There’s no smoke without fire

Installers can boost their business by recommending alarms to homeowners

Installers can boost their business by recommending alarms to homeowners

Honeywell’s Home Safety business is reminding installers of the importance of ensuring homeowners are adequately protected against the dangers of fire and smoke.

According to government figures, fire crews attended more than 160,000 fire incidents in 2015/16 which resulted in more than 7,000 casualties. While this represents a reduction on previous years, fire is still a very real threat within the home.

Installers, however, are well placed to advise homeowners on preventative measures, such as the correct siting of high-quality, sealed smoke and heat alarms, to ensure that they have enough time to evacuate the building in the event of a fire.

“It’s vital that every home has active, reliable smoke alarms, as well as a heat alarm in areas prone to fast-flaming fires, such as the kitchen,” said Adrian Keats, national account manager.

“We all like to think that the worst would not happen to us, but the reality is that each year thousands of people are injured in fire-related incidents. The best way to avoid casualties is to make sure an adequate system of alarms is in place to warn homeowners in the case of an emergency.

“Installers are well placed to advise on alarms when they are already in a property, and the alarm itself can be a good upsell on top of the work you are already doing for the customer. This means that not only can you help to protect the families you visit, you can boost your business at the same time.”

Boiler efficiency standards unveiled

Weather compensation controls, as commonly installed by Viessmann-trained installers throughout the UK, are one of the requirement options of the changes to the building regulations

Weather compensation controls, as commonly installed by Viessmann-trained installers throughout the UK, are one of the requirement options of the changes to the building regulations

New policy changes and updates, which set new standards for the efficiency of gas boilers in the UK, were announced by the government on Thursday, October 12.

The changes were set out in the government response to the Heat in Buildings consultation, following a Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy consultation.

The new standards are in three parts; increasing the boiler minimum performance requirement (from 88% SEDBUK 2009 to 92% ErP); requiring that all new boiler installations include time and temperature controls and; requiring combination boiler replacements to include the provision of an additional energy efficiency measure to be installed at the same time. Extra measures include: specified smart controls, weather compensation, load compensation, or flue gas heat recovery (FGHR).

Viessmann has welcome the changes. Graham Russell, UK managing director, said: “We are pleased that these changes will soon be implemented and see them as a positive step for the industry, delivering savings for consumers while supporting carbon targets.

“In 2015, Viessmann first shared with the government its recommendations and analysis on how weather compensation and increased boiler performance standards could increase boiler efficiency. We’ve engaged closely over the past two years as policy proposals were developed for heat in buildings.

“In terms of practical regulatory change, including weather compensation with every heating system change is the lowest hanging fruit given the relatively low cost, demonstrated impact and applicability across different heating systems.”

Graham believes the move is the first step in securing a boiler efficiency revolution, which ensures efficiency gains and improvements in heating over the long-term.
“Viessmann will continue to work closely with the supply chain and the government to ensure that consumers receive exceptional service using the best available, cost-effective heating innovations,” he added.

New initiative launched to tackle winter deaths

82.5% of winter deaths are among the elderly

82.5% of winter deaths are among the elderly

With more than one million rural homes in the UK using oil for their heating, heating oil trade association, The Federation of Petroleum Suppliers (FPS) is launching the Cold Weather Priority (CWP) and vulnerable persons protocol.

The scheme is designed to help the off-grid sector reduce what’s known as ‘excess winter deaths’ throughout the winter months.

According to The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE), each year in the UK, there are 40,000 so-called ‘excess winter deaths’ as a result of cold.

More than three quarters (82.5%) of these are among the elderly (aged 75 and over). The CWP initiative will assist in identifying and helping those most at risk so they are prioritised for delivery when it comes to off-grid fuel supplies throughout the winter months, especially during periods of extreme cold weather or fuel shortages.

FPS spokesperson, Dawn Shakespeare, said: “Too many old, weak and vulnerable people die as a result of fuel poverty and poor access to supplies during the winter. Fortunately, according to independent provider of comparative home heating costs, Sutherland Tables, at an annual cost of £840, oil is still the cheapest way to heat a typical off-grid three-bedroom home in the UK.

“That’s more than half the cost of electricity and even less than gas and good news for our most vulnerable customers. But it’s just as important for customers to know that there is help available when it comes to getting their fuel when they need it most.”

FPS members will be employing various methods to identify customers who they believe fall into the CWP category, so that deliveries can be prioritised to these people during the winter months. The FPS is also urging customers who are aged over 75 to get in touch with their heating oil supplier if they believe they should be part of the CWP initiative.

The FPS and many of its members are also working with the Chief Fire Officers’ Association and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service and asking customers in the CWP scheme if we can pass their details to fire and rescue services, so ‘Safe and Well’ visits can be arranged for them.

Support for the initiative has come from Energy Minister, Richard Harrington.

“Extreme and cold weather conditions can create severe problems in the winter months for those that use oil to heat their homes,” he said. “This initiative ensures that those in particular need are prioritised for delivery of fuel. This is a welcome move by the industry which will provide security, comfort and peace of mind to thousands of people across the country in vulnerable circumstances.”

To check if your local supplier is involved, visit: or contact a FPS member. A list of the nearest suppliers can be found at:

Is the plumbing industry in crisis?

A plumber shortage is leading to longer waiting times for emergency work

A plumber shortage is leading to longer waiting times for emergency work

The UK is in danger of running so low on plumbers that the country faces the biggest crisis in 20 years, heating and boiler specialist, believes the government needs to act now, or the consequences for consumers and businesses in the UK could be very serious.

Unless more plumbers are trained, the UK could face a future where emergency call-outs could take up to three weeks in large cities, putting health and businesses in danger.

Spokesperson Jonathan Ratcliffe, said: “Plumbing is a profession that is being neglected when it comes to attracting and training new workers. Kids just aren’t interested in plumbing.

“Unless we urgently address this problem, we’re looking at a crisis, with far too few plumbers to meet the demands of growing domestic and business areas around the UK.

“It’s not too late to address this, but the solution needs to be drastic, immediate, and preferably government-led.

“If we don’t do anything about this problem as a country, we’re going to see terrible waiting times even for emergency work, as well as hugely inflated prices for those who have the money, leaving those who don’t in an even worse situation.” recommends a series of measures that could be taken to ensure the country has enough plumbers to avoid the problems a crisis could cause.

These include offering incentives for school-leavers to go straight into apprenticeships and training for the profession, meaning they can begin working very soon after education.

Plumbing business owner, Stephen, 43, welcomed the warning from He said: “I’m the only plumbing business serving quite a large area. We do what we can but there are always more jobs to do than there are hours in the day.

“You might think we’d be happy with that and annoyed if lots of other people started working as plumbers, but that’s just not true. We struggle to recruit. I hate letting people down by not being able to come out sooner, and I’d ideally like to expand my business by employing more people. There are three of us at the moment and I can’t find anyone else even though the workload is growing.”

The average salary for a plumber in the UK is currently upwards of £23,000, but can rise to over £37,000 depending on experience and location. hopes that the government can use this relatively high wage to entice young people into the profession, otherwise the cost to the UK will be far, far higher.

Mixed response to government’s Clean Growth Strategy

According to the STA, communities City leaders all over the UK want to see the government support solar power

According to the STA, communities City leaders all over the UK want to see the government support solar power

The Clean Growth Strategy, which outlines the objectives for the UK to meet its carbon targets, was launched by the government on Thursday, October 12.

The paper focuses on opportunities to deploy heat pumps, initially in the off gas grid market, which is dominated by carbon intensive fuels such as heating oil and coal that the government aims to transition away from.

The government’s commitment to phase out these high carbon heating fuels during the 2020s has been welcomed by NIBE Energy Systems.

“There has never been a better time for the UK to champion heat pumps in domestic applications and to encourage greater market penetration of such heating systems, learning from what our European counterparts have achieved,” said Phil Hurley, managing director.

“It is our aim to work with the government to encourage homeowners to replace fossil fuels with renewable heating systems, thereby unlocking the potential for homeowners to make significant contributions in reducing UK carbon emissions.

“By targeting off grid areas to remove expensive, inefficient and unsustainable oil systems, the government can make homes warmer and more comfortable while reducing our carbon footprint and reliance on polluting fuels.”

OFTEC also welcomed the government’s efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions from UK homes.

Paul Rose, CEO said: “This approach is the only way real change will be achieved and is in line with OFTEC’s own vision for the future of off-grid heating.

“We believe our two-stage solution, that we published in June, is the most cost-effective way to deliver significant carbon reduction and energy efficiency gains for the UK’s 1.5 million oil heated homes. Our approach would see a boiler replacement programme in the short-term (2018-2022), followed by the introduction of a low carbon liquid fuel as a direct replacement for kerosene.

“This timescale ties in with the government’s ambition to ‘phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating in new and existing off gas grid residential buildings during the 2020s’.”

However, Clean Growth Strategy was not so well received by the Solar Trade Association (STA), who claims it offers limited early opportunities for solar power, despite its status as the UK’s most popular energy source, and as one of the cheapest, with the largest future world market.

The STA claims that while the astonishing cost reductions in solar are cited several times in the Strategy there are no explicit new measures to boost current deployment which has plummeted and which has been kept afloat by progressive planning policies by some local authorities.

It added that the central role of solar in any modern economy means that solar power is implicit in many of the policies, such as smart systems, public sector emissions reduction, and retrofitting existing properties, although there is little detail on when and how these new proposals will be implemented.

STA policy manager, Chris Hewett, said: “It does seem extraordinary that when a technology as vital to the world’s future as solar is asking, not for any new public support, but for simply a level playing field with other technologies that the government is not moving to respond. This technology will dominate global power supply in years to come so in the interests of UK plc, the government needs to stop putting the UK solar industry at a competitive disadvantage.”

“Solar empowers local people and communities, and it stimulates smart innovation more than any other energy technology. The British solar industry is being artificially held back by the government and that doesn’t help consumers, innovation or local leadership.

“We will be looking to the Autumn Statement for the measures we need urgently to level the playing field for solar power.”

HPS hits charity milestone

Peter Wilson left and operations director, Alec Meadows, right, hand over the cheque to the hospital.

Peter Wilson left and operations director, Alec Meadows, right, hand over the cheque to the hospital.

HPS, with the support of its customers, suppliers and staff, has now raised in excess of half a million pounds since it started raising funds for the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital charity in 2005.

The merchant has raised nearly £530,000 through its trade counters, customer entertaining events, promotional events, trade shows, charity golf days, auctions, individual marathons and runs.

Sales director, Peter Wilson, said: “We strongly feel this is a fantastic and most deserving cause and to have the opportunity to see the wonderful job the hospital and the amazing staff do is truly humbling. We look forward to redoubling our efforts and reaching our next milestone of £1 million over the next few years.”

UK steel prospects fuel Wolseley’s industrial growth

Jan Langford, Laura Blackman, Felicity Reed and Dean Best

Jan Langford, Laura Blackman, Felicity Reed and Dean Best

An upturn in the UK steel industry has contributed to a 73% increase in orders over the last 12 months for the industrial division of Wolseley, the specialist supplier of industrial valves, pipe and fittings via annual supply contracts.

The impressive results come at a time when a recent article from S&P Global Platts, suggested 2017 could be a significant turning point for the UK steel industry with a combination of anti-dumping measures, major mergers and a weakened euro combining to solving its decline in global market share.

This has contributed to Wolseley doubling the number of quotes being produced as well as the number of product lines it is processing per month for customers in this sector.

Gary Wilson, regional sales manager – industrial, said: “Over the last two or three years the steel industry has become fragmented. However, these problems are starting to iron out and we’re seeing an influx of large project work rather than just maintenance.

“We’re in a unique position to offer our industrial customers a total supply solution from helping them to identify the right product for their application, through to delivery on-site and technical after-sales support. This means we can meet the most demanding requirements which is why we’re starting to see this growth.”

The growth has also allowed the business to expand the team with four new appointments this year. Andy Clark is an onsite application engineer, Chris Thomas and Dean Best applications engineers and Laura Blackman a sales advisor.

Plastic pipes dominating new build

Plastic pipes combine well with other materials

Plastic pipes combine well with other materials

Plastics are now the dominant material in hot and cold water supply systems inside buildings.

Data from Pipes and Fittings Market Report – UK 2016-2020 Analysis shows that use of plastic piping systems for water supply in new build is now up to 60%.

An upward trend is similarly being seen, and predicted to continue, for heating with the availability of barrier and multi-layer pipes for central heating and the energy efficiency benefits of warm water underfloor heating (UFH) in providing space heating at lower water temperatures.

While their flexibility, their quick and simple jointing and the added safety of no hot working have all driven this growth, with the large amount of pipework of different materials in existing buildings, it is definitely an advantage to be able to combine plastic with, for example, copper piping systems.

Bathrooms and kitchens are generally replaced due to lifestyle and design choices, and central heating boilers due to system efficiency and lifespan every ten–15 years. Plastic plumbing system manufacturers provide fittings that form reliable joints from plastic pipes to copper and other metallic pipes, which is a boon when refurbishing older properties. Over a property’s lifetime, the plumbing system can transition to plastic piping with the many in-service benefits of low thermal conductivity (safer to touch), low noise transmission (no creaking pipes), smooth bore (minimises limescale build-up), thermal expansion (reduced risk of bursts during frosts) and inherent corrosion resistance (cleaner heating system).

Well-engineered joint designs have made plastic piping very easy to work with and so, the material of choice for busy plumbers and larger-scale installers. Pipe coils can easily be cut to size, offering flexibility for even the most awkward applications – threading through joists, sitting beneath floors – and with a wide range of push-fit, press-fit and welded joints, ensure that connections are secure and leak-tight.

Gareth Samuel, of BPF Pipes Group, said: “As installer confidence grows, so do the number of applications in which we now routinely see plastic piping systems. The BPF Pipes Group guidance on the use of plastics for discharge pipework from unvented hot water systems sets out the range of materials which can safely be used for discharge pipes and soil stacks taking discharges.

“Underfloor heating systems provide an attractive alternative to radiators – the massive performance improvements offered by warm water UFH systems over electric systems and the dust-generating hot air systems means that this is a real option not only for commercial properties and luxury homes but also for housing developments and self-builders. All this has been made possible by the availability of well-designed and quality assured plastic pipes.”

Wolseley resurrects ‘Zombie Boiler’ apocalypse campaign…

Visit and follow @plumbcenterUK to find out more about the ‘Zombie Boiler’ campaign

Visit and follow @plumbcenterUK to find out more about the ‘Zombie Boiler’ campaign

‘Zombie Boilers’ are being targeted this October in a campaign from the UK’s largest plumbing and heating specialist, Wolseley Plumb Center.

Launched on October 2 and running up to Halloween and beyond, Wolseley Plumb Center is urging installers to unearth boiler horrors they spot on jobs and encourage homeowners to replace them because of the threat they pose. Easy to detect, these zombies let out moans and groans from worn-out parts and pipes, and result in costly winter fuel bills.

Installers can follow the campaign on Twitter by using #zombieboiler and enter a competition to win a zombie experience by tweeting @plumbcenterUK photos of boiler horrors they spot and slay.

Wolseley category director heating and renewables, Richard Harvey, said: “Homeowners should fear the warming dead – these boilers hide away in our homes gorging on energy, threatening freezing winter breakdowns, and sending bills rocketing. We’re urging heating engineers to unearth these relics and let homeowners know they have a horror in their midst that isn’t doing its job of heating their house properly.”

More than nine in every ten of the UK’s 25 million homes has gas central heating and a third of these – around nine million – are estimated to house an ageing, inefficient boiler. Worse still, two million of these are believed to be heated by a boiler so decrepit they have been labelled ‘zombie boilers’. They look alive, but do not function in any rational form.

Richard added: “If these were real zombies, this would be an apocalypse. We want to support heating engineers and UK homeowners to rid homes of these aged boilers that burn cash. They don’t heat properly, they give out emissions and risk breakdowns at the most inconvenient of times.”
Wolseley is offering five facts to help heating engineers drive the message home with customers:

  1. It’s estimated one in four homeowners have a boiler breakdown each year. The older the boiler, the more likely this is to happen and Wolseley figures show over two thirds of boiler sales happen in winter, showing these beasts are more likely to come out in the darker months.
  2. Energy Savings Trust statistics show heating accounts for around 60% of annual energy bill expenditure, with savings of up to £350 per year for those who switch from an aged G-rated boiler to a new, A-rated model.
  3. Customers can tell if they live with a zombie boiler by the unpleasant noise it makes. Low pressure, a worn-out fan or pump, or a blocked pipe will culminate in a woeful cacophony or moans and groans. If their boiler sounds like an angry beast, it’s time to get rid once and for all.
  4. Zombies are uncontrollable, guzzling gas and money in a constant state of on or off, with no in-between. Contemporary controls used on a new boiler can result in a further £75-£155 a year saving.
  5. Homeowners may also be harbouring radiator victims of their own zombie boiler attack. The foul sludge created by an ageing system gathers and festers in radiators, rendering them inefficient, and in the worst cases, completely incapable of heating a home. A poorly performing radiator can also significantly harm a boiler’s efficiency, and old, damaged products are also just as in need of replacement. Filters and water treatment additives may help a system like this, but a full service and system flush will be needed first to make an Impact.

Mayor of London wants wood burning stoves banned in capital

Wood burning stoves burn completely causing less particulates to enter the atmosphere.

Wood burning stoves burn completely causing less particulates to enter the atmosphere.

A call by London mayor Sadiq Khan for a ban on wood burning stoves in some areas of the capital has been challenged by Specflue.

According to a report in The Guardian on September 29, Mr Khan said: “Non-transport sources contribute half of the deadly emissions in London, so we need a hard-hitting plan of action to combat them similar to moves I am taking to reduce pollution from road vehicles.

“I am calling on the government to provide the capital with the necessary powers to effectively tackle harmful emissions from a variety of sources.”

Ian Sams, commercial director of Specflue, believes Mr Khan is focusing on the wrong target.

“The volume of particulate matter (PM) in the atmosphere caused by wood burning depends on how the wood is burnt rather than the stove used to burn it,” he said. “Particulates come from incomplete burning of wood, but modern wood burning stoves are highly efficient at doing this.”

Dennis Milligan, head of communications at the Stove Industry Alliance (SIA), said: “Eco-design, a measure introduced by the European Commission to improve the efficiency of appliances and lead to lower emissions, covers a wide range of emissions from PM to carbon dioxide, NOx, other carbon gases compounds and carbon monoxide.

“Although there is no obligation for stoves to meet the stringent emission limits set out in Eco-design until 2022, the SIA has taken the initiative by making ‘Eco-design Ready’ stoves available now.

“All new stove models developed from now on will meet the emission limits and, by 2020, the main manufacturers in the SIA will only produce stoves that meet Eco-design requirements.”

Research from Kings College London suggests that, in winter time, wood burning accounts for about ten per cent of the PM emissions in London. But a survey of 1,000 users of wood burning stoves and open fires throughout the UK found that 70% of the wood burned in London is burnt on an open fire. An ‘Eco-design Ready’ stove reduces emissions by 90%, compared with an open fire.

Ian concluded: “Eco-design will be accompanied by the Eco label, already seen on white goods such as fridges. From January 1 next year, every wood burning stove will have to display a label. Most modern stoves are expected to come in at the A and A+, with pellet-burning stoves achieving A++.”