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    A new boiler - to get or not to get?

    Thu 26th Mar 2015 - 11:08am Energy and Heating A new boiler - to get or not to get?


    Benjamin Clarke

    A very common dilemma for homeowners is making the decision of whether to get a new boiler or not. Obviously, if your boiler breaks down and stops working completely, then the decision is pretty much made for you. However, an under-discussed issue is what to do when you have a boiler that has had some reliability problems but is still just about working.

    This issue comes particularly to the fore at this time of year. As winter becomes spring, a boiler usually starts to be used slightly less than it was during the colder months. If you have experienced some costly problems over the winter and had to call upon a heating engineer to sort out an emergency, you may well be breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of warmer weather ahead.

    Many people will use excuses to put off getting a new boiler, citing the warmer weather and ‘well, it’s working OK now’ as reasons not to proceed. Unfortunately however, if you have had a troublesome boiler, then the chances of it breaking down again are quite likely and you could just be storing up emergency costs and inconvenience to yourself (and your family) further down the line.

    There’s no getting away from it - buying a brand new boiler is an expensive upfront cost, but you need to look at the longer term benefits that installing a new boiler brings.

    Boiler technology has come a long way in recent years and, if you have a particularly old boiler, you may find that the money you currently spend on repairs and on higher heating bills is simply not worth the money or the effort.

    Regardless of whether you buy an entry level or fancy, top-of-the-range model, new boilers are now very energy efficient. It has been estimated that around 60% of yearly energy bills are spent on a boiler, so having a more efficient model can make a huge difference to what you spend year after year. Of course, the fact a new boiler is much more likely to be reliable is also going to save you a lot more money on call-out costs.

    As well as reliability and greater energy efficiency, a new boiler can often be a much safer option than what you have in place at the moment. Old boilers have a higher chance of being damaged or faulty, which can result in carbon monoxide leaks. At best, a carbon monoxide leak can cause you to feel very ill and at worst, carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. New boilers have in-built safety measures to protect against carbon monoxide leaks, though it’s always important to have your boiler serviced and checked on an annual basis.

    If you are contemplating getting a new boiler, then think back over the winter and whether you experienced any problems. Did you have to call out a heating engineer at least once? Did they advise you that this was just a temporary fix and to expect further problems? Were you and your family severely inconvenienced by a boiler breaking down and left without heating or hot water for a significant amount of time?

    If the answers to the above questions are ‘yes’, then you may seriously want to consider getting a new boiler. Alternatively, if you plan to keep your existing boiler, then make sure you get it serviced, if it has not been done within the last 12 months.

    The summer months are an excellent time to install a new boiler, or to get any boiler maintenance done, because it’s a time when there is less pressure on your heating system and your boiler will be in excellent shape for when it’s required to work hard again.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    Homeowners worried by emergency boiler costs

    Tue 24th Mar 2015 - 1:48am Energy and Heating Homeowners worried by emergency boiler costs


    Benjamin Clarke

    A recent survey of around 2,000 people has shown just how much emergency heating repair costs are worrying homeowners in Britain. Worryingly, it revealed that if they were hit with an unexpected bill of £250, 49% would have to borrow money from family or friends to cover the costs. If the bill was, £1,000 or over, figures would rise to 55% having to ask for a loan.

    37% said they would have to dip into their seasonal savings to cover the costs, while 30% would need to use a credit card. The survey showed that only 12% actually had some kind of insurance policy to cover such an expense.

    The figures also highlighted a big difference in generational preparations for such a costly scenario. Only 8% of those over 65 said they would have difficulty to pay an unexpected bill, whereas 49% of 18-24 year olds would struggle to find the finance for an emergency cost.

    64% of those that took part in the survey had at least 1 unexpected cost in 2014 and 29% said they had difficulty paying for it.

    Regarding the year ahead, 36% were concerned with their boilers breaking down, 27% worried about a breakdown of an appliance and a further 21% felt that plumbing problems would present them with a serious financial issue.

    The results of this survey show that a serious amount of UK homeowners are unprepared for an emergency cost regarding their heating. This is particularly worrying because a majority of central heating emergencies occur when the heating is required most, namely during the coldest months of winter, rather than the summer.

    Financial planning advice is clearly beyond the scope and responsibility of the heating industry, but installers, engineers and plumbers, as well as the industry as a whole, should be advising homeowners of best practise regarding their heating systems.

    Advice on annual boiler maintenance, the use of inhibitor fluid, power flushing and generally keeping the heating system clean, would all contribute greatly to more efficient and reliable heating systems, contributing to less emergency costs and greater longevity of components.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    The benefits of a well-maintained heating system

    Thu 19th Mar 2015 - 1:02am Energy and Heating The benefits of a well-maintained heating system


    Benjamin Clarke

    One of the great improvements seen in the heating industry in the last few years is the amount of heating engineers getting the message across to their customers regarding the importance of having their boilers serviced regularly. Having boilers that are operating safely and efficiently is vital for an overall healthy heating system, reducing the likelihood of your boiler breaking down when you need it most.

    We know the heating installers are putting the message across, but not all homeowners listen to the advice, often citing ‘financial restrictions’ for not proceeding with the recommendations. However, most of us would not expect our cars to run efficiently and trouble-free without an annual MOT or regular check-up of oil and water levels, so why should the most important component of our heating system, that is vital for providing us with warmth and hot water, be treated any differently?

    A way that this problem has been addressed is by making the annual service of a boiler part of the conditions of a boiler warranty. The majority of boiler warranties are now only valid if the boiler has been serviced on an annual basis, and awareness of this fact has started to permeate into the minds of homeowners.

    However, there is still a lot of work to be done on educating people of the importance of keeping their central heating system clean. An interesting recent estimate is that around 80% of central heating problems are caused by dirty systems, yet many people are unaware of the connection between a clean system and lower energy bills. This highlights the need for the heating industry as a whole to educate the public on keeping their system clean.

    When a heating system is clean, it uses less fuel (gas, oil biomass etc…), which means it costs less money to run, as well as the added environmental benefit of producing fewer carbon emissions.

    The Building Regulations and Domestic Heating Compliance Guide requires the use of chemical inhibitors for new builds and when a boiler is replaced on an existing system. Adding inhibitor fluid to your system hugely reduces the corrosion that can take place in your pipework, helping to prevent the buildup of radiator sludge, which can massively impact the performance of a heating system. (Watch this video to see the huge difference inhibitor makes to your system).

    Additionally the Regulations and Compliance Guide states the need for a system to be completely flushed before a new boiler is installed and recommends a chemical water treatment before the final filling of the system. Again, this helps prevent internal corrosion and the buildup of sludge and limescale. Anything that causes the narrowing of your pipework puts a strain on your system, hampering efficiency and putting extra strain on all the components, and should be avoided as much as possible.

    It’s the responsibility of heating installers to educate homeowners on the importance and benefits of a clean system. Installers should not be afraid of discussing internal corrosion, radiator sludge, power flushing and preventative maintenance. If installers can explain why a system should be kept clean and what the consequences are if maintenance is not carried out, we will have a general public comfortable with heating system check ups, just as they are with keeping a car running smoothly. Customers will feel the benefits of heating system efficiency, while saving money in the long run, due to a cleaner system and component longevity.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    Individual heating systems for individual needs

    Tue 17th Mar 2015 - 9:44am Energy and Heating Individual heating systems for individual needs


    Benjamin Clarke

    In this day and age, depending on where you are in life, people can have very different lifestyles from one another. In terms of householder’s heating requirements, this means that the need for flexible heating systems is becoming greater and greater.

    When searching for a suitable flexible heating system that matches up with their lifestyle, people will look to a heating installer for advice and information. Therefore, heating installers should make sure they are asking the right questions to ensure they recommend a system that gives the best combination of comfort and energy efficiency.

    So what information should the installer be getting from the customers?

    It’s important to know if the client works the same hours from Monday to Friday. This will usually result in the client needing very different heating and hot water settings at weekends to during the week. Does the client have a job that requires them to travel a lot? The need to have flexible controls that can easily fit in with their work routine will therefore be vital.

    Does the homeowner have a particularly large property or use different areas of the house for different purposes (e.g. a home office, a gym room, or an annex)? If so, the homeowner may require zone control, whereby separate ‘zones’ are set up within the home that can have independent time and temperature programmes from one another.

    Flexible heating requirements often depends on the types of people or families that inhabit a property. Below, we provide 5 examples of the common types of people that occupy a home that require flexible heating controls and the best type of heating controls to suit their needs:

    Single person who works long hours and is away a lot
    Probably the best option to suit this type of householder is to have a thermostat combined with a programmer. This would allow the user to set the hot water and heating to fit in with their busy lives. Using a device with universal programming options, including 5 day/ 2 day settings, would let them customise their their heating and hot water to come on at different times during the week and weekend.

    Childless, 30-something couple who work 9-5, Monday to Friday
    These people are typically home on weeknights and at weekends, often with friends or relatives over to socialise. A good option for them would be to have wireless programmable room thermostats, as these are easily customisable, simple to install and would easily adjustable to fit in with their routines. Additionally, the use of thermostatic radiator valves, would allow them an extra degree of control over individual rooms, particularly useful in keeping the temperature down in rooms that are not used frequently.

    Working family with 3 active and independent teenagers
    With a full-size family that will be coming and going at different times, the system they require will need to meet the demands of a large family while also making sure that utility bills don’t escalate out of control.

    They would probably benefit most from a 7 day programmer that is easy to use. This would offer the family great flexibility in accessing hot water and heating and needed, as would be required from a family who are in and out of the property at different times. By adding a cylinder thermostat to a conventional boiler and seperate hot water storage set-up, hot water being kept at a safe temperature would be ensured. Adding thermostatic radiator valves would be useful additions to the bedrooms, as would a wireless digital thermostat, which would allow for the temperature to be easily control and adjusted when necessary.

    Middle-aged couple living in a family home, but whose children have moved out
    In this situation, it is likely the householders have a few spare rooms that are rarely used. Using a combo of a programmer with two digital thermostats, as well as thermostatic radiator valves, would allow them to have comfortable room and water temperatures without expending too much energy. The heating in the rarely-used bedrooms can be scaled right back, but easily turned on if needed, and the holiday mode can be utilised when the house is completely empty, keeping energy usage down to a minimum.

    Elderly, retired couple who rarely leave the house
    They will require a system that is very flexible, yet simple to use and easily adjustable. Having a wireless room thermostat with a programmer and TRVs will give the couple a system that allows them a huge amount of control. It will be necessary for the controls to have a large, readable screen that can be used with the minimum of fuss. This will enable them to use the settings easily, while making sure they maximise the energy and money-saving benefits such a system allows.

    Installers may need to tweak each heating system set-up depending on the needs of each individual household, but by bearing the 5 examples above in mind, they will be able to offer advice and solutions that enable families to make the most of their heating systems, whichever category they fit into.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    Why the heating industry must stay ahead of the digital game

    Thu 12th Mar 2015 - 6:36am Energy and Heating Why the heating industry must stay ahead of the digital game


    Benjamin Clarke

    Digital technology has had a huge impact on both society and business and it has completely revolutionised the way we communicate with each other.

    Smart phones have evolved into something far more than a simply a device with which to make calls, or even send text messages. Access to the internet and the use of apps is are key components of our obsession with smart phones, so it’s little wonder that businesses are making the most of this technology to communicate with their customers.

    Within the heating industry, interest is growing in developing and making the most of digital technology to enable heating product manufacturers to keep connected with heating installers. Because heating installers are always busy and on the move, being able to access information via websites and apps on their smartphones has become an absolutely vital part of their toolbox.

    Because of this, there has been a lot of development of online resources, such as online training. Manufacturers have invested quite lot of money in getting these educational portals online, and feedback from installers has been very positive, with many taking advantage of the opportunity to increase their knowledge of products and improving their skills, while remaining in full-time employment.

    Detailed e-libraries have also become very popular and provides installers with the option of being able to download product brochures and manuals while out on a job, all through their smartphone or tablet. Having this kind of extensive knowledge at their fingertips has enabled heating installers to improve the service they provide, which in turn, increases customer satisfaction. Importantly, it has also made the working life of a heating engineer that bit easier, which can only be a good thing for the industry as a whole.

    There is still room for improvement, however, and it’s important that, in this day and age where huge amounts of information is available at the touch of a button, the heating industry continues to be innovative and keeps abreast of the latest technologies.

    By being able to increase the knowledge and services that an installer can offer through the use of digital technologies, the heating industry will continue to grow, enhancing its reputation and its ability to provide a better and better service to homeowners, landlords and tenants.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke