How To Gas Rate An Appliance

With the squeeze on family finances looking set to continue and the only predictable element relating to energy prices being the increasing cost, energy efficiency has to be the main factor in addressing high-energy bills.

Perhaps you have an old but seemingly reliable boiler, or you have recently installed a new A rated boiler that is claimed to be ultra-efficient. How do you know that they are operating to, and within, acceptable and efficient operating tolerances?

There are procedures that can be used that will give a reasonably accurate indicator of how efficient a gas appliance is under normal operating circumstances. They can also give an indicator of problems relating to the appliance or the system to which it is connected.

The gas rating of an appliance to check its efficiency is not a complicated task.

It is simply a procedure used to measure the volume of gas consumed by an appliance during a timed period.  A reading is taken at the gas meter and from this it is possible to establish if the appliance under test is using the amount of gas it was designed to.

First look on the appliance that you wish to rate for some indication of its expected operating fuel consumption. If it is illegible, refer to the manufacturer’s guidance notes if you still have them. This information may be provided in Btu’s. There is a conversion that can be applied. We will cover that shortly.

Next, locate your gas meter and determine which type is installed.

There are three types in use. A digital metric meter, a digital imperial meter and the old-fashioned dial meter. The latter is almost obsolete.

Essentially, the task with the meter is to discover whether the meter is measuring the gas flowing through it in metric or imperial units.

Metric meters measure gas in cubic meters (m3).

Imperial meters measure gas in cubic feet (Ft3).

This is usually clearly marked on all three types of meters, normally to the right of the four or five digit number displaying the units of gas used. When reading the displayed meter numbers ignore any numbers in red sections or red dials. On metric meters, ignore any numbers after the decimal point.

You are now ready to start the procedure.

As a gas boiler is perhaps the most likely appliance to be gas rated to check its efficiency, the procedure for doing so will be used as the example.

It is a good idea to run the boiler on full capacity for around ten minutes to start with. This just ensures that it is operating at normal running temperature. Whilst this is happening; ensure all other gas appliances are turned off.

After ten minutes, turn off the boiler.

Now, return to the gas meter with some means of timing. A stopwatch or a watch with a second hand is ideal.

Take a reading from the meter and record this on a sheet of paper.

Return to the boiler and ensure that the thermostats and system programmers are over-ridden. This will guarantee that the boiler will operate at full capacity.

Turn on the boiler and at the same time start the timing. Continue timing the running boiler for exactly two minutes and then switch the boiler off.

Return to the gas meter and take a second reading from the numerical display and record this on the sheet of paper with the first reading.

You now have the information that is required and the appliance, and any others, can be returned to normal functioning.

Of the two sets of numbers you have recorded, subtract the lesser set of numbers from the greater. This will provide you with a number, which represents the number of units that the appliance has consumed in two minutes.

Multiply this figure by thirty to establish the number of units used in one hour.

This number will then represent either ft3 or the m3 of gas used.

If your meter has registered output as m3 it will need to be converted to ft3.

To convert m3 to ft3, multiply the m3 units used by 35.37.

Now for the three types of meters you will have a value expressed in ft3                               

It is now necessary to establish the calorific value (C.V.) of natural gas. All domestically used gases have a known calorific value.

Natural gas has a C.V. of 1040 Btu/ft

(If you have a system which runs on propane the C.V. will be 2496 Btu/ft3).

Multiply the value of used gas in ft 3 that you calculated earlier by the C.V. of your fuel type. For natural gas that figure will be 1040.

This will give you a figure which represents the number of Btu’s that your appliance uses in one hour.

To calculate the kW-h multiply by 0.000293 (2.93×10-4)

Either the Btu/hr figure or the kW-h figure should correspond to the rating indicated by the boiler specifications.

The kW-h figure will certainly allow for comparison with other appliances and aid the understanding of which appliances are contributing most of the cost to your energy bill, which will invariably be referenced and calculated in kW-h.












Although craftsmanship and artisan skills are much to be admired and in most cases encouraged, maintained and preserved, there are times when efficiency has to over-ride sentimentality.

Copper and steel have long been the choices of piping used by gas installers. It is easy to see why. Both are durable and relatively easy to work with once the skill of doing so has been mastered.

There is an alternative that has been rapidly gaining popularity in the U.K, firstly in industrial installations, and more recently in domestic environments.

This material is produced in the U.K. under the trademark name of TracPipe.

It is not that TracPipe has been around for only a short time. It was developed to be used in areas subjected to earthquake risk, notably Japan, and has been tried and tested all around the world since its first emergence on the market over thirty years ago.

TracPipe is composed of a flexible corrugated stainless steel tube (CSST) encased a 0.5 mm thick yellow polyethylene protective cover. This cover contains flame spread and smoke density inhibitors and is resistant to corrosion from moisture and the degrading factors of UV light.

TracPipe can be used for LPG, butane and natural gas, and the use of stainless steel as the core of the pipe offers a greater degree of protection against corrosion than can be expected from conventional materials.

There are considerable advantages to be gained by using TracPipe for gas installations. The flexibility of the material ensures that it can be easily bent and manipulated by hand without restricting the diameter of the internal core. This means that the pipe can be run continuously over long irregular angled distances without the need for cutting and joining or the insertion of joints around obstacles.

TracPipe comes in a variety of diameters ranging through 12, 15, 22, 28, 32, 40 and 50mm. It is supplied on reels of up to 90 meters, which is ideal for long unbroken runs of pipe-work. There are also kits available with shorter lengths of 5, 10 and 15 metres designed for smaller domestic installation jobs, typically the replacement of undersized pipe-work when installing a new boiler.

Where cutting and joining is required, this can be accomplished using a wheeled tube cutter with a stainless steel cutter blade. The polyethylene coating has to be pared back 25 mm from the cut end to allow the attachment of a dedicated fitting.

These special fittings, called AutoFlare, create a gas-tight metal-to-metal seal when fitted to Tracpipe ends or the connecting appliances. The couplings must be aligned correctly and tightened with a spanner or wrench. The connections are made without any need for jointing compounds or tapes, although any exposed stainless steel core should be covered with self-bonded silicone tape. The AutoFlare fittings can be used to couple TracPipe directly to a meter so long as the meter is securely and independently attached to a wall or rigid structure.

Although TracPipe is very light compared with conventional gas pipe-work it should still be supported in accordance with relevant installation standards but the size of clip required will be determined by the internal diameter of Tracpipe as opposed to the external diameter of copper pipe.

TracPipe can be laid externally in trenches without the need for extra protection. It is better suited to withstand post-installation ground settlement than conventional pipe-work. It is essential to thoroughly inspect the TracPipe for any sign of damage or weakness prior to laying. It can be laid in concrete or behind screed and plaster, however where TracPipe is laid through a wall, floor or standing it must be contained in a special plastic sleeve. The sleeve itself must sealed with flexible fire resistant sealant at one end only to ensure any leaking gas can escape from the sleeve. The sleeve must be attached to the structure using cement mortar. Wherever TracPipe is laid externally, the correct installation standards must be adhered to. Pipe-work carrying gas must not have joints buried externally.

The benefits of using TracPipe are considerable. It is quick to install, typically reducing installation time by up to 70% when compared with copper or steel pipe installations. No brazing or soldering is required and the need for pipe bending and threading equipment is eliminated. The material is lightweight and easy to transport yet also extremely durable and designed to last for the same period as the fabric of the property into which it is installed.

There are few unfavourable elements that would influence the substitution of conventional gas pipe installations with TracPipe, although cost might be a factor. TracPipe and in particular the AutoFlare fittings can be a little on the expensive side, but they can usually be offset by the considerable savings in time and labour.

In domestic settings, TracPipe can be used alongside more traditional pipe fittings and each material should be utilised to its best advantage.

A great plus for TracPipe is that it does not hold the same attraction to metal thieves as its copper counterpart and as such removes much of the security problems associated with vacant and renovation properties.

Always consult H.S.E. Gas Safety (Installations and Use) Regulations 1998 and any other statutory requirements in relation to gas installations.






Clearing Blocked Pipes and Drains

Of all the plumbing tasks frequently undertaken by plumbing engineers or homeowners, none can be quite so unpleasant than dealing with waste pipe blockages. Nevertheless, the removal of wastewater and the maintenance of the pipe network that carries it is an essential task. Blockages in the system can create a serious health threat.

Although the layout of drainage systems can vary between different dwellings, there are usually two common types. An older, two pipe system where WC waste is initially kept separate from sink, bath and shower waste, and a more modern, single stack system carrying away all the domestic waste down a central stack, usually enclosed within the building.

Regardless of the system, any external drains should be routinely inspected by lifting off the covers and checking that they are free flowing.

The responsibility of maintenance of the drain network from a single property is the responsibility of the homeowner up to the point where the drain enters the main sewer. Where drains are connected to a communal system, the responsibility for maintenance of external drain systems is a little more complex. If a blockage occurs in a communal drain, advice from the water provider should be sought.

With sinks, baths and showers, usually the first sign of an impending blockage will be a noticeable slowing down of water drainage. Generally, this is limited to a single drain point. The blockage is usually caused by a build up of fat, grease, hair and other domestic debris, which gradually accumulates in the pipe restricting the flow.

This can be a good time to use one of the proprietary drain clearing chemical products that are widely available. These are very effective at breaking down the substances that are restricting drainage, and if successfully applied will prevent an eventual total blockage. However, care should be taken when using these products and the manufacturer’s instructions must be carefully followed.

If the slow drainage is not addressed a complete blockage may eventually occur.

If an individual sink fails to empty when all other draining points are working normally, the blockage will probably lie in the sink’s branch pipe. For an isolated blockage in a kitchen sink, a bathroom sink, bath or shower, the use of a manual plunger should be the first remedy to attempt. The rim of the rubber plunger can be smeared with petroleum jelly to affect a good watertight seal. The plunger should be lowered into the trapped water and placed over the waste outlet. There must be enough water in the sink to cover the plunger’s rubber cup. Any overflow connection to the sink, or a double sink drain point, must be sealed with a wet cloth or duct tape to contain the force created. The plunger handle should then be operated up and down repeatedly. This should loosen any plug of debris.

There are plungers that are available that utilise compressed air to free blocked drain points. The pump is manually operated and has a similar function to a plunger, however the pump uses air to dislodge the blockage and force it out through the pipe. It is wise to not pump too much compressed air into pipes, particularly those with push fit connections. Compressing the pipe contents excessively can force connections apart.

If a plunger fails, the next approach is to try clearing the U-bend or bottle trap.

These traps are designed to hold water and act as a seal to prevent foul odours from the drains entering the building.

It is advisable to wear rubber gloves to avoid skin contact with waste drainage fluids.

Firstly, place a bucket or an alternative receptacle to catch any draining liquids. On a U-bend, or tubular trap as it is sometimes referred, locate the clearing eye and unscrew it with a small wrench. On a bottle trap, simply remove the large access cap. It is often found that an accumulation of fat and other debris has blocked the base of the trap. Allow the contents of either trap to drain into the receptacle. Occasionally it is necessary to disconnect the complete trap if a clearing eye is not present. If this is not the location of the blockage, probe the section of pipe-work beyond the trap with a length of hook ended wire. If the pipe is clear, then the blockage could be in the branch leading to the single stack or to the outside hopper and vertical waste pipe.

If the pipe leading to the central stack is blocked, it may be possible to access it from the access plug located at the drainpipe union. This can be opened and the branch pipe probed from that end. If it is observed that the stack pipe itself is blocked it would be wise to call in a professional plumbing engineer to investigate further.

For a blocked outside hopper and vertical waste pipe, the hopper should be cleared of any debris and the down pipe checked at its base or the union with the main drain. External hoppers, gullies and guttering should be regularly cleaned to prevent a build up of debris, particularly dead leaves, from accumulating.

Main drain blockages are best cleared using draining rods. These can be either purchased from DIY  outlets, or alternatively rented from hire companies. A set of draining rods can also be used for chimney cleaning with the correct brush attachment.

A blocked main drain can often be located by the smell emanating from it, or discharge observed overflowing from under the cover. Removing the cover and inserting draining rods, with a claw attachment, and applying a pulling and pushing motion should eventually reach and dislodge the blockage. Rods are connected together individually and must be operated in a clockwise twisting motion. Never twist inserted rods in an anticlockwise motion as this could detach the rods leaving them stuck in the drain.

If a blocked main drain runs under the property, specialist advice must be sought. The release of sewage and related gasses under a property can create a serious health hazard.

For a blocked WC, a special plunger can be rented from hire companies. These are most effective when used correctly. It is most important to get a good seal around the opening to the air trap of the toilet bowl. A general plunger motion should push away any blockage.

Plungers and draining rods must be properly cleaned after use, particularly if they have been hired.

Where the blockage appears to be in the pipe beyond the homeowner’s drain and at the connection with the main sewer, the water supply company must be informed.

Regular cleaning, maintenance and disinfecting of drainage systems will contribute to efficient wastewater drainage. Avoiding the disposal of fats, greases, rags and disposable nappies down waste water systems will certainly prevent blockages in the domestic system and also the wider sewer network.

Although most domestic drainage problems are easy to rectify, the nature of the procedures may mean that the most competent of DIY operatives may prefer to engage the services of a plumbing engineer to do the work.


DIY Plumbing Safety Basics

In the current economic climate, householders are being forced into making hard decisions about domestic maintenance and improvement projects. With cost considerations being the greatest deterrent when it comes to appointing professional contractors to undertake such work, many homeowners are resorting to DIY to accomplish tasks.

DIY plumbing can be a satisfying and rewarding undertaking. It is ideal for getting hands-on experience and gaining a greater understanding of plumbing techniques and issues. Learning the principles and complexities that lie behind the shiny exterior of copper pipe circuits and installed appliances can be most enlightening. What was once taken for granted becomes a fascinating insight into the interaction between metals and liquids with concepts from physics and mathematics, and a good dose of chemistry along the way.

But, as with any action the human mind turns its hand to, there is always an element of danger and risk involved in performing the action. Although it might seem pessimistic, remembering that every DIY task you undertake has the potential to end up as a disaster will help you to keep vigilant about possible dangers.

In a professional working environment, regular risk assessments and hazard analysis procedures are implemented primarily to prevent injury, but also to minimise negligence through the defence of demonstrating due diligence.

In the home, the homeowner is responsible for ensuring safe working practices and ensuring that any work undertaken poses no risk to third parties during and after completion.

When it comes to safety issues and subsequent injuries, what might in retrospect seem blatantly obvious can, prior to an incident, be easily overlooked.

To minimise the risk of injury when undertaking domestic DIY plumbing work the following suggestions should be regarded as good practice.

Always carefully assess the work to be undertaken to ensure that it is practical and within the capabilities of the homeowner. Research the procedures and become acquainted with the tasks involved.

Keep children and domestic animals well away from any DIY procedure until it has been fully and safely completed.

Read any instructions thoroughly prior to commencing work and keep instructions at hand for reference, following and performing them in correct sequence.

Ensure that all the equipment for the task is obtained prior to commencing work and that the required tools are available to accomplish the task.

Know where the mains water stopcock is located, ensure that it operates freely and can be accessed quickly in an emergency.

Take care when working on pressurised systems and never work on them whilst they are still hot or still pressurised.

Try to ensure that another capable adult is present when undertaking DIY work and is able to respond if you become incapacitated or any other emergency arises.

Ensure that appliances attached to the plumbing network are turned off and any contributing electrical circuits are disconnected.

When altering plumbing networks ensure that earth-bonding attachments are re-connected or replaced on completion.

Wear protective eyewear when cutting materials or when there is the potential for other debris or hazardous materials to enter the eyes.

Wear dust masks in dusty environments.

Wear suitable and effective ear protection when operating noisy equipment, particularly in confined spaces.

Read instructions on tins containing paints, solvents and other potentially hazardous chemicals and applications prior to using them.

Wear suitable barrier skin protection when handling potentially dangerous chemicals and use them only in well-ventilated environments.

Take adequate fire prevention precautions when operating blowlamps and torches. Take care to prevent accidental skin contact with flames and heated surfaces.

Do not attempt DIY tasks whilst under the influence of drink or drugs and postpone any jobs if you are feeling under the weather.

Keep flammable substances well away from flames and any source of ignition.

Ensure ladders are of the appropriate type for requirement and are suitably secured.

Try to ensure that any working area is adequately lit. Use an inspection lamp.

Take care when working in lofts to avoid falling through into the room below.

Try to keep working areas clear of debris and other potential trip hazards. Clean as you go, is a good maxim.

Do not ignore any strange odours, particularly domestic gas.

Keep a well-stocked first aid kit handy.

Never insert fingers into push-fit plumbing fittings, particularly shark bite or similar.

Wear appropriate protective clothing and strong footwear.

Try to wear protective headgear. In confined spaces watch out for nails protruding from surfaces.

Never use electrical tools in wet areas and always use an RCD device on electrical appliance circuits.

Wash hands thoroughly before eating and drinking.

Be aware that oily rags can sometimes catch fire simply by spontaneous combustion. Never leave them in the work area after completion.

It is never a good idea to carry tools, such as screwdrivers, in your pocket. They can be lethal if you should fall onto them.

Make yourself aware of plumbing or other relevant regulations in respect of any DIY work you attempt.

This short compilation of safety suggestions is by no means exhaustive. Much can be said for anticipating an issue rather than ending up having to deal with the consequences of it. Any DIY work undertaken with confidence and with an awareness of safety issues can be as competently completed as most professional plumbing installations, and at a fraction of the cost.

They key to working confidently and safely is to always ask for advice and guidance when in doubt.




Hybrid Heating Systems

Concerns about climate change and the escalating costs of fossil fuels are driving technologists to develop increasingly fuel-efficient appliances. Highly efficient condensing boilers have become the standard for domestic gas installations and energy efficient light bulbs are now the norm in almost every home.

New ideas and techniques for improving energy efficiency that, in the past, might have seemed quite impractical are now being developed commercially. This is mainly because the rising cost of energy is making them more attractive to consumers and manufacturers alike.

The need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels is very much at the core of the current development and investment, which is aimed at encouraging homeowners to change their energy usage behaviours. Much of this emphasis is directed towards the use of green and sustainable energy sources as a replacement either for, or as a complimentary input to, domestic energy requirements.

A hybrid system is designed to utilise energy from two or more sources to minimise the fossil fuel element. It does this by supplementing fossil fuel energy with alternative energy sources usually of a green or sustainable nature.

The hybrid concept has been used in motor vehicles for many years and is rapidly becoming the preference for motorists buying a new or replacement car.

Hybrid technology for the home can combine traditional fossil fuel burning appliances with energy sourced from solar, wind, biomass, and ground and air alternatives.

The biggest drawback with most renewable energy sources is the initial cost of purchasing and installing the equipment required to collect the energy. This energy, which, although abundant, varies in its reliability and output and consequently requires special methods of energy concentration and storage to support its feasibility. The equipment to enable this is currently still expensive to manufacture.

While the concept of hybrid heating is not new, electronic technology, increased efficiency and the cost of fuel is now making hybrid-heating systems more affordable for the energy conscious homeowner.

Heat pumps utilised by stand-alone and hybrid systems work in a similar way to a refrigerator, although the process is reversed. Heat is extracted from the ground or air and used to provide a source of hot water for the home.

Ground source heat pumps are ideal for properties where there is a relatively useful area of land attached to the property for either horizontal or vertical heat collection pipe-work.

Where space is a consideration, or where the installation cost is a factor, air source heat pumps are a suitable and effective alternative.

With a hybrid system, when the cost of extracting the heat from an external source becomes more expensive than using a fossil fuel source, the system will automatically transfer operation to the fossil fuel source. This process can save a substantial amount of fuel and money. With some systems, the heat pump function can be reversed to provide indoor cooling during hot weather.

The hybrid system is programmed by the user to maintain an optimum balance between energy efficiency, the cost of fuel and demand for hot water.

For most of the year, the hybrid system operates using the air heat pump to provide heating for the property, with the gas boiler used for boosting the temperature of the domestic hot water. When the external temperature drops below a set minimum, the air heat pump becomes less efficient and the hybrid moves into a combination function using the boiler and the heat pump. When the external temperature drops further, the gas boiler becomes the predominant heating element as the heat pump becomes less economical to run.

Finally, the pump can no longer operates in an efficient manner and ceases working, leaving the boiler to operate independently to provide all the necessary heating and hot water.

Hybrid systems incorporating air source pumps and a gas boiler can be purchased as a complete unit for installation, with all parts and components manufactured as the combined assembly of a dedicated heating system. This can be an attractive proposition for new self-build and complete renovation projects.

They can also be purchased and installed as a bolt on to a suitable current gas installation utilising existing boiler and radiators; although air source heat pumps usually perform better with under-floor heating systems or warm air heating rather than with radiator systems because of the lower water temperatures required to maintain a consistently comfortable room temperature.

In order to achieve an optimum level of performance, the property should be well insulated and have a low heat loss. It is also preferable to engage a heating specialist to carry out a full heat loss calculation. This will take into consideration the age and size of the property and current energy usage patterns to determine whether a hybrid system will be suitable and efficient. Heat pumps are not always be the best option for homes using mains gas.

Where it is calculated that a hybrid system is an appropriate means of supplementing the existing fuel installation, consideration must be given for the placement of the external part of the system. It will require a position outside the property where a unit can be fitted to a wall or secured on the ground. It will also need ample space around it to facilitate a good flow of air for heat exchange. The systems work most effectively when the air outside is cold.

Installation of a hybrid system may be able to attract payment from the government’s Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI). The Domestic RHI was introduced in April 2014 and is open to homeowners, private landlords, social landlords and self-builders. The Domestic RHI will pay a tariff of 7.3p/kWh produced on the air-source heat pump section of a hybrid system over a period of seven years.

To qualify for the payment, the renewable energy part of the system must be able to independently meter the kWh produced and it must be installed by an accredited Micro-generation Certification Scheme (MCS) approved installer.

However, the future availability of any of the incentives associated with energy efficiency measures and carbon reduction strategies is currently under government review. It is important for any homeowner considering incorporating renewable technology into their home improvement plans to review the situation in respect of funding etc prior to commencing any work.

Installation costs vary depending on the system chosen. Complete systems cost around £5000-£7000. This is comparable with a small ground source heat pump installation although without the disruption and excavations. The systems usually carry a minimum three-year warranty.

The savings on energy expenditure will depend on usage and the specific property characteristics but manufacturer’s claim improved efficiency levels as high as 135%.

As the popularity of hybrid systems increases with time, the purchase and installation costs will inevitably fall. With around three quarters of domestic energy usage being attributed to heating and domestic hot water demand, the use of hybrid systems has the potential to ensure that much of that demand is met by renewable energy systems.


Choosing the Right Radiator

Domestic wet central heating radiators are moving up in the home decor market, from the unobtrusive to the chic. Gone is the association with the community institution and the low profile room fitting. The functional bland heat emitters are becoming sophisticated energy efficient focal points, adding character and charm to their surroundings. They have become statements about their owner’s lifestyle, preferences and ambitions.

If that has you looking at your old existing central heating radiators and thinking it might be time for an upgrade, you are probably correct. However, if you have recently installed the latest conventional system you might now be wishing you had considered a more futuristic and designer focused approach.

When it comes to replacing radiators, you are no longer restricted to adopting a like for like replacement. There is now an array of stylish radiators in a wide variety of technical specifications, materials and types of construction.

For new build installations, building conversions and renovations, modern and period, the choice available is wide and growing.

So where do you start when it comes to choosing radiators for new or existing systems. It can be an interesting exercise when looking at upgrading an existing system to discover whether the boiler currently satisfies the demand required by the radiators to efficiently heat each room’s area.

The output of a radiator is rated in BTU’s/hr. and kWh. This information is usually found on the back of a radiator. For maximum efficiency, the radiator’s output should match the room’s heat requirement.

In order to make a calculation to determine the required output from a radiator, the area of the room should be calculated in square feet. As a rough indication of requirement, multiply this figure by four to convert to BTUs. To get a more reliable figure, other information like the area and number of windows, the number of external walls, the rooms above and the floor composition are required.

There are free online calculators that can process this information and provide a comprehensive BTU’s/hr. and kWh requirement.

Once this calculation for all the rooms has been established it should be checked against the boiler’s output rating to ensure that the boiler has been, and can continue providing, the required energy to satisfy the radiator and room requirements.  In most cases, it will be found that boiler capacity exceeds the central heating requirements.

The same room calculations are required to determine the whole central heating system requirements in new build and full installations.

When purchasing new radiators it is important to establish whether they are to be installed into an open or sealed central heating system.

Armed with this information, prospective radiator purchasers should consider style and efficiency. Modern panel radiators are more of an efficient convection device than their predecessors.  They can be described as Single Panel, Double Panel and Double Convector Radiators. They incorporate fins that allow air to circulate through them. This creates convection currents that heat a room more efficiently. The front panel also radiates heat. The type and number required will depend on the size of the room and its heating energy requirement.

Column Radiators, as the name suggests are based on the traditional model of columns of radiator pipes. Original old column radiators can be purchased to give a genuine nostalgic effect or for the enhancement of period surroundings, however these must be fully restored and pressure checked to ensure that they are robust enough for modern systems.

Designer radiators have become vogue for modern homes. In order to compliment the cutting edge style of technology and innovation found in sophisticated room decor, these radiators incorporate sleek aesthetic design with stunning visual impact. With an abundance of shapes, colours and sizes available, they require some creative forethought to establish how they might work with your interior design ideas. Increasingly they are becoming custom finished to a customer’s personal requirement.

When it comes to the materials used in the construction of radiators there is now considerable choice available. Good old cast iron is great for creating period ambience in large rooms. Traditionally the construction material for column radiators it continues to radiate heat long after the central heating is turned off. The drawback with cast iron is its weight. It does require a strong floor to provide adequate support.

Stainless steel is another consideration. This prestigious material has a number of desirable properties.  Stainless steel does not rust, however it is important that the correct grade of stainless steel is used in radiator manufacture. There are some grades of stainless steel that are not suitable for radiators. It is important to choose carefully as cheaper products may fail to deliver long-term durability. Stainless steel can offer some attractive finishes which are very easy to clean.

Aluminium radiators are lightweight super-conductors. They are extremely responsive to temperature, which means they heat up and cool down rapidly. This material is perfect for modern homes where space can be limited. Aluminium is non-corrosive and, because of its versatility, can accommodate a narrow gauge of internal heating fluid containment, which aids energy efficiency. Aluminium radiators come in a range of colours and finishes and can be selected to harmonise with the room’s internal decor. When it comes to function, attractiveness and economy aluminium is often the material of choice.

Metals continue to provide the mainstream materials for domestic radiators.

When mixing different radiator metals within a central heating system consideration should be given to the potential for acceleration of corrosion. It would be appropriate to seek further professional advice on the matter.

Emerging onto the radiator market are glass and stone models, which are extremely energy efficient. These materials are superb for incorporating artwork and sculpture into their designs.

Choosing the right radiator is becoming a decision based on much more than functionality.

As demand for more efficient and stylish radiators continues to increase, innovative materials and designs are changing perspectives on the solely utility perception of domestic central heating systems. Sleek design, high-energy efficiency and improved durability in radiators are the current focus. These attributes coupled with high-tech gas boilers and futuristic control systems will ensure that homeowners can look forward to central heating systems that deliver on style and performance.

New Gas Fire Installations

As the daylight hours grow shorter, boilers and central heating systems are awakened from their summer sleep. Room sensors and thermostats detect the changing weather and temperatures and automatically command heat to provide comfortable living conditions for house occupants.

All done silently and efficiently.

The popularity of domestic central heating was born on the availability of cheap energy. Cleaner and more efficient than the dirty, smoky coal fires that it replaced, gas and electric central heating systems were heralded as the ethical and social innovation to improve air quality in towns and cities.

In addition, of course, coal was expensive in comparison with gas and electricity. Most of the energy and heat disappeared up the chimney as cold draughts replaced the lost warm air.

As a result, old fireplaces were boarded up and new properties were built without the familiar extending chimneys that had for centuries crowned the building, and whose rising smoke indicated the occupancy of a dwelling.

Although central heating systems have been perfected to the point where they are almost completely self-regulating in their operation and require little manual intervention, they are by design, unobtrusive and unseen.

Today, many of us yearn for the nostalgic warmth of a real fire. The dancing flames and glowing coals of a focal point around which a family can sit, rosy cheeked, and enjoy its radiant heat. But of course, bring back the dust and ash, the fuss and palaver trying to light the thing and the acrid smoke billowing into the room with each chimney downdraught and the nostalgic dream soon evaporates.

However, there is an alternative that can bring back the enchantment of a living flame fire without the hassle of burning solid fuel. Modern gas fires have come a long way from their earlier fire clay element counterparts. Today’s gas fires can provide the illusion of a coal or wood burning grate, or an enclosed stove heater, without the mess usually associated with the real thing.

Regardless of which gas-heating appliance the householder is drawn to, gas still remains the cheapest and most efficient fuel for heating a domestic property.

Modern gas fires are now made in a variety of styles and formats and are designed to accommodate any existing chimney vents or dedicated wall ventilation systems for dealing with the removal of combustion gases.

For purely decorative effect with very limited heat production, open fire, gas log effect appliances can be installed directly into an existing chimney system.

These fires can be up to 50% efficient and produce around 3.5 kilowatts of heat output. These fires require a 100 cm ventilation provision direct to the outside air.

There are flue-less gas fires that can be installed which are ideal in situations where a chimney or conventional flue access might be problematic. These types of gas fire are relatively cheap to buy and install and can be fitted onto any wall in the room, providing that there is a suitable gas supply. They cannot however be installed in bedrooms or bathrooms. The room size must be at or above the minimum area as stated in the manufacturer’s installation instructions and a trickle vent must be provided to ensure adequate room ventilation. These gas fires can also produce up to 3.5 kilowatts of heat output, and are 100% efficient due to the absence of a flue. Some models contain catalytic filters to remove by-products of combustion, but as these fires also have oxygen monitors, which will cut off the gas supply if air quality deteriorates, they are very safe to use. The only drawback is the level of condensation that is produced which can be a problem during extended use.

For gas fires that are required to produce high heat output, glass fronted balanced flue or power flue appliances offer very efficient performance. Both these types of systems offer around 85% efficiency. A balanced flue system requires a dedicated flue, which can be expensive to install in the absence of an existing chimney. The installation cost will vary depending on the length of new flue required. Power flue systems can be installed anywhere and the flue pipe-work is narrow enough to be installed under the floor if necessary. The biggest problem with these gas fires is that the heat output can be too great for a well insulated home. As with any heating appliance, it is a good idea to think carefully about the size of appliance required and the heat output that is likely to be delivered.

Before considering installing a gas fire, particularly one which is intended to fit into an existing fireplace, it is important to obtain a survey to ensure that the correct appliance is installed. Smoke tests will evaluate the capabilities of a chimney to provide legal requirements of flue gas removal. Old chimneys can sometimes have protrusions or voids, which can interfere with airflow. Shared chimneys can also be problematic. Many older chimneys that pre-date the 1960’s are brick or concrete lined. Where a coal fire might have been used in previous times, corrosion of the chimney interior is likely to cause problems.

This situation can be remedied by installing an aluminium or stainless steel chimney liner. The chimney liner will also overcome any problems associated with an over-sized flue.

Although gas fires incorporate safety devices to prevent dangerous gases escaping, it is important not to overlook any faults that might occur after installation. Sometimes a drop in gas pressure created by another device operating can cause the fire to cut out. Excessive chimney draw can lift the pilot light off the thermocouple causing frequent cut out. If a problem is detected, the appliance should be switched off and not used until it has been checked by a qualified engineer and any contributing inefficiency rectified.

The practicalities of installation are generally quite straightforward. However, installation must be correctly carried out in accordance with the appliance manufacturer’s instructions and with regard for relevant legislation in respect of Gas Safe and Building Regulations. The installation should be carried out by a competent person. Any gas connections and commissioning procedures must be performed by a Gas Safe registered engineer.

Any home that utilises gas-burning appliances should have CO and smoke monitors installed. Battery monitors must be regularly checked to ensure continued operation. The best monitors are connected to the electricity mains supply to ensure reliability in the event of a problem occurring.





Landlord’s Gas Safety Certificates (CP12)

As a landlord, the obligations and legal compliance measures can often seem quite overwhelming. Coupled with these are the never-ending changes and amendments, and the growing lists of legislation the landlord is required to comply with in order to operate within the law.

Repairs, maintenance, energy performance certificates and ensuring electrical installations are safe. On top of those comes the increasing competition in the rental market, problems created by disruptive and destructive tenants and the loss of rental income.

However, the landlord does have statutory responsibilities that are primarily designed to provide a safe living environment for tenants and, importantly for the landlord, protection from prosecution or civil action in the event of an incident.

Landlord’s Gas Safety Certificates are an example of such legislation.

The Gas Safety Regulations 1998 place a statutory duty on landlords of residential properties to ensure that all gas appliances, pipe work and flues serving the property are maintained in a safe condition.

To comply with the regulations landlords are required to obtain a Gas Safety check on an annual basis and obtain a Gas Safety Certificate for each individual residential property supplied with gas and owned by the landlord.

This also applies to leases where the lease is provided for less than seven years.

A Gas Safety check is not required on non-residential property or gas fires in public houses.

This certificate, which is also known as a Gas Safety Record or a C.P.12, is issued by a qualified Gas Safe registered engineer after a comprehensive schedule of safety checks have been successfully completed. These checks are carried out on all gas appliances and the pipe-work and vents associated with them. All tenants have a right to view a current Gas Safe Certificate prior to moving into a property.

Gas Safe registered engineers have undergone special training and assessment to ensure they are competent and qualified to work safely and legally with gas.

All registered gas engineers possess a Gas Safe Register photo ID card with their personal licence and business registration number, which also lists the gas related procedures they are qualified to undertake. To be certain of the legitimacy of their authority to issue a Gas Safety Certificate always ask to see their Gas Safe Register ID card prior to engaging them.

A Gas Safe record must contain:

1.  The gas engineer’s details.

2.  Inspection installation address.

3.  The landlord or agent’s name and address.

4.  Appliance details, flue test and inspection details.

5.  The date on which the appliance or flue was checked.

6.  The number of appliances and flues checked.

7.  The details of any faults and rectification work carried out.

8. The date of the certificate’s issue.

Where any equipment has failed a Gas Safe check, that equipment may not be operated again until the defect has been rectified. A Gas Safe registered engineer must carry out this remedial work. It is advisable to keep copies of any record that shows work has been carried out on appliances and flues identified as being defective during a Gas Safe check.

The landlord must keep a copy of each Gas Safe safety check for at least two years and must provide a copy of the latest safety check record to the property’s tenants within twenty-eight days of the check being completed.

A landlord must also provide a copy of the latest safety check record to a new tenant prior to them occupying a property.

Gas appliances, which are the property of the tenant, and any flue or chimney to which the tenants own appliances are solely connected to, do not fall under the responsibilities of a landlord and as such are not subject to the legal requirement of a Gas Safe check.

Although inspection is a legal requirement on an annual basis, a landlord would be wise to procure a new Gas Safe check on the commencement of a new tenancy even though a current one exists. This can provide both the tenant and the landlord with the peace of mind that everything is in order after the previous tenants have vacated the property.

A landlord is also required to ensure that gas appliances receive maintenance procedures in line with an appliance manufacturer’s recommendations and a tenant is required to report any gas appliance or related problems to the landlord, and not to use defective gas appliances until they have been repaired or replaced.

Where a landlord uses the services of an agent or management company, the landlord has to ensure that where the responsibility for gas checks and gas appliance maintenance is passed to the company, a contract clearly states that responsibility.

With regard to carbon monoxide detectors, there is now a statutory requirement for landlords to install them in the same room following the installation of a new or replacement gas-heating appliance. However, any decent landlord should consider installing hard-wired carbon monoxide detectors within a tenanted property on ethical grounds.

Finally, any prospective purchaser of a property utilising gas appliances with a view to subsequently letting that property would be well advised to have the gas system thoroughly checked over prior to purchase. The cost of bringing such gas installations up to the required Gas Safety standards could be considerable.