The sky’s the limit in this industry

Image result for female trainee engineerSo how do you go about becoming a heating engineer or gas fitter. Well, the traditional route is to complete an apprenticeship in a mechanical or electrical trade such as a plumber, pipe fitter, general fitter or heating engineer. There are routes via short courses if you are transferring from a desk job such as a teacher or police officer, however there is really no substitute for hands on experience as this is where you will come face to face with your limitations (in either route) and learn how to overcome these hurdles.

Hurdles

They say that you never stop learning and that couldn’t be more true in engineering. Everyday all plumbers and heating engineers, as well as apprentices, are faced with new and exciting challenges, its one of the great parts of the job. How do we go about solving them? Everyone has their own methods and processes Image result for brain like googlebut I should say in general we access the many years of experience like a internet search engine looking for similar key works (actions) we completed in the past. The brain is a fantastic store of all of these lessons with the best lessons being the ones that occur when something goes wrong, for some reason the brain prioritises these at the top of the list just like Google ranks the best matches to your search criteria at the top of their millions of hits. So the key to overcoming the hurdles in banking the lessons and the way lessons are learnt is to try something new and exciting every day.

It takes tow to tango

New Picture (85)We are actually great believers that along with the practical know-how of how things fail and how to make them better and put them back together, it’s essential to know the science or engineering behind the cause of the problem. Sometimes for that it requires some back ground reading. At a recent job an Alpha boiler was giving an overheat signal because the air pressure switch was faulty. The (micro-electronic) engineering behind the switch problem is something called switch bouncing where the micro computer does not register the switch opening and closing cleanly but instead see it bouncing open and closed causing multiple switching events which indicate to the boilers microcomputer that the burners must be switching on and off rapidly and therefore there must be an overheat problem. see full explanation of switch bouncing  at:- http://www.labbookpages.co.uk/electronics/debounce.html

Therefore the way to resolve this fault is to replace the switch so the contact and release of the switch is much cleaner. There is a multitude of knowledge out there in our industry which can be accessed by attending manufacturer’s courses but also by just talking to the technical help desks at the boiler manufacturers. Building up this knowledge will make your work more efficient, allow you to solve problems in a shorter time and give the impression that you really know your trade and are passionate about every aspect.

Financing a new boiler

We were delighted to hear that Graham’s the Plumbers Merchants and Zanussi Boilers have been working together to launch a product financing scheme that might suite some homeowners.

The Zanussi boiler is actually an Ideal Logic boiler with the branding of Zanussi. Many people will know of the problems with the heat exchangers in these boilers, however the boiler comes with a 10 year parts and labour warranty as long as you have the boiler serviced every year.

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This should mitigate some the worries that some homeowners may have and in any case the replacement of the heat exchanger outside the warranty period (> 10 years), should be seen as spreading the cost of the work (c.£500) over the 10 years of peace of mind the customer has had for the life time of the warranty.

Where there is a very simple installation the customer may find the cost of the work to be not far off £1500 which they offer at a low rate of interest over up to to 120 months at as low as £18 per month.

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We are able to organise these finance terms for customer who have acceptable credit histories.

Keeping it level could cost you.

Many people have boiler flues that go up into the loft and are therefore out of sight and out of mind. As gas engineers it’s our duty to inspect these flues even though they might be in an inconvenient place.

We quite often find that other gas engineers haven’t been up to check the condition of these flues and sometimes find that they haven’t been installed correctly in the first place.

At a recent job in North Shields we found a long flue that could have had a poor fall, i.e. a gradient to allow any condensate water to trickle back into the boiler 2017-01-31 09.52.17and out of the condensate waste pipework. The main length of the flue looked fine with over 150mm of fall over a 3m length which was in excess of the 79mm specified by the manufacturers instructions. However the shorter length that turned to meet the boiler’s vertical flue was fitted horizontally resulting in condensate water pooling and then eating through the seals as its slightly acidic.

[Chemistry Lesson 1 – condensate water is a mixture of water (H2O) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2), combining the two creates Carbonic Acid – (H2O + CO2 = H2C03) which is the chemical that eats away at the seals.]

2017-01-31 09.54.17These damaged flue parts needed to be replaced as this system is “At Risk” of becoming a serious problem as the exhaust gases follow the condensate water and enter the boiler to take part in the combustion process again, creating Carbon Monoxide. The corroded water entered the boiler and caused further corrosion to the steel parts within the boiler as well as dripping through the boiler onto the contents of the airing cupboard.

[Chemistry Lesson 2 – Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and Air comprising of 23% Oxygen (O2) and Natural Gas (Methane CH4) react in the combustion chamber to create Carbon Dioxide CO2, Water Vapour (H2O) and Carbon Monoxide – O + CO2 + CH4 = H20 + CO + CO2 ]. Carbon Monoxide or CO is a very dangerous gas as it has a similar density air and so floats in the atmosphere where it can be breathed in by humans. excessive amounts of CO can cause vomiting, brain damage, paralysis and death.

2017-01-31 12.14.24The faulty pipework was rectified by Macoun which entailed replacing 4 parts of the system at considerable expense to the customer, all because a small length of flue was installed incorrectly. The laser line is a level line. The flue was also properly hangered to prevent it coming loose, another common problem found in lofts.

 

If you suspect you have a level flue it would be best to have your regular service engineer look at it and report back, or alternatively we can look at it for you.

Shower Installation and Nest

We don’t just do boiler and heating system repairs, we are also, everyday, carrying out general plumbing tasks such as changing radiators, fitting new valves, fitting shower valves and tray and fitting advanced controls such as Nest and MiGenie.

2017-01-13 13.10.58At a recent job in Alnwick we fitted an exposed ‘period’ thermostatic mixer valve and riser to the wall already tiled over a corner bath. A key consideration is getting the shower at the right height for the clients and making sure the valve is level and evenly spaced in relation to the tiles. This may seen like common sense but it’s not always easy to do when considering the timber framework behind the wall.2017-01-13 13.10.41

 

 

 

 

 

Nest2

As mentioned we are regularly working with internet based controllers such as Nest, MiGenie and Hive. Recently we de-installed a Hive system in order to install a three zone Nest system.

The Nest system was configured to allow for heating control of two zones within the house and a further control of the unvented hot water cylinder.

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The picture shows the Nest Heat Link receiving devices which in this case is a Nest Gen 3 and a Nest Gen 2. The Gen 3 device runs one zone and the hot water with the Gen 2 Nest just running one zone.

NestAs a mater of fact the Nest system can manage up to 20 zones within your home so if you have multiple under floor heating rooms, a hot tub or a man cave, Nest can assist with the management of these heat sources.

For more information of Nest please visit them at :- http://bit.ly/NestMAC

Winter 2016/17–New boiler / old problem

Its not over yet but I thought it would be interesting to talk about what’s happened this winter.

First of all we are delighted to announce that we have reached 100 positive reviews on the website, “Checkatrade”. We have been with checkatrade for about a year now and have been steadily making progress up the ranking by delivering first class service, thanks to all our customer, most of whom have left reviews.Image result for 10 out of 10

In terms of statistics to date we have 20 scores @ 9-9.75’s and 109 scores of 10/10!! out of 129 reviews in total.

In terms of our business helping customers we have been busy helping customer get their heating and hot water back working as well as sorting out a few gas fires.

Worcester advanced heating system

2016-12-17 12.12.38One of our most interesting jobs was the installation of a new boiler at a lady’s house in Tynemouth. On inspecting the existing boiler we found a large hole in the flue and therefore condemned the installation as “Immediately Dangerous”.

We quoted for a new boiler and gave the customer a range of boiler options and power outputs. Mrs A. then decided to go for a 40KW Worcester Greenstar CDi with a Wave controller.2016-12-20 11.44.16

This was installed and commissioned and the old boiler removed and recycled. The Wave controller was installed and we talked Mrs A. through the instruction manual and downloaded the app to her iPhone. Wave controller app

 

 

 

 

This then allowed the system to track her movements and create a personalised schedule via the Home Presence Detection function. The system was also set up to use Geo-Data from the internet to sense the outside temperature and then modify the heating load to optimise the efficiency of her boiler. Weather compensation has been a hot topic with us for many years with the first introduction (to us) by Viessmann in 2008, its great to see other manufacturers advancing this technology to reduce green house gases.

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Domestic duties

In addition to the heating system we also installed a new concrete plinth to prevent flood water damaging the washing machine, this was used as a mount for the tumble drier which was located on top of the washing machine and vented through a new roof vent also installed by us!2016-12-17 12.01.19

 

 

 

 

 

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Boiler problems – Ideal Logic +

Many people have these boilers fitted but unfortunately, in our experience, the heat engine develops pin hole cavities inside the combustion chambers leading to a mysterious loss of system pressure and hence water without any evidence of leaks.

We have carried out a number of time lapse pressure tests on these boiler in order to test the tightness of the heat engine – see video – http://bit.ly/logicplus

2017-01-10 12.52.16The video test which can last up to an hour is compressed using time lapse photography (on my iPhone) and shows the steady loss of pressure from the boiler. This is further confirmed by the discharge in the condensate trap (photo opposite) which is emptied before the test takes place.

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Unfortunately when this test proves that there is a leaking heat engine the only real alternative is to replace it which is a technical and time consuming job. Virtually every part of the boiler has to be removed and then reassembled with the new heat engine in place. The gas systems then needs to be retested and the boiler refilled and recommissioned. 

If you have a Logic + combi or system boiler and you are having to re-pressurise the boiler every day then you probably have this problem, please call us.

Here’s to 2017!

7 Factorial – so many options

7Factorial

Seven Factorial (7!) – its a mathematical term which means 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1

When looking at a boiler which has developed a fault we are faced with more than 7 different things that could go wrong.

We have:-

1. The pump

2. The circuit board

3. The gas valve

4. The ignition system

5. The Heat exchanger

6. The diverter valves

7. The fan

 

The “Factorial” function is used to determine the number of possible variation that can exist with the number, in this case 7. The result of 7! is 5040. That is to say that there are 5040 different combination of the 7 parts of a boiler going wrong and stopping it from working.

The heating engineer’s job is to go through a logical sequence of fault finding in order to narrow down the possibilities of each of the above items causing the breakdown.

The diagnostic process varies for each boiler and each boiler manufacturer and so this is a further variable which needs to be computed. To assist the heating engineer there are a host of indicators such as error codes, voltages, resistances and impedances. In addition many manufacturers have excellent technical help lines who can talk you through the faults.

Google

Of course your could ask Google or Siri. But beware, Google only answers a very narrow set of questions you present it. If you don’t tell it that you have very old radiators it won’t take that into account and if you don’t tell Siri that the domestic hot water runs hot then cold then hot again, it too won’t be able to help you. A good heating engineer will ask all of these questions in a subtle and focused way, guiding him/her along the path that eliminated some of the 7 factors that could be making matters difficult for your boiler

Not all heating systems are made equal

With the chilly weather upon us many people are considering changing their heating systems at the moment. However not all heating system installations are the same and unfortunately it can be hard for the layperson to determine the differences at first glance.

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                       BEFORE                                                           AFTER

In the course of our work we are always coming across poor workmanship usually done by a “tradesperson” who has disappeared off the face of the earth!

Most customer know that the PRICE of a new system is not the same as the COST of a new system as short cuts to reduce the price at the installation stage can be very costly at a later date; a great example of this is omitting to fit a magnetic filter and properly flush the system. The dirt and debris that was in the system before and which probably led to the reduction in performance of the old boiler will now be running around your new boiler coating all of the new part in a thick layer of grime!

So how do you spot these differences and make an educated decision, here’s our top tips.

1. Checkatarde logoAs always, use someone who is recommended or comes highly rated by “Rated People”, “Checkatrade” or other bona fide trades people registers.

 

2. Do your research – good trades people have good review and share their success with others in a subtle way using many marketing channels

3. Check out your short listed trades people’s website for photos of recent work. Good workmanship is sometimes shown on these forums and you can mention these during the selection process to establish a benchmark of quality.

 

4. Carefully compare your quotes picking out the salient points such as “fully flush the system”, “commission and test”, “lag all pipework”, and ask why these are omitted from other’s quotes.

5. Always opt for “Supply and Fit” – you may think that you can make a saving by purchasing items yourself but please bear in mind that these have NO wrap-around guarantee. What we mean is that if a part / item you supply fails then the responsibility for replacing that part lies with you. If a plumber supplies a part and it fails the liability of the performance of the part lies with the provider, ie. the plumber.

6. Read and understand the documentation: in many cases boiler are not registered with the manufacturers because the plumber has done it, this also applies to Gas Safe register and Building Control. In many cases there are extended warranty offers which need to be applied for at the time of installation. Also many new appliances such as boiler and unvented cylinders have a “Benchmark” form which needs to be filled in correctly and signed off by the customer – make sure this is done and all the information is correct.

Hopefully with these guidelines the general public can make better decisions and receive better quality workmanship.

BAXI training refresher

2016-11-14 11.20.56It was great to catch up with Baxi Trainer, Roy Fugler and a few other heating engineers to refresh ourselves on the current state of play in the energy / heating environment. Roy introduced a BAXI incentive scheme, covered the governments ErP (Energy related Products) legislation and how the calculations would be done in practice. He also gave a short presentation about Baxi’s new products and support initiatives.

Baxi products

It seems Baxi are retaining their Platinum and Duo-Tec range of combination boilers as well as hitching a ride on the back of the very successful “Megaflow” trade name normally associated with unvented hot water cylinders by launching a “Megaflow” system boiler – i.e. one that just heats the house and a hot water cylinder. The Platinum and Duo-Tec are great boilers offering excellent service/price balance, are easy to fix (by us) and are supported by an excellent telephone technical help line as well as up to 10 year warranty if you keep to the service schedule.2016-11-14 12.46.12

They have also launched the 100, 200 and 400 boilers which are more eco –savvy with a new coms protocol called OpenTherm (https://www.opentherm.eu/). This enables the intelligent use of internet based control programmes similar and including Nest which also allows external weather compensation to be factored in to the equation; giving the boiler an additional 2% increase in ErP efficiency.

Nest Pics 2NEST Pro

The training also included a session on the Nest internet controller, (Gen 3), which has elevated our status to “Pro” installer. We have already fitted a good few of these controller and can confirm they are an excellent product. It was brought to our attention that these are especially good for the older generation as the wall mounted control interface is so user friendly and the learning function does all of the programming for you. If you require a Nest or more information on how they can save you money then please feel free to give us a call.

High power / high efficiency

We have just complete our proudest job ever! Fitting a 65KW system boiler and plate heat exchanger to a large house in Hampshire.IMG_0532

The existing boiler was past its best as it was over 15 years old and many of the parts had become discontinued. The Potterton Derwent was state of the art in its day with its high output and simple design but new condensing technology has overtaken it making it very uneconomical.

First off was to specify a replacement which was a close tie between Viessmann and Worcester both of which offer boiler with advanced controls and weather compensation. In the end Worcester was chosen for their technical help and on-site support.

WGB162 library picThe Worcester WGB 162 65KW boiler and plate heat exchanger was chosen to link into the house’s existing 240v controls via Worcester’s advanced electronic 4121 boiler control computer. A plate heat exchanger was included in the system to protect the boiler from the older existing systems (and its debris ) and also because the existing system was an unpressurised system whereas the boiler runs at 1Bar pressure.

 

2016-09-13 17.01.04Removing the existing boiler was not an easy task as it was so heavy (330kgs) but once drained and dismantled it could be lifted out in sections. The next part of the job was to prepare the walls for fitting the new boiler and carefully plan out the positions of the other equipment to minimise unnecessary bends so as to maximise the flow characteristics of the system.

Once the system pipework had been thoroughly planned the support system could be installed and the pipework attached to the existing system and new appliances.

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This was closely followed with the new condensate system which had to utilise a condensate pump which was required as there wasn’t an adequate waste gully on the outside of the building and we were uncomfortable about discharging up to 7 litres per hour of condensate water into a soak away.

Once the pipework and equipment has been pressure tested it was time to fit the Buderus Logamatic 4121 controller which could be located in the existing airing cupboard heiz24de_buderus_logamatic_r4121_mit_fm445and connected to the boiler via a data cable. Unfortunately Worcester Bosch has not designed a wireless system, this would have been very much easier in this case.

The controller is specifically designed to allow for system weather compensations (see – http://bit.ly/MacWComp) which achieves an additional 2% on to an already very efficient boiler. 4121 wiring diagram

Once the wiring diagram has been fully understood it was just a matter of attaching the necessary heat and flow sensors and commissioning the MEC2 handset.

Worcester Bosch have a very capable technical help department that allows connection through FaceTime if you get stuck on the system set up.

2016-09-17 09.53.27With the boiler commissioned and working its just a matter of setting the heating and hot water times and letting the system take over. The final element is fitting the insulation to the pipework and handing it over to the clients after talking them through the controls.

This was a great job, the customer was delighted with the work especially as we were £3,000 cheaper than the competition!

Plumber of the Year 2016

Hi All!!


Firstly, I didn’t win😂😂

Secondly, I would like to thank everyone that helped and supported me in my campaign. I received over 350 votes from all over the globe from Australia to Vietnam, Switzerland to Ireland so thank for your votes and for those who spread the word.

I’m sorry that the wonderful charity Mesothelioma UK will not be benefitting from the prizes this year but rest assured “I’ll be back”, next year. I am already forging a plan to understand where I went wrong and how I can be better next year!

Finally I would like to personally thank the judges from Plumb Centre, Just Trays and Bristan Taps and also Matt from Hatch PR who managed the whole event.