Effective Water Pipe Insulation

The loft has been insulated with a thick bed of fibre blanket. The walls are sandwiched with cavity wall insulation. Even the electricity supply is insulated.

Insulation acts as a barrier. It conserves and protects.

Domestic water pipes require insulation for a variety of reasons. The most common reason for installing water pipe insulation is as a protection from frost. Water Regulations require that all external domestic water service pipes and fittings are protected against the possibility of frost damage. This can be achieved by the addition of suitable insulation material and by giving careful consideration to the location and the competent installation of pipe-work.

Although external overflow pipes do not normally require insulation, condensate outlet pipes from condensing boilers certainly do. A frozen condensate pipe may prevent a condensing boiler from operating.

Where the installation of conventional insulation products may be problematic, possibly because of limited space, an alternative product is usually available.  Many plumbers merchants can supply self-regulating trace heating tape. This tape is wrapped around the pipe and automatically senses a drop in temperature. This causes the tape to operate producing a gentle heat, which prevents the pipe from freezing.

Although not an insulation material, it is effective at UK winter temperatures. However, it does require an electricity supply.

Water pipe insulation has a number of uses within the home.

Pipe insulation can reduce the risk of frost damage in winter where a property might be vacant for long periods. It should also be installed on exposed pipe-work that has been located above the insulation layer in a loft.

Exposed water pipes in garages, cellars and in unheated conservatories should also be insulated against frost.

It is worth bearing in mind that insulation does not totally protect pipe-work from frost. It only delays the penetrative qualities of freezing air from affecting the water in the pipe. Depending on the quality and thickness of the insulation layer, and the professionalism of the installation, frost will eventually freeze pipes.

The periodic flow of water through domestic pipe-work will help to prevent ice formation in insulated pipes. However, if the property is to remain unoccupied during the winter months, total drainage of the domestic water system should be considered.

Insulation can also be used within the property to prevent condensation forming on cold water pipes. Cold pipes attract moisture in the air. This condenses on the pipe-work and trickles downwards, where it collects on floorings and carpets causing staining and damp. It can also cause pipe-work corrosion and the formation of undesirable moulds and microbes. When purchasing insulation material to combat condensation on cold water pipes it is important to choose a type with a water vapour barrier coating.

Another important pipe network that will benefit from insulation is the hot water and central heating pipe-work. Where a combi boiler or a hot water storage cylinder is located some distance from the hot water outlets, a substantial amount of heat can be lost. Hot water remaining in pipes after a demand will dissipate heat into their surroundings. When a new demand is initiated, the now cooled water will have to exit the pipe-work before hot water from the source reaches the outlet. Insulating these pipes can help to address the problem and reduce boiler gas usage.

Central heating pipes running from the boiler to service radiator and other space heating appliances can lose considerable amounts of heat into their surroundings prior to reaching the appliances. As these heat-carrying pipes are located within the property, it has sometimes been thought that the lost heat was actually conserved within a well-insulated property. However, with the introduction of room thermostats and zone control systems, this is no longer a practical viewpoint.

Where hot water central heating pipes are not adequately insulated, the extra heat escaping from the pipes into the domestic environment cannot be controlled. Consequently, expensive domestic environment control systems become ineffective and subsequently the boiler fuel running costs are increased.

Insulation has an additional practical use as a safety device. Hot pipes can cause serious burns to children and vulnerable adults who may accidentally come into contact with them. Insulating hot pipes in locations where injury could occur is an important consideration.

Pipe insulation can also act as a protective layer to prevent pipe damage from crushing and as an effective sound insulator to prevent noise being carried and distributed along pipes.

When it comes to choosing a suitable pipe insulating material there are a plethora of different manufacturers and their products on the market. Generically they can be classified as either fibre or foam products.

Most fibre materials are specifically designed to be used in industrial environments. However, fibreglass and certain other mineral fibre products are suitable for use in domestic settings. When installed on cold water supply pipes, they may require the addition of a plastic coating to prevent condensation accumulating and dripping from the material.

There are also a number of spray foam materials that can be applied. These products have adhesive properties and harden to form a protective coating. They can be difficult to remove if the need arises. If a leak develops underneath these products, the source can be difficult to locate and access.

For domestic use, tubular sleeve foam materials are ideal. These often come pre-slit horizontally and are easy to install by slipping them over the pipes. They can be cut to size and manipulated to accommodate bends and junctions.

Flexible, closed cell, foam rubber sleeves are probably the best type available. Because they are of a closed cell formation, they prevent condensation from forming through capillary attraction and are highly efficient insulators. Some branded products also incorporate mould inhibiting compounds and are generally regarded as the most reliable, environmentally stable and durable products available. A two-metre length of such a product should cost around £5 – £6.

The effectiveness of insulation materials is influenced by the external environment and the circulating fluids in the pipe-work.  The diameter of the pipe is an important factor when choosing the appropriate insulation material. The smaller the pipe diameter, the greater the required insulation value of the insulation material. This is often referred to as the R-value. An R-value of at least four is considered an acceptable standard for most domestic requirements.

When installing pipe insulation it is important to ensure that the pipe is clean. The insulating material must be in direct contact with the pipe and once in place, the split tubes section joints should be glued with proprietary products or securely taped with duct tape. No gaps should be apparent. Cutting and manipulating the material should ensure that even the most complicated pipe layouts can be effectively insulated.

A well-insulated property with adequately insulated pipe-work will improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. Protection of pipe-work against frost will reduce the chances of frozen pipes in winter, helping to prevent an interruption to supply and the consequences of water damage from burst pipes. It is also important to consider the insurance implications of unsatisfactory water pipe insulation in respect of a subsequent water damage related claim.








New Boiler Installation Problems

Having a new boiler installed can make a huge difference in operating efficiency and a considerable reduction in energy costs. As nearly all new domestic boiler installations are now required to be condensing appliances by law, most homeowners are delighted by the benefits. New condensing boilers are lean operators when correctly installed and coupled to sophisticated modern programmers and thermostats.

Over the past few years there have been a number of initiatives introduced to attract homeowners into scrapping their old, inefficient boilers. Grants, free installations and competitive finance packages, have proved to be quite attractive to homeowners. Heating engineers and plumbers have also seized the opportunity to cash in on the great energy efficiency spend.

But what happens when things go wrong?

Most new gas boiler installations are carried out by very experienced gas engineers who have many years of boiler working experience under their belts. Coupled with this they are required by law to be registered with Gas Safe. In order for them to be registered, they must undergo rigorous training and assessment procedures designed to establish competence and encourage safe installation practices and procedures.

It is against the law for any person who is not competent to undertake work on a gas appliance.

However, being Gas Safe registered does not necessarily of itself mean that a gas engineer has the interests of the homeowner at heart. In what can be a very competitive market, with the major energy companies muscling in with the ability to negotiate advantageous bulk purchasing deals from boiler manufacturers, cutting corners to save costs can become an issue.

For some homeowners, the leaflet pushed through the letterbox offering a deal too good to miss on a new boiler installation can be the beginning of an unexpected nightmare.

The quoted installation costs might seem attractive, but the boilers are often of unreliable eastern European manufacture and the finance associated with the packages can have hidden costs and unfavourable interest rates attached.

The danger with these operatives, quite apart from the questionability of the safety and suitability of the installations, is the difficulty of obtaining redress if things go wrong.

Warranties may turn out to be void due to poor installation, finance deals may have variable interest rates and contacting the installer may become problematic. Finance agreements can be sold on to other brokers and financial houses, and some installers have a bad habit of periodically ceasing trading as one company and starting up again as another.

Even with the better-known national boiler installation businesses, things can sometimes go wrong. New boilers can be installed that have inherent faults that, if not rectified, develop quickly into customer satisfaction issues. On occasions, and despite considerable investigation, the cause of the fault is never pinpointed. Manufactures and installers struggle to remedy the situation with neither keen to accept liability.

With a myriad of clauses and exemptions built into warranties it can be difficult to know whether a boiler fails to operate correctly because of an existing fault, or whether the fault results from damage caused by poor plumbing, or problems with central heating components.

Conversely, it can be a case that an incorrectly sized or poorly installed boiler causes considerable damage to a central heating system and to the occupant’s furnishings.

So, when things go wrong, where does the boiler purchaser stand?

Well, where a boiler has been purchased from the installer or the installer’s company, then they are responsible for putting right any installation problems that are obvious immediately, or within a few days of installation. They are also required to replace a faulty boiler should the need arise. It is their responsibility to take the matter further and seek their own redress from the boiler manufacturer. This matter is covered under the Sale of Goods Act 1982.

Where the boiler has been independently purchased by the homeowner, then the homeowner must contact the boiler manufacturer before engaging a gas engineer to investigate the problem. It is the boiler manufacturer’s responsibility to quickly remedy the situation. The homeowners could invalidate any obligations on the part of the manufacturer if they proceed to try to repair a fault independently.

Where householders have unwittingly entered into an installation contract with an un-reputable company, they may find that seeking redress can be quite unproductive. It is often advantageous to have paid for installation on a credit card. This can sometimes provide insurance cover when goods are not of a serviceable nature. In these cases, the purchaser should contact the credit card company.

The small claims court can be a final tool in the armoury of the homeowner when new boiler installation issues remain unresolved. The mere threat of legal action can make slow to respond companies jump into action. Although engaging a solicitor can be helpful, there are suitable templates for letter formats available on-line. It is quite easy for homeowners to proceed through the small claims process themselves.

Perhaps the best way to minimise the chances of becoming embroiled in issues around new boiler installation problems is to carefully consider any installation packages and procedures.

Always buy products and services from reputable companies.

Ensure that any gas engineer is Gas Safe registered and authorised to undertake the specific tasks required. The competence in various areas of gas engineering work will be stated on the engineer’s photo ID card. Always insist on seeing this prior to engaging an engineer’s services. Always make sure that the photo on the card corresponds with the engineer carrying out the gas work.

Gas Safe registered does not necessarily mean that the gas engineer is good at his job. Try to obtain recommendations from previous customers.

No matter how time consuming, always read the small print on warranties, finance deals and insurance documents carefully. Ensure that you fully understand any technicalities prior to signing and entering into an agreement. Such agreements are generally legally binding and rarely in the customers best interest.

Where possible, and if the card provides cover, try to use a credit card to pay for goods and services.

Know your rights, and limitations. Be confident and assertive when dealing with new boiler installation problems and issues. You have the right to seek an effective resolution to problems within a reasonable time-scale, and the right to compensation for legitimate inconvenience.

If you suspect that a Gas Safe registered engineer’s work is suspect, you can ask for a free inspection of the work by Gas Safe inspectors.

Where problems occur following a new boiler installation, reputable companies will usually put things right quickly with very little inconvenience. Most issues can be resolved amicably. A good company’s reputation can rest on customer satisfaction.

As in all purchases, cheap is not necessarily best and too good to miss offers rarely are.

Boiler Cover

Is It Really Worth Paying For Boiler Cover?

Part of the answer to this question is bound to lie somewhere in the files marked ‘personal experience’.

Yet there is more to this dilemma than simply taking advice from a teeming market place of companies, desperately competing to grab a healthy portion of your hard-earned cash.

Moreover, with words designed to arouse an element of fear or emotive terms likely to instil a sense of security and peace of mind, it can be difficult to establish how much of these selling tactics are a sensible indicator of reality.

Statistics abound about the reliability (or lack of it) relating to central heating breakdown figures. With British Gas claiming that a boiler breaks down every second in the U.K. and Which reporting that a third of all new boilers will break down in the first six years, it’s enough to send the anxiety levels of house holders sky-high. It can certainly send them rushing headlong into a boiler insurance or service contract without prior consideration or looking around for a product that provides adequate and comprehensive cover.

In addition, perhaps a comparison might be obtained between the cost of a typical boiler repair and the annual cost of insurance or service plans and the exclusions applied within them.

Then of course, there is the issue of whether the householder actually needs the cover that might be directed towards him or her.

For those with rented accommodation it should be remembered that the responsibility for boiler maintenance lies with the landlord. The tenant should never need to enter into any arrangement for boiler insurance or service. On the contrary, it would be in the tenant’s interest to ensure that clauses in the tenancy agreement ensure that the landlord rectifies boiler problems within a specified time.

Before a homeowner considers boiler insurance or service cover, they might like to scrutinise the small print of their existing home insurance policy. Some have boiler cover included.

For homeowners who have recently installed a new boiler, the new boiler will be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty for at least a year, making any additional boiler cover obsolete. It could also be cheaper to take out an extended warranty with the boiler manufacturer rather than opting for alternative cover.

Some boiler installation companies may be able to offer deals far cheaper than any offered by the major energy providers and boiler insurance companies.

Considering that boiler breakdown seems to occur within the first few weeks of installation and then subsequently with increasing yearly age, the option of self-insuring might be a prospect to consider. This entails the homeowner depositing a fixed monthly sum, based on a typical insurance or service plan monthly premium payment, into their bank account to cover possible future breakdown expenditure post warranty. This of course means that the homeowner only parts with their money in the event of a breakdown and not on a yearly presumption that a breakdown is inevitable.

This latter option is further enhanced by examining the terms and exclusions contained in the small print of conventional boiler insurance or service plans.
For example, many policies and plans exclude boilers over fifteen years of age, partially because of availability of parts for repair, but mainly due to increased risk of unreliability of the appliance.

The fitting of a new boiler in these circumstances not only adds to the energy efficiency of the property, it also contributes to the reliability of the system thus reducing the need for insurance or service plans.

Many plans insist on regular power flushing of the central heating system, combined with the installation of magnetic filtration devices. These measures naturally reduce potential breakdown problems.

Some policies and plans operate repair excess sums and cover payment limitations.

Many require maintenance and repair to be carried out by companies that are unknown to the homeowner.

All of these considerations can make the option of self insuring a feasible possibility.

Inevitably, the only option which will provide peace of mind to some homeowners will be the conventional plans offered by the major players in the business.

However, there are some words of caution that should be considered before embarking on that route.

Always shop around. There are considerable savings to be made by not rushing into a contract or plan offered by the homeowner’s energy supplier. It is a fact that gas maintenance engineers connected with energy providers are encouraged to maximise the sale of policies, plans, service agreements and maintenance procedures offered by the parent energy company. Naturally, the engineers receive commission on these extra sales.

It might be difficult obtaining unbiased opinions, but looking at alternative but similar options offered elsewhere, and a little time spent in research, may very likely prove to be a money saving exercise.

No matter what option is eventually chosen, before signing on a contract or agreement in these matters, always carefully read every word of the small print and ensure that you understand the terms and conditions, and clarify any ambiguities. Do ensure that the cover you require is the cover the contract is offering.

In conclusion, whether you require boiler cover can only be narrowed down to the likelihood of you needing it, and whether you can afford to personally pay for repairs, when, or even if, you might need them.