This is just the time of year when extra care has to be taken with gas boilers. There is far less danger these days from faulty gas pipes and supplies in this country. Although we do tend to take the subject of safety rather seriously, with health and safety particlarly taking over our lives, it does mean that life is very much safer for all. Of course there will always be the rogue cowboy out there who flouts the law and works without training, knowledge, respect for his community, and very seriously, insurance. Every gas engineer has to be fully trained in every aspect of gas supply safety. The pressures are critical – a low pressure in one person’s pipework can often be the cause of a build up down the line elsewhere and one false or dodgy connection can be the cause of catastrophic explosions. There are regrettably far too many cheap looking houses and flats totally destroyed as a result of gas explosions. When the inquests or public enquiry is broadcast, 99/9% of the blame is found to be fimly at the door of a cowboy contractor or householder who is trying to couple up to an illegal gas supply to defraud the authority of rightful money.
Category Archives: Plumbing
We’ve recently endured the massively overhyped climate change conference, where we had world leaders all flying in to Scotland with massive security teams and gas guzzling SUVs by the dozen. This does rather make a mockery of the whole exercise which is to encourage governments of every nation to look at our wastage of resources and how we are wrecking the planet. This is mostly through excessive burning of fossil fuels to run industry and homes. The erosion of the ozone layer is now dangerously evident. We in this country are now being told we won’t be able to buy gas boilers as they are today in just a few short years time. There will also be restrictions on other forms of water heating systems. I’m not sure why we don’t all have solar panels – maybe that would have helped ease our problems some years ago. Our plumbing and gas heating systems will have to be altered if the pipework requirements change to accommodate different forms of power. There are many things in the pipeline which may come as a surprise when we eventually know where we’re going with this.
A dripping tap isn’t just annoying; it also has the potential to be really expensive. And we’re not just talking about it running up your water bill – it can cause serious property damage, costing about £387 million in insurance claims annually. You can avoid the hassle of repairs and build up your no-claims bonus by keeping your home well maintained.
Like bleeding a radiator, fixing a dripping tap is a really simple skill that every homeowner should learn how to do. Our handy guide will talk you through it, whether this is your first time or you just need a refresher.
What you’ll need
Get these things together first and keep them nearby, because you don’t want to be running off looking for an important part in the middle of your repair:
- an adjustable spanner
- slot and cross-head screwdrivers
- replacement cartridge or assorted washers and O-rings
Cartridge or washer?
Some taps use washers while others have ceramic discs. An easy way to tell what kind of tap you have is to give it a turn – if it only rotates a quarter or a half, then it’s likely to be ceramic. If you can turn it further, it’s probably traditional. Worn O-rings are another cause of leaks in traditional taps, so if you replace the washer and there’s still a leak, check the O-ring (a type of seal) and seals for signs of wear and tear.
In this day and age we simple press a button and on comes our gas or oil fired boiler. Very rarely nowadays you may come across a house with a solid fuel back boiler – these were all the rage in the late 1960s but were not quite the fantastic development heralded at the time. It involved a huge space being needed behind the main domestic fireplace in which the boiler was installed – the fire in the front had to be kept going at all hours to keep the boiler running to produce hot water and heating. In my grandmother’s old people’s bungalow however the council stuipidly cut costs and corners and only put the back boiler in for water – for a very little extra, they could have installed radiators in the 3 rooms which would not have cost Gran any extra to run! Instead, she used to have to run a coal or anthracite fire, which would get the water boiling hot, but she could never use all that hot water and had to ‘run it off’ down the bath, before the storage tank exploded!
It’s been a busy last few months whilst my neighbours have been having a large kitchen extension built. Because of the global pandemic there has been a dramatic rise in the number of folk wanting to work on their properties whilst they can’t go out to work in the usual way. This has brought about an amazing rise in the home rebuild sector of the market and a consequent shortage of major parts. My neighbour has had to wait many more weeks for the completion of the cooking equipment because at the planning phase of the project way back at christmas 2019, before any of this nightmare arose, they happily chose a gas hob from a German supplier – it was going to be a fantastic six burner affair with one of those being the larger wok spot in the centre as they love stir fry meals. This marvel of invention has now been installed – beautifully manufactured of course. With the best of British in the gas supply installed by fully qualified staff. Gas is so versatile for speedy heating up and instant reduction.
I’m surrounded by folk extending their houses . . . and each one includes a new kitchen and utility room and funnily enough, each is having a replacement boiler. I know for sure that my immediate neighbours are going through the proper channels – they have a young project manager, independent of the architect and builder who’s hot as mustard on ensuring that correct processes adhered to. I heard him having an fairly animated discussion with one of the onsite contractors about how soon this or that can be completed. This PM was holding his own despite a barrage of pleas to cut this corner or that. There seems to have been a bit of a hitch with some of the pipework and he very correctly insisted on waiting for the proper qualified contractor to come back on site to complete the task. As he was overheard pointing out, it’s not only his job that’s on the line if something goes wrong, it’s peoples’ lives and they matter more than saving a couple of expensive days.
In the UK we get our gas supplies from a variety of sources to ensure we are not beholden to just one route or one supplier. The majority of our gas, around 40%, is supplied via North and Irish sea production. However, this supply is now declining and we thus have to rley on importing the rest of our gas from all over the world – for example from continental Europe and Norway. Portable liquefied natural gas is shipped to UK from all around the world. We have the UK-Belgium interonnector which runs between Norfolk and Zeebrugge, connecting Britain to the main European gas network. This pipeline is bidirectional which means it can import to UK and also export to mainland Europe – depending entirely on supply and demand and relative prices. There is also the UK-Netherlands pipeline which runs to the Norfolk refinery, enjoying import capcity of 14.2 bcm a year. The same import capacity of 14.2 bcm, applies to the Vesterled pipline link connecting St. Fergus in Scotland to several Norwegian gasfields. So several bases are well and truly covered here!
My neighbours have had a rum time of it almost since they movd in exactly a year ago. Almost everything that could go wrong has done so and I feel so sorry for them. The latest upheaval has been the domestic hot water system to the showers in both bathrooms and the ensuite. They have a household of 4 adults so obviously plenty of water is needed at certain times of the day. Apparently their water pressure has been bad since day one and it’s just gradually got worse until no water feed at all. After they researched all possible causes and rectifying methods online, they eventually had to succumb and get a heating and water expert in to look at the whole caboodle. The guy they bought the house from seems to have used a diverting system to save water – I recall him mentioning this over the years. The expert found damage beyond economic repair had occured so he suggested various options. The selected remedy incorporates a pressurised tank that feeds the showers and bath with plenty of hot water for showers at any time of day. Hurrah.
As we all know, the standards of our gas supplies and engineering are absolutely second to none in the UK. There is such a high regard for safety that it can sometimes seem rather a fuss made but gas needs this amount of safety – one slip and the results can, and often are tragially fatal. Unlike choosing a builder or diy jobber, any work inolving gas must carry a Gas Safe ID card. Wheneer an engineer is present for your job to quote or work, ask to see this card, check and check again. A legitimate engineer will never take offence and should encourage you to do this.
. Have they plenty of experience – in particular, relevant to your project.
. Ask them for a very detailed quotation from everyone you’re looking at and never choose anyone who asks for huge part or full payment up front.
. It’s imperative to ask each tradesman to explain what work needs doing and how they intend to carry it out. Ask who will actually be carrying out the work if it’s not the estimator who comes to site.
Once satisfied with your choice, good luck with that project!
With the cost of gas and electricity for heating and water, it can be very tempting to try diverting the chargeable energy source via a home made system to bypass the ‘expensive’ mains. There have sadly been many examples of folk tampering with domestic mains systems and being killed or very seriously injured when a gas leak occurs or a spark from an acetalyn welder sets off a chain of explosions. Gas is a fantastic product when used correctly, but it is dangerous and potentially lethal. If you are having a boiler or cooker repaired it must be done by a full qualified engineer. It is so tempting for the budding DIY enthusiast to ‘have a go’ at changing a wall gas heater or water heater. Landlords can sometimes find it irksome to have to get a proper engineer in but they are legally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of all gas appliances in their properties and must undertake safety checks every 12 months – these are by law to be carried out by a fully safe registered engineer. The tenant is supposed to get a copy of the safety report within 28 days of the inspection – essential for their peace of mind!