap fitted correctly by a Water Safe registered company then get in touch with Pavlou Plumbers.
Before talking about weather or not your system needs a flush you need to understand what the ‘sludge’ is. The ‘sludge’ is a form of rust. When you combine different metals, water and oxygen you get rust. There is one particular type of heating system that is more prone to sludge and that is the more traditional open vented system, which is the system with a water tank (feed and expansion tank) in the loft or high up in an airing cupboard. The reason these systems are more prone to the buildup of ‘sludge’ or rust is because oxygen can get into the system through the feed and expansion tank. If this system had a small leak in it say on a radiator valve or on a pipe or on a radiator the rust build up would accelerate. The reason being fresh oxygenated water would be fed into the system from the feed and expansion tank and combined with the metals in the system would cause more rust or ‘sludge’.
If however you do not have a feed and expansion tank (sealed systems) but you are having to top up the water pressure in your central heating system regularly then this will also accelerate the production of rust. Regular loss of water pressure in a sealed system does mean there is a fault somewhere in the system and should be investigated as soon as possible to avoid bigger repair bill if not addressed.
In order to prevent the rusting to occur in the 1st place a central heating inhibitor / protector should be added to the central heating water. These solutions do expire over a certain amount of time depending on which brand you use so this should also be checked during any heating system service.
Now onto the question of ‘do I need a flush?’ One of the easy ways to tell if your system has a build up of sludge and therefore inefficiently would be to feel your radiators after the heating has been on for 20 – 30 mins. If the bottom middle is significantly colder than the top middle of the radiator then that means there is something blocking the radiator and that something will be sludge. The downstairs radiators are more likely to be the worst affected by any sludge build up.
Another symptom would be a noisy boiler when the boiler is reaching temperature, noisy or failed heating pump.
Keep it Clean
After you have had a central heating flush it’s a good idea to fit a central heating filter on the system to protect the system by collecting any rust that occurs throughout the year. then during the boiler service the central heating filter can be cleaned and it can indicate whether or not the system requires more inhibitor or not.
Flushing a central heating system usually takes between half a day and full day to complete depending on the size of the system and the amount of sludge in the system.
If however you are looking to change your boiler building regulations and boiler manufacturers state a the central heating system must be flushed before the boiler installation is complete. If the system is not flushed the warranty on your boiler is usually void. There has been talks of adding central heating filters to the building regulations because of their benefits.
The central heating filters I recommend are the MagnaClean Pro 2.
It’s very important to get your boiler serviced regularly. The manufacturers state this must be once a year which is a good general rule however if you have a boiler is in a building that is not occupied all year round then you could get away with having the service done less often.
However for those of you who do get your boiler serviced regularly your boiler may not be getting a proper service.
The purpose of a boiler service is to clear any ash from the main heat exchanger and the condensate trap, which is caused by the burnt bugs, dust, bits of plants etc that can be sucked into the boiler when it’s being used. Depending on the boiler other checks would be done on other parts such as the fan, expansion vessel, water filter and sensors. A check would be done on the boilers performance by checking the amount of gas that is being used and the emissions coming out of the flue. The boilers safety devices would also be checked.
There are some manufacturers, Worcester being one of them who state in their manufacturer’s instructions to only clean the main heat exchanger if the emission / pressure reading are outside certain parameters. To me this doesn’t make sense. I say why let the readings go outside the parameters in the 1st place. If the readings went outside the parameters that would mean the boiler is not working efficiently. That is why I do a proper service every time. If you get a service make sure the engineer does not just do the tests to see if the boiler needs a service but actually does a service. After all you are paying for a service so you may as well get a service.
And one more thing, it’s really handy to keep the boiler manufacturer’s instruction and to have them ready for the engineer for the service. Most engineers should have access to digital versions of the manufacturer’s instructions however a paper copy is always easier to work with. There will be information in the manufacturer’s instructions on how to carry out a proper service and the correct readings the boiler should be performing at.
If Pavlou Plumbers currently service your boiler then you’ll be sent an email reminder when the service is due otherwise get in touch to arrange a boiler service before the summer ends.
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