Gas Safety Week

This week is Gas Safety week. Its a chance to elevate the importance of gas safety and broadcast to the public what is meant by gas safety.gas safe man

What is it?

What is Gas Safety? – there are two main areas:-

1. Gas leaks – is gas escaping into your house? If so there could be an explosion which could kill or seriously harm you, your family or passers.

2. Poisonous fumes – when we burn gas we produce fumes, usually CO2 and water vapour but if a boiler or gas fire is not burning properly it can produce CO (Carbon Monoxide) which is very poisonous. The production of CO is much more common than a gas leak because flues can get blocked (by builders or birds nests) or careless actions such as using a disposable barbeque in a tent are carried out by the public.

CO can easily come from car engines, small petrol generators, gas fire, gas cookers and any form of fire be it wood, plastic or paper when used in unventilated spaces. As soon as the fire uses up all of the oxygen in the room it starts removing oxygen from the CO2 leaving CO, which is deadly.

CO poisoning symptoms –

CO symptoms

Risks in our area – NE30

Gas Safe Register has found a significant number of unsafe appliances over the least 12 months. As the graphic below shows there are appliances at risk and people’s lives in danger.


The website – is designed to allow you to call in a Gas Safe Engineer or remind you to do so in the future when you’re next at home. We would certainly urge you to seriously consider getting your appliances checked and a CO detector fitted.


Getting to grips with the 3 port valve–gravity system

Motorised Mid-position Valve - 3 Port 22mmMany houses use a traditional gravity system where there is a water tank in the loft for the hot water cylinder usually located on the landing. This system was very common before the combi boiler came along about 30 years ago. To make matters even simpler the heating companies devised a 3 port valve to allow the use to set heating, hot water or heat and hot water programmes on the mechanical timer.

The wiring of these 3 port valves is quite straight forward but with there being so many combi boilers in existence now the skills and knowledge have faded away as older heating engineers have retired. These wiring systems were called Y plan systems because the “Y” looks like the way the hot water flows.

If you have problems with your heating or hot water is worth knowing what is supposed to be going on so you can give a heating engineer a reasonable explanation of what’s happening.

Open all hours

The first thing to know is that that the valve is set to be open to the hot water cylinder when its off. This means that when ever the boiler is running the cylinder will be heating unless it has reached its temperature. The controller can be set to heating off which powers the 3 port valve to close the route open to the cylinder.

When the three port is valve is used on an unvented cylinder, as this a closed, pressurised system, there is a secondary safety device which is a zone valve fitted after the 3 port valve and before the cylinder. This is a normally open valve like the 3 port valve but accepts a “heat satisfied” signal from the cylinder stat which then closes the valve to make sure it doesn’t overheat, this is a G3 Building regulation.


 Visio-Y plan with Unvented cylinder with wires

You can see from the above wiring diagram that the boiler is switched on via the cylinder stat and not by the zone or 3 port valve. It also shows that the cylinder stat controls the zone valve and switches it to closed when the cylinder heat is “satisfied”, the black wire.

Once this principle is understood it’s relatively easy to fault find what’s going on with the system and will lead the engineer to either the cylinder stat, controller or 3 port valve.

Good luck.

Macoun become Worcester Accredited Installer

We are delighted to announce that we are now Worcester Accredited Installers. Worcester imageThe qualification means that we now offer 1 year’s more warranty on Worcester boilers that other plumbers not accredited.

The qualification process, which was a one day residential course in Wakefield, was a mixture of technical understanding, knowledge of the Worcester range and understanding of the Worcester Customer Service experience.

As we are already Gas Safe registered and have fitted almost every boiler in the range we easily qualified for the technical part of the assessment. The Customer Service offering from Worcester is especially unique for a boiler manufacturer. Their approach is to fix the problem and ask questions later; unlike some (contractors and boiler manufacturers) who will start looking at the small print and trying to evade their obligation. This approach is very much in line with Macoun’s ethos as we believe that everyone can make mistakes and its best to minimise the stress to customers as soon as possible. Usually there is a very simple reason for a problem and an open and emphatic approach releases much of the stress and tension.

We hope therefore to be selected as a boiler installer of choice and if you need a new boiler we hope you might consider Macoun Energy Limited.

High tech solution to blocked microbore

We have recently been working for a client who lives on a housing development that was built in 1999. The whole of the development was fitted with a heating system that used micro-bore (10mm) plastic pipework for the last 2-3m of pipework before it was attached to the radiator valves.

The systems were fitted with low quality hot water cylinders and boilers, which have in turn, been replace. We replaced the hot water cylinder about a month ago.

This style of installation, which is now 18 years old, has not worn well. Large amounts of debris have collected in the small bore pipes leading to the blocking of one radiator after another. In this house 5 radiators were effected; this is in addition to the 3 radiator done a few years earlier.

We have worked with blocked radiator pipes in the past and have taken the approach of firstly flushing each individual radiator and pipework and then in that’s not enough, rodding the pipework with a wire pipe cleaner. Unfortunately this didn’t prove to be effective and so the decision was taken to replace the 10mm pipework with 15mm.

File 29-05-2017, 17 48 18The clients cleared their bedroom and landing of all furniture and carpets and we set about lifting floor boards to access the supply pipework. The next part of the work was to cut up the weyroc to allow new pipework to be connected to new 15mm radiator valves.

Once again the flooring was carefully cut with a vacuum linked circular saw which was effective in reducing the dust created. 2017-05-18 11.18.19



The previous 10mm pipes were pulled through the walls and capped off. The new pipes were notched through the floor joists and secured.

Once the pipe work was replaced the system was refilled and another cleaning additive added to finally flush out the remaining debris. The product was a very severe acid that could not be left in the pipework as it would have a detrimental effect on the aluminium alloy heat exchanger located inside the Worcester boiler. 2017-05-20 15.10.53

Therefore before the final balancing could take place the system was thoroughly flushed through with clean water until Ph7 was achieved, this was measure using Litmus papers.

Hydronic balancing

The next part of the work was to balance all the radiators so that an equal amount of heat reached each room. In the past this has been done using the skill and experience of the plumber who would go round the house adjusting “lock shield” valves as each radiator warms up. Alpha3[6]Grundfos, a leading domestic pump manufacturer have devised a more scientific system where the pump monitors the pressures on each radiator in turn and then tell you where to set the lock shield valves.

The pump is fitted with a detachable remote reader which collects the pressure and flow data and transmits it via Bluetooth to your App on your phone.

Once the set up data has been entered and the base flow calculated its relatively simple and quick to set each radiator. File 29-05-2017, 18 14 53The image below is directly from the iPhone App which as you can see is a dial which shows the correct flow value when the radiator is balance with others in the system.

The net result is a full balanced system using a highly efficient pump which Grundfos claim could save you up to 20% of your heating costs as well as savings from running the pump which is the most efficient pump in its class.


More details are available at Grundfos’s website :

Finally our client left us a great review on Checkatrade – 

Although this work was quite intrusive Richard carried it out with minimum mess and disruption to our water supplies. Once the pipes were replaced he refilled and bled our heating system and balanced our radiators using the latest Grundfos Alpha 3 pump, which allows precise balancing of the radiator flows using a mobile app. Very neat. He also sorted out a long term electrical problem I’ve had with the heating for years. Once again excellent job. Thank you. Mr L. Whickham

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.


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:-

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.

New Picture (86)New Picture (87)





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.


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







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.

2017-01-30 11.02.45

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 :-

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.

2016-12-20 11.44.28

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







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 –

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.

2017-01-12 09.13.08







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


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.


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