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Monday, 6 October 2014

Questions about my Boiler & Central Heating

Many questions about gas boilers and central heating are answered on the various pages of the Tara Heating website.  I have re-written it this year, but if you have unanswered questions let me know.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

How Much Will it Cost to Run Air Conditioning in a Conservatory? In the UK

Some people are alarmed at the prospect of installing air con because they think it will be so expensive to run.  This raises the question of why much of the rest of the world think nothing of having air con in their comfortable homes but for the English it is like dabbling in black magic.  We would rather linger in an air conditioned shop and suffer the heat, humidity at home than get a unit installed.

The short answer to the question based on monitoring the running cost of an inverter heat pump/ air con unit in my home through July is less than £0.60p per day and far less than £100 per year.  This is considerably cheaper than the running costs of many pond-pump systems and cheaper than an electric heater.  The calculation is based on Ovo Energy's tariff of £0.1102 per unit but I can't tell you how many hours per day I didn't monitor it that closely.  I can tell you we go for comfort so it could be on between 8 to 12 hours per day on those very hot days and perhaps on the maximum setting.  The one unit brings the whole ground floor down to a reasonable temperature if we leave the doors open.

Note, I am talking about a permanently installed split-system inverter unit, this may cost around £1,000 fulling installed and is not the same as the big, noisy portable air-con units.

What about your conservatory?  If you have a sweltering, all glass, south facing conservatory (which I do not) then I am not sure that just one air con unit will be enough.  I would guess you need something to block some of that sun light : blinds, special glass, or the glass coating that can be applied to standard glass.  Our house faces South and we keep our curtains closed through these hot days to minimise solar gain.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Home Maintenance Jobs for the Summer!

You use it more than your car and expect it to last longer but you also expect to spend more on maintaining you are each year than you do your boiler.

We just want to pay for an annual service and hope for no breakdowns.

A boiler should last 12 to 15 years and be serviced every year.

If you have an old boiler the replacement should significantly reduce your heating bills, you could be looking at a saving of more than £200 per year.  A new boiler might be better for your hot water requirements as well.

The best time to replace a boiler is when it is warm, the summer.  You will be without heat and hot water for a while, with engineers walking in and leaving the doors open. Call back for problems can usually be responded to quicker than in the winter when everyone else's boiler breaks down.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How Quickly Can I Expect to Get My Boiler Replaced?

If you are planning new central heating or routine upgrades to your heating or replacing you boiler then you should get quotes at least 6 weeks before you want the work done.  Making contact with heating engineers two or three months in advance is sensible.
Unless there is an emergency do not expect to find someone who can replace your boiler or install new heating within two weeks of you first phoning them.  Most will be too busy and will only achieve this miracle if there is a real emergency.


  • It could take two weeks for them to fit you in for a quote and get it back to you in writing.
  • Heating engineers are booked up in advance all year round, but are especially busy in the coldest months, October-February.
  • The quotes may be very different to what you expect and the heating engineers may make recommendations that you need to consider.
So what if the boiler DIES in the cold mid-winter.  How quickly can you get it replaced?  If possible many heating engineers will be able to shuffle some work around and work at the weekend to make sure vulnerable people have heating within a few days.

If there is only 1 heating engineer for 100 miles you may have to wait or contact a big national company such as British Gas.  Most of us live in highly populated counties like Kent so there will be small businesses, local and independent heating installers who can help you out.

Today, there is just 5 full working weeks left before Christmas (in my diary) yet our phone is red hot with calls from people who want work done before Christmas (perhaps there is a 13th month in their calendars). Small jobs and emergencies we can manage.  
Larger jobs, however, that could have been planned months ago should have been planned months ago.  When we undertake a full central heating installation, for example, it is usually in our diary 6 to 8 weeks earlier.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

When Should the Boiler be Serviced? Before the winter or after 12 months?

Most of us want reminders for annual events - other than Christmas and your own birthday, how many dates do you remember?  Modern cars monitor mileage and lights start flashing when the service is due, I often thought it would be good if boilers did that too.
Now some boilers do - see the Baxi clip below - but most of us just have to rely on our diaries.
A boiler should be serviced within 12 months of installation and then annually at approximately 12 month intervals.  If you can't remember when it was last done and you think it was more than a year agp it is best to get it done before the winter sets in for a whole number of reasons:

  • it is easier to get hold of a gas engineer in the summer and some offer special rates;
  • if there are problems you want them identified and repaired before it get really cold and before the boiler completely stops working;
  • you want to make sure it still works now when it is warm, not when an Arctic breeze blows over.

Now - I just need a good system for reminding myself before the car MOT is due.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Is it OK to for Me to Replace Parts & Fix My own Boiler in the UK?

Most people would never attempt their own boiler repairs - just as well because if you are not qualified to do so:
  • it is against the law!
  • it could do more damage to your boiler
  • it could be dangerous - threatening the lives of you, your family and your neighbours.
You have to be qualified to work on gas pipework and gas fittings, even in your own home.
The boiler is defined as both an appliance and a gas fitting by the Gas Safety Regs (1998).
Only Gas Safe Registered engineers (and a few other trained & competent engineers) are allowed to remove the cover from your boiler and touch parts not intended for every day use by the home owner.
Unless you are qualified you cannot attempt any DIY repairs on your boiler - even parts of the boiler that do not seem gas related - such as replacing a fan.

DIY gas boiler repairs 

A minority of people do their own repairs and they probably think it is OK, but they are breaking the law:
The Gas Safety Installation & Use Regulations 1998:
3.—(1) No person shall carry out any work in relation to a gas fitting .... unless he is competent to do so. 
To understand that this sentence means you can't replace parts or repair your boiler we need a few definitions from the same regulations:
2.—(1) In these Regulations, ...—
  • “gas appliance” means an appliance designed for use by a consumer of gas for heating
  • “gas fittings” means gas pipework, valves...., and fittings, apparatus and appliances designed for use by consumers of gas for heating..... 
  • “work” in relation to a gas fitting includes any of the following activities carried out by any person, ....
  •   (a) installing or re-connecting the fitting 
  •   (b) maintaining, servicing, permanently adjusting, disconnecting, repairing, altering or renewing the fitting or purging it of air or gas;...... 
Leaves just one question:

DIY Gas Repairs - What Does Competency for Working on Gas Mean?

Competency is not just about being good at DIY, or following instructions, it has a specific definition. This quote is from the latest version of the Approved Code of Practice to the Gas Safety Regs (May 2013, draft):

  57         Anyone who works on a gas fitting.... Therefore, do-it-yourself gas engineers and those performing favours for friends and relatives all need to have the required competence.
  58        Competence is a combination of practical skill, training, knowledge, experience to carry out the job in hand safely, and ensuring the installation is left in a safe condition for use. Knowledge must be kept up-to-date with changes in the law, technology and safe working practice.
  60         Gas work should not be undertaken except:
  • a) by a person who has successfully completed an industry recognised training course followed by assessment of competence. Training that leads to assessment of competence in safe gas work must be recognised by the industry’s Standards Setting Authority. or
  • b) in the case of a previously Registered person, they have proved competence through a Certification Scheme. or
  • c) for those working at premises that fall outside the scope of the Regulations (see regulation 2(4) and associated guidance), by a person who has successfully completed an industry recognised training course followed by assessment of competence.
  61        Training should be of a standard to enable a gas engineer to achieve competence in the safe installation, purging, commissioning, testing, servicing, maintenance, repair, disconnection, modification and dismantling, of the gas systems, fittings and appliances with which they are working. This should include an adequate knowledge of associated services, such as water and electricity, of the dangers they may give rise to and the precautions to take.

More About the Law & DIY Repairing My Boiler

The draft Approved Code of Practice explais the Gas Regs and you can down load it from the HSE website - under current consultations:

Many working in the industry (especially qualified gas engineers) are concerned about how the regulations are implemented.  For example, the way gas fitting are sold without any restriction or prominent warnings implies that fitting and repairing gas appliances may be a simply D I Y task.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Is there any benefit to getting New Radiators to replace Old Rads?

You might think a radiator is just a radiator - it has no moving parts, it never wears out so once they are in they last forever.  And indeed they do!
I have seen refurbished houses with new boilers and old panel radiators, so old they were fitted before my husband became a plumber! 30 years +
Yes these radiators should be replaced for very good economic reasons.

Let us just re-cap on how our central heating works.  The boiler heats up water which is pumped around the house to all the radiators.

More efficient radiators are continuously coming on to the market - giving out greater heat from the same foot print with lower internal water temperatures and less water.

I will repeat that - modern radiators use less water - a lot less.  that is less water to be warmed up and pumped around your house.  So replacing old radiators with new could reduce your heating bills without you having to turn down the stat. 

I have been very interested to hear about serial feed radiators: possibly the most efficient money saving radiator in the UK today.  They heat up quicker, use little water and have a design which increases the radiant heat in comparison to older style rads (most heat from any type of radiator is actually convection rather than radiant heat).  Fro more info see Stelrad Radical:

According to a recent article by a product manager at Stelrad (one of the main manufacturers of British radiators):

  • modern radiators typically use about 24% less water than rads pre-2000 (only 13 years old);
  • for some years now rads have had convector fins to improve efficiency - this design itself has also been improved and Stelrad's K3 is the latest
  • in 2013 serial rads offer 10% reduction in energy bills.