The British heating & plumbing blog

We’re smokin’...something

This is me, this is


This blog is dedicated to informing the general public about plumbing & heating. It is our endeavour to educate you, inform you, and warn you! If you’d like to contact us about anything, then please email us on  Disclaimer at foot of page.


Always remember that

...and doesn’t know when to use a comma, or two



When you call a plumber,

he’s not going to look like this....


He’s going to be more like this...



Stop limescale dead in the water...


...does what it says...throughout your home


The LimeStop will stop limescale in your combi boiler,

thermal store, hot water cylinder, washing machine, dishwasher, shower, and all your pipes - and all from one compact little unit.

It’s GUARANTEED to do that, or your money back.


Just £99 plus £11 postage

From just 10p a day!

See it at

But be fair, the bloke with the little girl’s-size T-shirt

on isn’t going to be able to fix your plumbing!

Posts appear here in time order with newer ones at the top. Remember, these are just our views, and you should do your own research on any items or methods mentioned here. We receive no payment for any recommendations - no one even sends us a multi-pack of Snickers. So don’t come running to us if our musings don’t work out for you.


This post is a sticky:



Let’s make this clear - this website is co-sponsored by a particular limescale inhibitor, the LimeStop range, so we’re not ‘independent’ in that respect. However, we can make this perfectly straight nonetheless: don’t buy a limescale inhibitor if the manufacturer won’t refund you when it fails to stop limescale. The LimeStop does work, and that’s why it comes with a money-back guarantee. There are countless devices that promise to ‘halt limescale’. Bullshine. Will they give you your money back in say, 10 year’s time, when you discover it hasn’t worked? We are still waiting to hear of any company that will (apart from the LimeStop). Surely, that says it all, doesn’t it? Yet still people go out and buy a magnet and stick it to their pipe! There are devices sold by otherwise-reputable companies who fail to mention that there is no actual performance guarantee at all!!! And consumers fall for this trick every day. You can read more HERE



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We‘ve been thinking about boiler-life. We’ve heard some horror stories of boilers completely failing after just seven years. As replacement can be £2,000 or even more, that’s a replacement annual cost of a whopping £286 a year - which means you should be squirreling that amount away each year in preparation for changing your boiler. Crazy, eh? It doesn’t have to be that way, as many boiler manufacturers will now give you a guarantee of 7 years, while some will give you 10 years. In our rating of boilers and boiler manufacturers, we came across some real shocks on customer service. We found Glow-Worm to be particularly poor, scoring just 1 out of 16 in our rating. However, the highest-rated scored only 8! The lowest guarantee period we came across was just a measly one year, by Main and Vaillant. In reality, they’d be lucky to get away with that against a claim in a small claims court! So spend your £2,000 or so very wisely, and get one with a decent guarantee period.




We covered this earlier in this blog, about just how useless (a waste of your money) these solar panels are. We recently did this calculation for a customer of ours. He wanted a solar panel array to heat his hot water. His requirements are for two showers a day. This is about 7 kWh (electricity to heat requirement). This means a 3-kilowatt immersion heater on for a little over two hours. His electricity supplier is charging him 10p per kWh, so his daily requirements are costing him 70p a day - £255.50 a year. The more astute among you may well see where this is going already. A ‘3kW’ solar system will provide roughly 2,550 hours of electric-to-heat a year - that’s about 7 kWh a day, and thus ideal for him. BUT, that ‘3kW’ system (covering 226 square feet of his roof) will cost him around £5,000 to install. If you divide £5,000 by the annual cost of his electricity to heat his hot water tank (£255.50) you get a ‘payback’ period of over 19 years. And we haven’t even taken into account the costs of maintenance, costs of repairs, and loss of interest on the capital invested (about £100 a year). When you take those factors into the calculation, the solar array would NEVER pay him his money back. He might just as well carry on paying his energy supplier the £255.50 a year for the rest of his life. Please the maths!  Solar data supplied by



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If you don’t switch your energy provider at least once a year, then you’re almost certainly overpaying for your energy. It isn’t at all difficult if you simply use an online service like It should be fairly quick too, within a month. We all know that the vast majority of them are useless at customer service. Some, like Iresa Ltd, are just plain awful, and best avoided by looking at review sites online such as Google’s own. In all our years of switching energy suppliers (on an annual basis), we have never come across a company like Iresa Ltd. They ignored our meter readings and sent them for ‘validation’. This is a process that uses a mathematical algorithm by looking at past history of readings. Already, of course, that renders it next to useless, as there’s nothing like an actual reading! They then massively over-estimated our reading just at the time they raised their own prices. What a coincidence, as this placed our account into debit just at the time we wanted to move to another, cheaper supplier. In fact, our actual usage is 98.4% (accurate) what we told them it would be for a year’s use. So we offered to clear the debt and they said they’d take the appropriate amount, thus making our account 1p in credit. It didn’t happen on the due date, and we enquired why not. While waiting for that explanation, they asked for a latest reading. This was supplied. They then told us that the latest reading would hold up the switch-over by at least an additional 14 days while the reading is sent for ‘validation’ again. So this puts back the switch-over even further into the future...and they can continue charging us more than we need pay for our energy. Ofgem (ha, ha!) are completely powerless to do anything about it and wouldn’t even discuss if Iresa is allowed to do this! That’s right, they actually refused to discuss it! And of course, you can’t go the the Energy Ombudsman, as their process will only start after EIGHT WEEKS has elapsed since you first complained to the energy supplier! So, in essence, although you are encouraged to switch suppliers, the FACT is that when you run into trouble, no one can help you, you’re on your own...stuffed. This is the state of energy supply in Britain, today.




If you’ve been readings our ramblings for some time then you’ll be aware of our campaign to get consumers to at least toy with the idea of electric heating instead of conventional gas-fired boiler and radiators. Now, the one thing you’ll hear time and again is that electric heating is expensive. Well, it isn’t. So before we go any further, let us tell you that we live in a 3-bed detached home with normal levels of insulation. We have electric heating and hot water - and of course - lighting and cooking. Our electric bill is £150 a month. We have underfloor electric heating, and we’re continually thankful that we have no pipes, no radiators, no fluepipe, no fumes, no noise, no servicing and no maintenance. And that’s key, because our expense is JUST the electric bill itself. With a gas-fired boiler and radiators you will have (in addition to all the disadvantages) regular servicing and breakdowns, AND eventual replacement costs of the boiler (£200 to £250 a year!). In any calculation on costs you must include those costs too. When you do, you’ll see that electric heating can be just a little more than gas. But we actually went all-electric for the convenience. We have no grotty steel radiators on our walls for one thing. Also, each room is individually temperature controlled. We have no silly nests or hives!




We’ve met some very bright plumbers and heating engineers, ones who could hold a conversation on physics and chemistry. However, it has to be said, we’ve also met some who cannot even understand some basic stuff - and these plumbers are out there charging customers for work that they don’t even understand themselves! We met someone recently who doesn’t understand what pressure is. He thinks, because he installed a big water tank, that the pressure at the taps will be greater! We got called out because the promised increased pressure didn’t materialise. Let us explain: head of pressure is all about...height. The column of water from top to bottom determines what the pressure (at the bottom) will be. We once watched a TV programme about dock gates in Denmark. The narrator went on about how strong they had to be to withstand the pressure from the entire Atlantic Ocean! How about that for stupidity? So you see, it’s not just plumbers who can be ignorant, so can journalists. The pressure you get at a tank-fed tap (we’ll ignore flow, and the intricacies of static and working pressures) depends on how high above the tap the level of the water in a tank is. The tank itself could be tiny (maybe just enough for a kettle) or as large as the entire loft. It doesn’t matter, the pressure would still be the same! What matters is how high the tank is. It’s all about gravity. For very 10 metres of height you get 1 bar of pressure. The pressure at a typical kitchen tap is 0.5 bar because the height is 5 metres from the tap to the top of the water level in the tank. ‘Flow’ depends on pressure AND the ease at which the fluid can move.


THE FUTURE OF HEATING - Stopping heat loss


The future of heating is that there isn’t one. Yep, no joke. Though admittedly some time off into the future, there will be no heating trade. There will only be a ‘hot water trade’. If you haven’t yet heard of a ‘passive house’ then you will soon. We confidently predict that every single home will, in the future, be a passive-style home. Very basically, a passive house is one built to extreme levels of insulation. All gaps are sealed, and even ‘thermal bridges’ like metal handles (one that goes from inside to outside, such as a door handle) are eliminated - as they conduct heat out, obviously. Fresh air is fanned into the building at a rate just enough to remain healthy - though we think it should be a higher rate. The incoming fanned air is warmed by the outgoing fanned air. The floor of the building has a concrete layer on top of an insulated layer, so heat isn’t lost through the floor. All windows are triple-glazed. The design makes use of solar heating in the winter, but restricts solar heating in the summer. It’s all very clever stuff, but very obvious when you consider it. We recently came across a home where the heating bill is just £12 a month! The great thing about this is that your ‘heating system’ could simply be a few electric fan heaters which only have to be on for a very short time. The key is that the building loses hardly any heat at all...


This lovely Cambridgeshire home costs just £220 a year to heat! So look out for the phrase ‘passive house’ because if you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to be very young, then you will live in one in the future. Pretty soon, passive homes will be a standard requirement for all new builds. It’s crazy that we are still building homes that leak heat. Ever-tightening building regulations and controls will force developers (who certainly aren’t progressive enough) into making these changes in building. Developers have known about passive homes for some years, but ignored all their benefits - as they do! For example, despite the fact that car owners are switching over to electric cars, developers like David Wilson Homes are still building multi-blocks of homes with no car-charging points!




We recently advised a customer of ours to get her usual plumber to change her service valve (stop-cock) as it was not operable. We advised her that the mains would have to be frozen as there was no outside service valve to isolate it while the replacement was carried out. We were shocked to hear that her plumber had ‘done it live’. This means he didn’t have a freezing kit, and instead did the replacement while the mains water was still on. The above pic tells you what can happen when you try this (and no, we don’t know why there are three hands in the picture!). It’s all well and good saying that there will be a “bit of water” but you certainly can’t be sure that the job will go smoothly. She wasn’t at home when he did it, and we’re guessing he had a large aquavac at hand and a large towel. But it’s just not worth the risk. If your plumber offers to ‘do it live’, politely decline the offer.




There is much talk within the gas market about hydrogen replacing methane (gas) to power boilers, cookers, fires etc. This may be introduced into the mains as a mix, or replace methane altogether. There are two reason for this: Gas won’t last forever, and secondly, our government have bizarrely signed us up to reducing our CO2 emissions so drastically that we have to look at significant ways to bring our emission levels down - and gas boilers emit a lot of the UK’s CO2. By 2040 all cars in the UK will be fully electric, and this will reduce our CO2 emission level by quite a factor. However, gas boilers emit more CO2 than cars, so a larger emission reduction can be achieved by halting CO2 from boilers altogether. This is still a long way off, if it happens at all. For one thing, the cost will be huge - billions and billions! For another, hydrogen has to be highly pressurised - far more than methane gas. All pipes are fittings would have to be replaced. Having said that, it may still be cheaper than converting everyone to electric...maybe. But the future for power is highly unpredictable. Hopefully, over the next twenty years or so, we may well have cracked plasma fusion (or even quark fusion), and generating electricity with no emissions at all will have arrived. So we would expect to see everything being powered by ‘cheap’ electric, with small power stations dotted all over the country, rather than a national grid. Obviously, the days of methane gas are numbered either way.




The very first combination (combi) boiler we saw was back in the early 1980s. They were considered ‘European’ by installers - some fancy new foreign idea. Of course, they were a great idea, but as usual with Britain, a good idea took some time to take hold! Plumbers and heating engineers are a very conservative and conventional lot. It took years for plastic pipe and fittings to be considered ‘ok’ to use. And unfortunately, it is plumbers and heating engineers that govern whether something will be acceptable, or not. Conventional systems (still around today) use a boiler, hot water cylinder, and loft tanks. Very basically, a combi boiler combines heating and hot water inside one appliance, so it does away with a store of hot water (the cylinder). The loft tanks are also done away with, as the boiler uses mains water for the hot water, and also uses mains water to ‘charge up’ (pressurise) the system - usually to around 1 bar (standard mains pressure is around 4 bar). Although most of the points about a combi boiler are positive, such as freeing-up an airing cupboard and the loft, there are some disadvantages. If you have your local water company playing outside, and they cut your water off, then you will have no store of water to use up. Also, when a combi boiler breaks down (and they do) you’ll have no hot water or heating. Some combi boilers are inappropriate for houses with large families, as the boiler just can’t cope with the hot water demand. There’s no ‘immersion’ heater in a combi boiler, either. However, everything else is an advantage. The system water in a combi system will be a sealed one - so your system water isn’t open to the air for contaminants and oxygen-intake (causing rust). A combi boiler is cheaper than the combined cost of a boiler, cylinder, tanks, pump, and working bits. Obviously, they are more efficient, too. However, one thing is imperative - size...




When choosing a combi boiler, one thing is very simple: the larger the boiler (in kilowatts) the better your flow of hot water will be. Always go for at least a 35kW boiler, maybe a 38kW, or even a 40kW. Your installer may well try to sell you a 28, 26, or even a 24! They may be ok if you live alone, but the more people you have in the house, the bigger the boiler should be - obviously. Small boilers can’t add enough heat to cope with the demand for hot water from two taps at once. So no matter what your installer tells you, override him (or her) and insist on one that will give you plenty of hot water. Look for the flow rate in litres per minute (lpm) at a rise of 35 degrees C. You want an absolute minimum of 13 litres per minute, but 15 or even 16 would be great. We like the Ariston E-Combi Evo 38 (15.6 lpm), the Atag iC Economiser 39 (17 lpm), and the Ferroli Modena HE38 (16 lpm). You can read more at




No, not a post about the amount of immigrants pouring into Britain, but a few words about taps. There’s a tendency among retailers of taps to stock only those made for fantastic water pressures. We’ve been called out to look at taps where the water flow has been reported as poor...but the tap is brand new! We don’t even have to look under the basin to see why. Far too many taps are being sold that have tiny-bore flexible tubes to connect them to the supply. We saw a brand new kitchen tap a few weeks ago where the inlets were just 8mm - that’s half the width of a standard water supply pipe. See the copper tubes in the photo above? These are far too narrow for tank-fed supplies. They are only just about ok if the mains water pressure is good.  However, the hot water supply to this particular tap was from a conventional cylinder, with a tank in the loft (for the hot water). So the head of pressure was just 5 metres. Needless to say that it is struggling to even fill a bowl. When you see a tap you like, ask the salesperson if you can look at the connections underneath, and the tubes that come with the tap. Rule of thumb: if they’re narrower than your thumb, then don’t buy it - unless you have great water pressure that will overcome the restrictive size of the tubes.




Please don’t! Even if your installer says it’s ok, say no. Although it is tempting to free up space in your home, when it goes wrong, you’ll have to empty half the loft just to get to it, and your service engineer won’t be pleased about it - as some public liability insurers won’t cover him if there is no proper staircase up to the loft. Also, do you really want mains-pressure water pipes perched above all your rooms and furnishings? This photo shows all the pipes unlagged too. It gets damned cold in your loft in the winter!



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Replace this contraption........with a heat bank...................or a thermal store


We should say, right from the off here, that we’re not fans of water saving. Let’s not waste it, of course, but let’s have decent showers when we finally have the technology and appliances to deliver them! It’s odd, but as soon as the days of poor showers ended, some eco-greenies immediately want to take us back to them! Well, we don’t. Having said that, we’re not fans of the huge ‘rain’ shower-heads, either. The point of this post is to inform you that you should always size your hot water cylinder according to your needs. Chances are that the cylinder you currently have was installed with the heating system a few decades ago. The standard then was ‘36x18’ - this being 36” high (900mm) x 18” (460mm) wide. However, people seem to be showering/bathing more often, and the kids are not leaving the nest until they’re in their late 20s. This means that the old standard cylinder may not have the volume of water demanded of it now. So when yours finally goes pop (usually after 20 years you should seriously be thinking of replacing it!) that would be a good time to upgrade, so look for a larger one. The alternative is to go for a mains-pressure cylinder. As the name suggests, you’ll get mains-pressure water from it. There are two types: a heat bank, and a thermal store. It’s not right that many plumbers don’t even know the difference. A heat bank ‘banks’ the heated water for use later. This type of cylinder (very often referred to as a Megaflow) is full of mains water at high pressure. Because of that, it requires some safety devices AND, crucially, it should actually be serviced annually...and none of them ever are! We prefer thermal stores. This type doesn’t store mains water, it stores system water at normal system pressure. It’s that water that is stored hot. When you turn on a hot water tap, the cold water goes through a coil that is enveloped in the stored hot water and then goes through a thermostatic mixer valve (it mixes with cold water to cool it down a bit) and out to the tap. Another version uses a heat exchanger and a pump. Thermal stores do not require any servicing, nor any safety devices, and neither do they store any water at high pressures. Both heat banks and thermal stores make for fantastic showering, and will very quickly fill a bath. Also, because they both store water at high temperatures, there is more of a store of hot water, so it’s less likely to run out of water -Mum, all the hot water’s gone!” will be a thing of the past...which leads us on to another post...




We’ve cured many a complaint of poor system performance by doing something very, very simple...adjusting the programmer. Yes, really. We’ve had complaints that on a cold morning, the heating isn’t brilliant, and neither is the hot water. Very often, the cause of this is a simple one of programming the times. Let us explain: many people put their hot water onto a timed setting - say, once or twice a day. So when the heating AND the hot water ‘call’ for heat at 6.00 in the morning, the boiler has to try and heat the radiators AND the hot water cylinder at the same time. Now, many boilers will cope with this, but some won’t. It’s simply much easier and much more convenient to leave your hot water on ‘24-hrs’. This means that the boiler will constantly respond to your cylinder’s call for heat. The increase in fuel-use will be tiny, if any at all. Why? Because your hot water cylinder almost certainly has a thermostat on it will only heat up to what it’s required to anyway! Then it will switch the boiler off. So you’ll always have a store of hot water (never run out) and the boiler won’t have to cope with heating two systems (hot water and heating) at once so much. We knew of a small family who were exhausting their hot water every night because the programmed times for the hot water were off after 9.00 in the evening - so when they all showered (by 10.30) the hot water was gone. In the morning, the boiler was required to heat the cylinder up from stone-cold AND supply heat to all the radiators. Simply switching their hot water onto ‘constant’ (or 24-hr) meant that after they had all showered, the boiler re-heated the cylinder ready for the morning. When the timer got to 6.00 all the boiler was required to do was the heat the radiators! Simple, eh? They thought we were geniuses. Well, what can one say?

Update: Just done it again! Report of poor hot water performance in the mornings on a thermal store cylinder. We found the cylinder cool to the touch, and the boiler set to 72 degrees C. So, we just switched the programmer to 24hrs and turned the boiler up to 82 degrees C. Customer reports hot water performance now top notch.



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If your service valve (stopcock) looks like the one pictured on the left, then you’re in good company - most are. You’re also stuck in the days when everything was in black & white! You do know that we’ve landed a man on the Moon, right? This type of valve should have passed away with Walt Disney. Alas, we come across them every week. They are terrible! First of all, they stick. If they don’t stick then they leak around the gland seal. And they can break off if you apply too much strength! Jeez! What’s even worse, is that we know of many plumbers still installing them. Why? Because they’re cheap - about £3.50. But wait, the quarter-turn, lever, type (the right hand picture) are just £4.00! The quarter-turn type doesn’t stick, doesn’t leak, and won’t break off...for just 50p more. Most of the people we come across don’t know where their service valve is, and can’t turn it anyway, even if they manage to find it. The quarter-turn type is what you SHOULD have. Call your plumber and ask him to fit one. Don’t wait until you have a real water emergency and can’t turn the water off! The old fashioned stopcock cannot be turned off by the vast majority of people due to limescale and/or corrosion. The quarter-turn type is effortless, and can even be turned off by people with reduced ability. Even a child can turn these off.




Having insurance is always a gamble, but given the almost inevitability of a boiler breakdown, it’s a good thing to consider. If you have a reliable, friendly plumber who is almost a family friend, then don’t bother - as long as he’s friendly enough to tend to your broken heating on Xmas day! For everyone else, then insurance should be considered. There are some things to note, though. First of all, if your boiler is more than 15 years old, then forget it - no one will be interested in taking it on. Also, don’t insure twice! Check any insurances you already have, such as ‘Home Emergency Cover’. It’s a little-known fact that 20% of building insurances already cover you for ‘home emergencies’. Most important of all, make sure you have had the boiler serviced, and that you have the invoice. Your claim (when it goes wrong) will be invalidated otherwise. There are a considerable variety of monthly charges for boiler/heating insurance, so it may be better to use a comparison website, such as uswitch. Be careful what you cover, such as replacement cylinders (hot water tank) etc., and ensure that electrics are covered - as any fault is highly likely to be electrical. Also, ensure that your excess (the part you have to pay in any claim) isn’t too high, otherwise it isn’t economic to have the insurance in the first place. Finally, watch the 2nd year renewal costs. It’s prudent to compare cover all over again rather than just auto-renewing. If your heating fails and you’re not covered, it’s not the end of the world! A few well-placed electric fan heaters will quite sufficiently take the place of your heating while you find an engineer. However, the failure of hot water is more serious, and you may have to occupy friends’ and neighbours’ bathrooms before it’s fixed. Obviously, always use someone who is appropriately-qualified to work on the fuel that feeds your boiler. It’s a common mistake by some consumer websites that say you should “always” use a Gas Safe engineer. Well, duh, not if you have an oil boiler! We also know of a ‘health & safety’ website telling people they should have a “Carbon Dioxide” alarm installed! Er, no.




During a fire, most of the damage isn’t caused by the fire, but by the water used to put it out! Water damage is heart-breaking. Almost all wood surfaces and furniture will be ruined, as well as kitchen cupboards and laminate flooring. Even within our trade, there is little understanding of the pressure that can be placed on internal pipework systems subject to ambient heat - where that excess pressure can’t go back down the mains water supply due to a non-return valve. As for plastic piping and water fittings, which have become the norm now, they have their limit - and it’s very often a lot lower limit than for copper. For this reason we would recommend that you install a ‘pressure reducing valve’ immediately after your service valve (stopcock). This limits the pressure - usually to 3-bar - in what would otherwise be, maybe a 5-bar incoming mains pressure. Many mains-feed hot water cylinder manufacturers insist that their appliances are protected by such a valve. Toolstation sell one for just £19.97 - and we think that’s £20 well spent.




Smart meters are being pushed hard, and will be installed in your home (if you want one) by your energy supplier. These meters are supposed to save anyone reading the meter, and that you get billed on your usage (when the whole sorry saga is finally sorted out!). Your supplier will be able to vary your costs according to different times of the day. So if the government want to encourage you to use night-time electricity (and they will!), they will induce suppliers to offer cheaper rates. It goes without saying that daytime rates can be bumped up in price to deter use when there is peak demand. This may sound Orwellian, but just ask yourself why smart meters are coming – it isn't for your benefit. Conspiracy theorists have pointed out that it will be possible for the government to shut down whole districts if it wanted to at the press of a computer keyboard button. Whatever, but the strange thing about smart meters is that they are sometimes called dumb meters. This is when the supplier you’re with doesn’t support the technology to be able to remotely read your meter! Someone we know went to great lengths to have one installed, only to find that the supplier (being too small) was still asking for meter reads! So if you’re going to have one, ask your supplier first if they really do support the thing, and that you won’t have to send them readings anymore.


WANT A NEW GAS BOILER? Wait, read this first


If your decision is going to be based on efficiency, then you may want to think again. Chances are that the gas boiler you already have is actually quite reasonably efficient. It is well know within our trade (and hardly known outside of it) that condensing boilers don't condensate that often anyway – so aren't in 'efficient mode' much, if ever! If you spend out £2,000 on a new boiler, you can't even hope to get anywhere near that in 'saved' gas over the boiler you are replacing – so you NEVER get your money back. The figures quoted in boiler brochures are very often in lab conditions, not real-world heating systems. If you run your new boiler at temperatures low enough to get the boiler to condensate, then it might well struggle to heat your home – or you will have to increase the size of your radiators. Chances are that you'll have to replace the boiler again way before you could approach anything like getting your investment back. Just do the maths yourself. Always remember that anything that saves you money has to be 'cheap' to purchase. If it isn't, then unless it's extraordinary, the saved energy won't equal the purchase cost.  Why spend £100 to save you £90? If you still want a new boiler, check out our website comparing them all -



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Will your 'Hive' save you in heat, more than the cost of buying it? As a British Gas customer, it will set you back £108 a year, but will it save you more than that? They speak of savings of “up to” £150 a year, but that's only £42 more than it costs. And will your heating system really save you the maximum? Well we don’t think they’re worth it. There’s a lot of hype over gadgets like these, but it always comes back to what we keep repeating - why spend £100 to save you £90? The Nest is the other gadget. That will cost you around £180, and they make claims that you will save a lot! Yeah, right. Just remember one thing before you part with your money: the assumption is that before you fit one of these things, you keep your heating on! Yes, really. The ‘savings’ are based on a scenario where you stupidly just leave your heating on all the time. So if you fiddle (even a little) with the thermostat already - most do - then the ‘savings’ figures won’t apply to you. Great, eh? Worse, if you are one of those who just put your heating on for a few hours, installing one of these devices will actually cost you MORE than you’re paying now. A fool and his money...


SHOWER HOSES - and heads

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We’re often asked about shower hoses, and we strongly advise that you should be very careful with your choice. Most shower hoses are cheap, Chinese efforts that have a very small bore inside (the size of the tube inside). These are no good at all! They restrict the flow too much. Great, if you’re an eco-greenie and want to save the planet, but no good if you want a decent shower. We’ve seen them as little as 8mm bore - that’s about as wide as a pencil!!! ONLY ever go for 11mm bore - available in Screwfix, code 6321G (for 1.25 metres long) or 9879G (1.75 metres long - both made by Mira). It’s not difficult to understand; up to a point, the more water you can get through your shower hose and head, the better your showering experience. Many shower mixers have fine-mesh filters inside the water ports. The trouble is, so do many eco shower-heads! So that’s two sets of water flow restrictions going on. If you add in a narrow-bore shower hose as well, then the flow is severely restricted. As well as a rotten showering experience, it can actually cause shower pumps to halt, then re-start - thus wearing the pump. Let’s all save on water use where we reasonably can, but we think that a shower should be great. You want plenty of water at a nice temperature. You don’t want a camp-site experience! We hope to be testing shower heads in a big way in the near future. We hope to test as many as we can for flow rate.


SOLAR PANELS - Don’t bother!


Ah, the allure of generating your own electricity to use all on your home, and kiss your crabby old gas heating system goodbye! Yes, well, forget it. Assuming a typical home requiring 16,500 kWh a year, you’re going to need a substantial solar panel array in size and cost. In fact, you’d probably need a ‘10kW’ system. The average roof isn't big enough for such a system, so you would have to look at losing your entire rear lawn over to a mini solar-farm set-up. Such an array of panels would be around 67 square metres – over 8 metres by 8 metres of panels! The cost of such a system is around £19,000. To get this investment, what are you supposed to do, use your savings? If you do that then you will lose £500 a year that you’re currently getting in interest, and those savings are there for rainy days. If you borrow the investment needed, then you will be paying out £1,400 a year in interest for 20 years. So your energy-cost requirement has gone down from £1,700 a year (to an energy supplier) to £1,400 (in interest) – a saving of just £300 a year. However, this takes no account of the failure of the inverter (the smart box that converts DC to AC), failures of components, and maintenance. So is the saving worth having? Well, it would appear not – you’d be simply paying out in interest and maintenance what you’d otherwise be paying to an energy supplier. Overall balance - zero!




There are many plumbing merchants and little stores selling plumbing stuff, like the often-misspelled Plumb Centre. But as a DIYer or just a punter looking to buy a washer, they can make you feel intimidated without even trying. And, let’s be fair, you’re probably going to annoy the skilled craftsman waiting in the queue behind you while you try and explain that you’re after ‘one of these’ that has just broken off of your pipe. So we can thoroughly recommend Toolstation for most plumbing stuff. The prices are good, there’s not usually that much of a wait (if at all) and they are in most towns, now. We don’t recommend Wickes (too expensive*).

*Odd, because Wickes is owned by the same company that own Toolstation!




Ooh, this is widely misunderstood! Heating engineers tend to keep quiet about it largely through ignorance. They don’t have anything to do with it because it isn’t profitable for them, obviously. To install a typical wet central heating system is days of work, so days of profit. You are going to have to excuse him/(her, now, too) if he/she doesn’t want to entertain even the thought of electric heating, because it can be installed in less than a morning. Not much profit there! Many electric heaters (time & temperature controlled) are simply plug-in and go, even if some of the user instructions are written by a complete gimp. They are smart, neat, and very convenient. We like Screwfix’s glass panel heaters for around £60 for a 1kw version. They are available in white or black. That means that a ‘10-radiator’ heating system would cost you just £600 and all you have to do is screw them to the wall and plug them in. This is great for landlords of to-let properties - no more annual Gas-Safety certificates! If you want to go up-market a bit, then go for WarmUp’s foil underfloor electric heating. Just imagine, no radiators! We hate radiators. The WarmUp system will give you 140 watts per square metre - so in effect your whole floor is one big radiator...but at reduced heat. There is nothing like warm floors for comfort. Control is via a room thermostat in each room. WarmUp’s own room thermostats (like many!) are ridiculously-complicated to understand and use, and we thoroughly recommend that you source your own simple-to-use room thermostats. We installed a system that ignores the floor temperature altogether, and just stays on until the air temperature is up to the level required. Now, the benefits of an electric heating system far outweigh the slight increase in running costs - and indeed it can be slight! Electric heating can mean no flue, no fumes, no pipes, no boiler, and no radiators. It is simply far superior to wet heating. Radiators are so 1960s. ‘Forced air’ or underfloor heating is the way to go. Before we go on, ‘forced air’ is simply an electric element with a fan behind it. It’s great for fast heating. However, most people prefer underfloor heating. And electric underfloor heating is easily installed, though it is best done during refurbishment. Right, now for that bit about costs. Everyone assumes gas heating is cheaper than electric. On fuel, it is. But fuel isn’t the only thing to consider. Gas boilers have to be serviced and maintained. On average, they also have to be replaced every 10 years! If a typical boiler replacement is £2,500 then that’s £250 that you have to add to your running costs for gas EVERY YEAR! The average gas bill is around £800. Add servicing & maintenance of £150 a year, and boiler replacement of £250 a year and you’re up to an annual cost of £1,200. That is the ‘true’ cost of a gas-fired heating system. Well, going electric isn’t that much more - if any at all! There’s no maintenance or servicing, and many underfloor heating mats are guaranteed for 25 years now. You can buy electric for about 10p per kWh, so to heat a home (and hot water, and cooking, and lighting) all by electric might cost you £1,200 for a typical 3-bed, terraced property. We know a lady living alone in such a property, who definitely doesn’t skimp on her electric heating, paying just £1,000 a year. There is a big lie said about electric heating, principally that it costs too much, and much more than gas. IT DOES NOT! Do your own research before you go for it, and make sure that you’re paying as little for your electric as possible by using somewhere like Your heating engineer isn’t going to tell you about electric heating for two reasons: one is that he/she will probably be ignorant about it, and the other is that it isn’t in his/her financial interests to tell you about it. We say, go for it, but remember that electricity will cost more in the future, thanks to the government’s insane renewable-energy policies of giving money to people to put up useless wind turbines, etc. The cost of this continued insanity will mean higher electric bills until someone cracks tokamak plasma fusion.




See the article below this one first. Most radiator systems should have a magnetic filter attached, to mop up any ferrous debris sloshing about. Magnetite-sludge can cause the failure of a boiler, and of a complete system. You do NOT need one if you have aluminium radiators or an underfloor heating system. All these devices are are just a powerful (one would hope) magnet in the water line. As the water flows over the magnet, any ferrous debris gets picked up by the magnet and thus cannot go on to cause any problems. Unfortunately (yes, you knew it was coming) we’ve seen pathetic magnetic filters with magnets way too small or not powerful enough. We also don’t like plastic magnetic system filters, as plastic and heating don’t have an affinity with each other. We much prefer the metal ones, so we manufactured own own - The BoilerGuard just £129 and MagnaMate just £169 They should be installed on the ‘return’ pipe of your heating system just before the boiler. They should be accessible (as you need to clean them periodically) and easy to clean.




In short, yes and no. Sorry about that, but it isn’t a simple question. Central heating systems (those with radiators, not underfloor heating) can get bunged up with black, oily-water...magnetite-sludge. This sludge is NOT limescale - even if your heating engineer says it is. There may be a bit of limescale in it (not much), but almost all of it will be simply rust...from your radiators - hence why we said it doesn’t happen with underfloor heating. Your radiators are rusting away. Always remember that radiators are usually steel, bare steel, with water. Add some air (oxygen) and they will rust unless you have a sufficient corrosion inhibitor added. Towel rails seem particularly prone to this. A poorly-designed system can also cause the radiators to rust, as can soldering flux left in the system from new. But a fresh supply of air in your system is the chief culprit. This can even be the problem in a sealed system, such as a combi boiler where the system is re-charged with fresh water too often - due to a water leak somewhere. This will cause the system to lose pressure. In fact, if you really want to ruin a boiler (and system) quickly, just re-charge the system every week or so, that should do it. Magnetite-sludge will result. This is when you call in your plumber with a report that your system isn’t heating up enough, or is making peculiar noises, or is even tripping out. If his diagnosis is magnetite-sludge, then you have two choices: clean it out in a process called ‘power-flushing’, or rip the entire lot out and start again. The first option will cost you several hundred pounds. The second option will cost you several thousand pounds. Needless to say, most go for option 1...and this isn’t always best. The trouble is that to get that rust out of your heating system isn’t easy. It’s heavy, thick, and likes to get stuck just about everywhere. There are many small businesses now that will come along to your home, drag a glorified pump out of their van, and start pumping water and chemicals into your system to pump the sludge out. All very well. But what they don’t tell you is that the very best (and we do mean the very best) that they could achieve would be an 80% removal rate. More often than not, it would be more like 50% - maybe less. We KNOW that there are many individuals carrying out power-flushing who are doing it completely wrongly. They can even make the problem worse! We’re not going into the technical details of just how and why they are doing it wrongly, as it would require a large diagram and a complete explanation - you’re just going to have to take our word for it. But put very briefly, the flushing water should never drag system water through the boiler - yet SO MANY do! Both the ‘wash’ and the ‘flush’ should only ever pump water INTO the boiler. So given all that, we reckon that you should seriously consider ripping your old system out, and going for a modern one - with plastic pipes, aluminium radiators (if you really must have radiators) and a sealed-system boiler. You wouldn’t think much of paying £8,000 for a used car, so think less hard about paying that for a great system. If you think £8k is a bit much, we are suggesting a great system, with proper thermostatic control, not the average type of system that a heating engineer will quote you. Remember, he’s competing against other quotes.




If one or more of your radiators are cool at the top, but warm further down, then they almost certainly need ‘bleeding’. Rule number one, is to go and shut the system down completely. DO NOT bleed the system of air with the system running. Always use a large cloth under the key while bleeding the air. Only slightly turn the key anti-clockwise just quarter of a turn. This will be enough to let the air out. As soon as water appears (and it may be black - see article above) shut the valve off. If you’ve removed a lot of air, like filling a radiator again after removing it for decorating, then you will probably hear the expansion tank re-filling with water in the loft (hopefully!). However, if you are bleeding air from a system that is of the ‘sealed’ type (such as that with a combi boiler) then you may well need to re-charge your system with fresh water through the ‘filling loop’. See your boiler user instruction manual. DO NOT leave the flexi tube of the filling loop attached. Ensure both valves are off, and undo the flexi tube. Cap off both valves. If you continually have to bleed even one radiator, then you have a problem. It may well indicate a system leak somewhere.


THE INSANITY OF RENEWABLES (this is a favourite of ours, and we’ll return to it)


We get to hear of a people boast of their heating system's efficiency, and how they are saving shed loads of money, or how their heating system costs them just a couple of hundred pounds a year. Arrgh! How did they achieve that? They spent a LOT of money (always in excess of £25,000) on a solar panel array, a heat pump, a wood-burning stove, and a high-efficiency boiler. That's not a saving, that's just simple shifting of numbers - pure mathematics. If your concern is the environment, then great, but don't tell lies with numbers just to fool yourself. And don't even get us started on the complexity of a 'high-efficiency' package. Most people move home anyway, so don't get to recoup what they've shelled out. We want to stress that investing in something is great if it will pay you back handsomely and fairly swiftly. After all, an 'investment' is an “asset that is purchased to generate income”. So there is an extremely simple formula to follow:


Column A

Cost of Investment £

Cost of maintenance of that investment £

Loss of interest @2% on money invested £

A - Total £


Column B

Amount that the investment will pay to you £

Amount that the investment will save you £

Interest gained on money @2% £

B - Total £


B must always be a larger figure than A. This very simple formula enables you to see (after a period of time) what the investment will cost you, pay you, and save you. Now, we often hear of schemes that are 20 to 25 years long. To us, this is ridiculous. Surely, any investment should have started 'paying you back' after 15 years, preferably 10, so you might want to use that number of years as an example. We have heard (from manufacturers of solar panels) a pay-back period of just eight years. However, when you use the formula above, that eight years becomes 16...minimum. Loss of interest is something almost completely overlooked. That £25,000 you had sitting in an account somewhere was paying you £500 a year – even at 2%. You can't ignore that, yet every manufacturer of an 'efficiency investment' will keep quiet about it. Some investments, like a wind turbine, might only save/pay you £500 a year for a £25,000 turbine. So it's paying you what you're already losing in interest! Pointless. It's not a 50-year payback, it's never! A self-builder we know has almost finished his lovely new build. He's spent £50,000 on a solar array, a ground source heat pump, a Tesla battery system, and underfloor heating. He's pleased that he's been told he will have no need of a boiler, but quite unaware of the fact that that £50,000 would more than pay his entire energy bill for at least the next two decades – had he not gone down the 'renewal' avenue and settled for a simple heating system in a well-insulated home. I’m afraid to say that he may not even see any 'payback' in excess of his expenditure in his life. That £50,000 he had was paying him £1,000 a year in interest – even at today's low rates. So any 'income' he gets has to overcome his losses first! There is a standard in home insulation called ‘Passivhaus’. Basically, it is very high levels of insulation to the point that very little heat escapes, so very little energy is needed to heat the building in the first place. We think it’s a little over the top in minimum levels of air-changes per hour that may not be healthy, but the point is that if you build your home to a Passivhaus standard (or close to it while still remaining at a healthy level) your energy bills will be minimal - so you can heat the building however you like, but still your annual bill will be small. This is so obviously better than a solar array, a ground source heat pump, and a Tesla battery system!






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The Great Shower Head Test

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This one does!



Protects your boiler and heating system against magnetite-sludge















Read all about it at



The BoilerGuard eats the magnetite


in your heating system (that black, oily stuff in the bottom of radiators) whenever your system is running, with its 5” rare-earth neodymium magnetic rod inside. Unlike almost every magnetic filter, it’s made of STAINLESS STEEL, not plastic!

Just £129 (free delivery)