Monday, 5 March 2018

Knowledge Sharing: Point of no pressure change

I am going to put together some knowledge sharing of points I feel are never really taught much or discussed, leaving many installers unsure of what to do, but feel silly sometimes to ask, but in my opinion there is no such thing as a stupid question, but not asking and doing something wrong is stupid.

The point of no pressure change in a heating system is the point where the expansion vessel is connected, basically at this point the pump cannot change the pressure to create circulation, this is similar to the neutral point on an open vented system and in reality we should be following the same principle as we used to with the neutral point on open vented systems, with the neutral point on an open vented system the open vent and cold feed were always on the suction side of the pump, so the pump was always pumping away from the neutral point, this is the same for a sealed system and the point of no pressure change, you need to always pump away from the point of no pressure change (Expansion vessel connection)

Now before I get more into this, I would like to emphasis this information is out there for all to see, this is not something I have invented myself, there is a great book out there written by Dan Holohan called "Pumping Away" where I gained my knowledge on this information.

Now within a sealed heating system, for the pump to create circulation the pump will create pressure  differential rather than pressure, now at the point of the expansion vessel connection to the system because the pump can't add water to, or remove water from the expansion vessel the pump cannot change the pressure within the expansion vessel, this is why its called the point of no pressure change, the circulator will respond to the expansion vessels location, raising or lowering the differential pressure based on that location, if you pump away from the expansion vessel, the circulator will add its differential pressure to the systems static fill pressure, if however if you pump towards the expansion vessel the circulator will remove its differential pressure from the system static fill pressure, and if the pump's differential pressure exceeds the system's static fill pressure, the pressure at the pump's suction will be below atmospheric and air will enter the system, you then have problems with the system.

Here is a diagram from Caleffi that may assist in understanding this principle, unfortunately its in psi, as its from USA, as I could not find anything in metric covering this information, why is that?

If you are interested in reading further the Book, "Pumping Away" is available HERE 

I hope this proves useful to some, if you have any questions please ask away and let me know if there is any subjects you would like me to cover

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Frozen Condense Pipes

So, we have just had an extremely harsh cold spell, temperatures as low as -10 in places on occasion, last time we so temperatures like this for any sustained period, was about 5 years ago, I remember well we had exactly the same problem back then as we have experienced this time, FROZEN CONDENSE PIPES.

Now what should we as an industry do about this, I ran a poll on Twitter, yeah, I understand that its hardly a major poll, but just wanted to gauge opinion from installers, I gave the choices, do we need regulation change to either

1.Not allow condense pipes to be run externally
2, Require insulation and trace heating on any exposed condense pipe

I also added a third choice

3. Do we just except that we may get sub zero temperatures say every 5 years and just except external condense pipes may freeze.

So far with one more day to run of the poll out of 92 installers who voted so far 47% the largest proportion went for No3 excepting the occasional freeze, now I sort of understand this response, the UK mostly fuelled by the media, do tend to over hype everything and we take weather like this as an armageddon, it is rare for us to hit these sort of temperatures in the UK, as stated earlier its 5 years since I remember such low temperatures, well this is for most the UK, I understand Scotland is often far colder than we experience further South, however, I don't agree with the poll result.

We only need heat in the winter and we certainly need heat when we hit temperatures of -9 but for boilers to fail in times when they are most needed due to something that is preventable is not really acceptable in 2018, now I don't do reactive work, so I did not go out defrosting frozen condense pipes and I take my hat off to all those who did get out in treacherous conditions to help people with such problems and I hope you earned well, you have to reap the benefits when times are good, now I have seen some external condense pipes via Twitter which when run externally have been done to what we consider correct methods, short as possible runs, mostly vertical and in 40mm pipe and they still froze.

I personally think there are 2 problems here, lazy installers who just want the easiest job possible so take the quickest way with the condense, rather than looking for alternative possibilities that could keep the condense within the thermal envelope of the building and second, customers not willing to pay for alternatives that may cost a bit more to the install, but would save them losing heat in such cold weather, but what do we do about it.

Now I know at the start I mentioned regulation change to enforce things, but in reality I am against such things, I am not one for big Government telling us what to do, this is something we as an industry need to address ourselves, we need manufacturers and trade bodies to publish good practice methods, stating that condense pipes should NOT be run externally, training bodies, need to drum it in to the new and upcoming people within our industry that it is not acceptable to run condense pipes externally, again we need the industry as a whole, manufacturers, trade bodies to educate the public via newspapers, and online that installers will always try and keep their condense within the thermal envelope to prevent freezing and that this will cost them more, but is worth it rather than been without heat and paying an emergency plumber when it does freeze, so they will pay in the end, but it needs to be done while the iron is hot, like NOW, when it it fresh in peoples mind how horrible it was to be without heat, because come spring, it will all be forgotten.

Another point that some have raised on Social Media is the type of boilers that have the issue with freezing condense tend mostly to be those that just trickle the condense constantly, and not so much those that release a larger slug of condense in one go, maybe this is another solution for manufacturers to consider

So what do all you installers think, this is our industry so lets talk about issues within our industry

Thank You for Reading

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Boiler Plus Legislation

We have a change to the Building Regulations coming up in April 2018 see here for the full details HEAT IN BUILDINGS, Boiler Plus from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

So is this some huge radical shake up that will change our industry, in my opinion, NO, in fact to me they are well behind the real industry of installers at the coal face who have already been doing what they are proposing for years, so in fact as far as I am concerned, this Legislation is just trying to catch up with what the good installers already do.

What is the new Legislation calling for, well in simple terms it is saying when you install a combination boiler you must either add one of the following to the system to add more to the efficiency.

1. Flue Gas Heat recovery system
2. Weather Compensation
3. Load Compensation
4. Smart Controls With Automation and Optimisation functions

Many, many installers around the UK have already been doing this for a number of years, it is these installers who are leading the industry and it seems those who make the Legislation are playing catch up, surely it should be the other way round.

Yet again, those who make the Legislation are missing the bigger picture same as the ErP missed the bigger picture, its all well and good fitting a new boiler and adding additional components to supposedly acheive higher efficiency, but the missing fact is insulation, if the property is poorly insulated, then all the expense of new boiler and expensive controls is partially wasted by the additional heat loss due to poor insulation, is it not time we worked together with insulation businesses and double glazing businesses to ensure the customer took the best option to save them energy, which in my opinion will not always be change the boiler, sometimes it would be better and cheaper to improve the insulation to reduce heat loss and so reduce bills.

The other fact I am really struggling to get my head round and so far I have not found anyone who can answer this yet, is this new Legislation, of additional controls to improve efficiency is only for Combination boilers, what about system boilers and heat only boilers, OK I understand that Flue Gas Heat Recovery is only for combination boilers hot water production, but the other controls, will work just as well on these boilers and I know most installers including myself already fit these controls with these boilers, but why have the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy missed these off for system and regular boilers, if you look at the chart below from HHIC it shows a simplified graph for the new Legislation

Now as you can see, when you start it asks the question, Is it a combi? if you answer No, it then asks, Does it have a timer and Thermostat? if you answer YES, then it says, No Additional Components required, if you answer NO, then it says Central Heating Timer and Thermostat to be installed with the boiler, Really, this is supposed to be progress, so with a system boiler or regular boiler, we can just fit old fashioned ON/OFF controls, no weather compensation, no load compensation, no smart controls required, WHY are these boilers allowed to be installed without good modern controls, do they think we all fit Combination boilers, (a boiler often used for convenience, not because it the best solution) well we don't, can someone please explain to me why this has been missed.

The final point I would like to raise, is how will this be policed, will it become part of the Notification procedure, or will it be as usual, just bring in the legislation, let those who always abide by the regulations comply, but ignore those who just don't care and always ignore everything, as they know, nothing will be done

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Heating System Water & Corrosion Prevention

All I see these days in trade magazine and merchants is magnetic filters, chemicals, chemicals and some more chemicals, every page you turn in a trade magazine has either an advert for magnetic filters or chemicals, or an article telling you how important inhibitors are to the system, well I say "utter nonsense" 

Lets set some facts, todays heating systems are sealed, this means they are sealed from outside influences, including oxygen, now for corrosion to occur oxygen must be present, No oxygen = No Corrosion, so why do we need inhibitors, well in my opinion, we don't, inhibitors create a false layer on the metal components, well in the presence of water metals will create their own natural layer to protect themselves, this is called passivation of the metal,The passivation of metals is the process, when metals protect themselves against further corrosion with a thin oxide layer. The metal becomes passive and is not oxidised any further.

The problems occur with poor design and the use of poor quality materials, inhibitors and magnetic filters are in my opinion there to cover for poor quality installations, whereas we should be looking to increase knowledge and standards, also I have been to many systems that have inhibitor that are still corroding.

Lets look at other points that need to be monitored in a heating system, but are generally ignored, The pH of the heating water should be in a range of 8.2 to 10, but only 8.2 to 8.5 in presence of aluminium alloys. The function of the pH in heating systems is one of the most important factors for means of corrosion protection. with the recommended pH range the metals in the system can basically build up their natural oxide layers and keep them stable to be protected against further corrosion. As long as this mechanism is not disturbed for example incorrect pH, a high electrical conductivity, a high oxygen concentration or erosion, the formation of natural oxide layers provides a safe protection of the metals against further corrosion

Electrical conductivity, the acceptable electrical conductivity in heating systems water has to be seen in conjunction with the amount of dissolved oxygen. If there are only traces of oxygen (y0,02 mg/l) dissolved in the heating water, then the system can tolerates an electrical conductivity up to 1.500 µS/cm. But at higher concentrations of dissolved oxygen the electrical conductivity should be limited to <100 µS/cm.

In the UK the British Standard BS 7593:2006i which deals with water treatment, is very very basic and my German Colleagues actually find it laughable, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland they deal with the subject in a much more in depth manner, the German method, which I follow, in respect to heating water treatment with chemical agents the statement of the VDI 2035 is in contrast to the British Standard that such agents should only be used in limited cases by professionals with the necessary chemical education. According to VDI 2035 there is no need for chemical agents as in a well-planned operated and maintained system, with a favourable water quality, no damages caused by lime-scale and corrosion are to be expected.
I could go on, this is a big subject and it is a big passion of mine, there is a lot to cover, so I won't go on, as people lose interest quite quickly when reading blogs, but I do find it encouraging to see many installers are starting to realise there is more to controlling corrosion and I have seen a lot more installers using quality de-aeration devices, which is great, but for those who may not fully understand a de-aeration device is NOT an automatic air vent, they are very different things, an AAV should only be used for filling and venting, after these uses they should be closed, as they can and do ingress oxygen, a de-aeration device which should be fitted on the hottest part of a system, these are microbubble separators. With de-aeration of the system, the remaining carbon dioxide can be vented and thus the pH can rise to a preferable level during normal operation
I am looking at running seminars and trade breakfast mornings at Trade Merchants that may be interested
Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions that need answering
This blog is mainly to let you know there are other methods to system corrosion control in heating systems, there are lots of solutions out there, but I can supply products from Germany from Elector, a company I work very closely with 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Skill Shortage??

We keep hearing there is a skill shortage, well in my opinion there is a lack of skill in a lot of installers out there, but are we short of installers in the UK

Usually when demand outstrips supply then the cost for said item tends to rise, but in my opinion wages, salaries, whatever you want to call them have remained very low in this industry, who is keeping our money low, why are we not paid more, who is controlling what plumbing & heating installers get paid, I see plenty of adverts for plumbing and heating installers for annual salaries of £25,000 - £30,000 hardly big money for a highly skilled trade, I hear lots of companies saying they struggle to get high calibre installers, well if you are not paying high calibre money, then you wont get high calibre installers, it's as simple as that.

In the USA plumbers are very well paid, they are also highly respected, what is the difference from there to here, thats simple, you have to be licensed to be a plumber in the USA, you can't simply call yourself a plumber out there and start working, whereas in the UK any Tom Dick or Harry can call themselves a plumber, our industry is a joke, instead of trade bodies fighting for all installers to be licensed, to cut out the cowboys, they actively work with the companies who I see as one of the problems within our industry, people seem to think you can push some pipes together and then call yourself a plumber.

When it comes to attracting new blood to this industry I think it should always be an apprenticeship, 3 years minimum, but as a young person looking for a career for the rest of their life, our industry hardly is a big draw when it comes to the financial reward, until money is better across our industry, it will always struggle to attract new young apprentices.

I want to know why earning potential for plumbing & heating installers has not really gone up in over 20 years, I want to know where the public perception came that plumbers are two a penny and why they seem to think we should charge nearly minimum wage for our skill and knowledge. I try and work in high class properties, believe me it's not as profitable as you would imagine and its quite hard to deal with when I have 35 years experience in this industry, I have worked around the world, I have trained installers in the UK and abroad in thermal solar, my industry knowledge is quite high in my opinion, only to be told by a multi millionaire that I am too expensive.

I fear for this industry, I don't think the future looks good, all these quick training courses, allowing inexperienced people loose on the public damages this industry, low money means it will always be hard to attract new people to the industry and often means very good installers leave the industry to pursue better paying careers

Saturday, 4 February 2017

CGCS A New Gas Safety Scheme, What is Going ON!!!!

Some of you may be aware of the launch of a new gas safety scheme, some of you may not, its called CGCS Certification, which is Capita Gas Compliance Services, so straight away we see an issue, this scheme is been set up by CAPITA, who already run the Gas Safe Register.

Now do they give a reason why such a scheme is needed, do they show where the Gas Safe Register is failing and that they are there to pick up the slack, do they say that the Public are demanding such a scheme, are they saying that the industry is demanding such a scheme, in a word NO, there is absolutely no reason this accreditation is needed, or wanted, by either the industry or the public.

Lets look at some of the phrases they use as to the benefits to this accreditation, firstly I should point out that this scheme is "Currently" voluntary I give the old " " as I think that may change in the future should this scheme get off the ground, but you will have to pay to join the scheme, not much info yet on the costs,.

So some of the so called benefits "The new gas safety scheme is aimed at organisations that meet the legal requirement for gas safety, and want to demonstrate that they exceed it. We want to help those people get the recognition they deserve" Right, so they are implying that those of us who choose to just remain on the Gas Safe Register do not exceed gas safety requirements, really, so we all just bumble along just doing the bare minimum do we, I find that an insult, why do these people think we have to pay and belong to yet another scheme, to go beyond the bare minimum, well here is a fact for you, WE DON'T, most of us take our responsibility to gas safety very seriously and we do not need to pay someone for another sticker for the van to prove it. 

They say it will not undermine the Gas Safe Register, er Yes it will, if you have some on this new scheme and some not this will cause confusion to the public, they will not understand why there are two schemes.

Another so called benefit "The scheme is NOT mandatory, but there are lots of benefits for installers who want to get involved such as the UKAS accreditation being recognised by both public and private organisations" HaHaHaHaHa, sorry let me pick myself off the floor, the public are aware of UKAS, are they for real, let me let them into a little secret, NO THEY ARE NOT, you ask anyone when you visit their house to carry out gas work if they are aware of UKAS, I am very confident the majority of answers will be "No" the public  barely recognise Gas Safe, some still think its CORGI for crying out loud, so please, can they drop this nonsense that the public are aware of UKAS.

"The scheme is a benchmark for best practice. We can assess an installer’s business and help them find the most efficient way of working.
This can help cut their their costs, improve their gas risk rating, and lead to more work.It’s proof of quality, and can help installers protect their reputation". Reduce their gas risk rating?? what does that mean, what rating is this then, is there something else we are not been told, also what do you mean proof of quality, what makes you think belonging to your scheme proves anyone quality, it does not, we do that ourselves, also I don't need CGCS to protect my reputation, I built my reputation over 34 years in the industry and I protect it by carrying out high quality installations, I don't need CGCS to continue to do this.
"CGCS will reassure customers. As we’re UKAS accredited, it gives them even more peace of mind that their installer works to the highest standards". You really believe this do you, this just proves you do not understand how this industry works, as a sole trader, I and I know many others build a reputation, we get our work through word of mouth, we get recommended by previous customers, we do not get the job based on what accreditation scheme we belong to, the public do not care and are not even aware of accreditations, nor are they likely to ever care, they want an installer who when he visits there home is respectful, gives them all the information they need, instills confidence in their abilities to the customer through how they come across and how they understand the customers particular problem and the solution they present, this is what gets us work, not the fact that I have a certain accreditation or not, they simply do not care about such things.
In summary a reputation is built over many years, through hard work, quality customer relations and keeping up to date with changes in our industry and new technology, but it seems to me that these schemes think you can buy a reputation by paying to be part of their accreditation schemes, well I'm sorry that simply is not how the real world works
I think this scheme is pointless, it is not needed and I fear it is the start of many more pointless schemes, none of which will benefit the public, but they will line someones pockets which in my opinion is what it is all about

Sunday, 4 December 2016

It's Time For Change, Installers Need to Stand Up

I do enjoy my discussions with fellow installers on Twitter, a conversation we had this morning was the rise in popularity of a boiler brand that has been in the UK for many years, but was not widely known, it is a brand I picked up on when the first came to the UK, I went to their manufacturing facility in Holland to receive training, which I was very impressed with as it was far more in depth technically than training I had received in the UK on boilers, I started installing them and was impressed, I also fitted one in my own home.

But what this conversation made me realise is the boiler choice for installers has been manipulated by the manufacturers with the deepest pockets for advertising, the problem I see is customers can now via the internet look for information on boilers themselves, but they will tend to want the one brand that looks the most familiar, one they have seen or heard advertised, the choice is purely brand awareness, now this is exactly what advertisements are meant to do, but for a boiler this is not the best way to choose, also a lot of the people who have joined this industry over the past 10-15 years, have also been drawn into this false sense of security from familiarity of a product, it was the boilers that were given free to the training centres they trained in, the boiler they saw splashed all over the trade magazine they picked up at the merchants, they are not choosing a boiler based on quality and longevity.

This does raise the age old question of what is the best boiler, well there is no definitive answer, each installer will have their own preference, based on their own experience of the boiler, their knowledge of the boiler and the best support they feel they get from the manufacturer/local sales rep, most installers agree on a few brands that are classed as poor, but when it comes to the boiler they prefer to install in a specific property then they tend to have 2 maybe 3 preferred brands, and each application will require the installer to survey and assess the property requirements in conjunction with the customers needs, they will then decide on which boiler best suits the requirements based on sound engineering judgement and calculations, it is not however chosen based on the boiler you saw advertised during the commercial break of Coronation Street, installers are the ones who should specify the brand and type of boiler based on the fact they have the knowledge to make that decision, as they are the skilled tradesperson, not the customer, but installers too must free themselves from been manipulated by marketing and choose boilers based on quality, they need to look further than the main brands that are out there, as I believe some of the best boilers on the market are NOT the big brands everyone knows.

In my opinion it is time installers took back control of OUR industry, for me all these so called trade bodies that we can pay into to be part of them do not really represent installers, they do not share our concerns, they do not listen to our views, they listen to the money, they have become Yes Men, they also just jump on board with the manufacturers who have deep pockets who pay for pages in their trade magazines, write articles based on their own opinions of their products, so the trade bodies then just feed us the crap the  manufacturers want them to feed us.

I really feel it is time for change, I would really like to start up a trade body that truly represents the voice of installers, one that will not be afraid to criticise when it is needed and one that does not simply agree with every silly new or even some of the old outdated regulations that are imposed on this industry, the current trade bodies never seem to challenge regulations, they just go along with everything, well we need a trade body that questions and challenges everything in our industry, but unfortunately these things take money, so if anyone out there would be interested in helping fund a real free trade body, that I know installers would embrace, please get in touch with me, we are the true industry and it is about time we were heard.