Helping the Plumber Over The Phone Can Save You Time And Money!

Whenever Bernard my master is asked what my favourite food is the answer is anything that’s on his plate! When it comes to anything a dog wants to play with it’s theirs but when it’s broken, it’s yours!

A bit unfair on humans, I know, but we are loyal and make the best guards and guides, which can sort out all sorts of safety prevention problems for our masters.

In fact sorting out problems is exactly what a busy plumber like Bernard is definitely about, of course. Customers are always looking for a great service at the best price and when a plumber needs to be found to fix a problem, there is always a worry over being overcharged or extra time being added to the final bill.

Experienced plumber – accurate estimate

A good and experienced plumber should firstly,  always tell the customer the exact cost and time of callout charges over the phone. Often problems can be rectified within the set call out period unless the job requires additional time to complete. Once again, an experienced plumber will be able to give an accurate estimate to include all parts and labour.

Even I have to wait to be fed while Bernard is busy fixing a boiler! But I always try to sniff out a half eaten chocolate bar or crisp bag to keep me going!

Information helps the plumber

However, a customer can often help themselves and the plumber with a little bit of plumbing knowledge. Rather than simply panic when waking one morning and finding you have no hot water, or a leak, for example, a few simple checks can save time for both you and the plumber.

A leak can be a straightforward problem. Firstly, find the stop-cock and turn off and then try to find where the leak is coming from so when you do ring a plumber you can provide the information, which will help pinpoint the problem and the likely time and cost to put right.

No hot water…

However, no hot water is probably the most common reason to call a plumber. Those with a gas water heater installed will need to firstly make sure the pilot light has not gone out and check the temperature setting on the water heater is set high enough to provide adequate amounts of hot water.

With an electric boiler heater, the first thing to do is see if there is power going to the heating elements. Check for a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse on the water heater circuit in the wiring centre or fuse box. If power has not been disrupted then it’s possible that the electric thermostat or a heating element has become faulty.

If a water heater is leaking, then it’s likely that rust has eaten away through the bottom of the water storage tank, and the water heater may need to be replaced.

Once again, having made the simplest of preliminary checks and carefully explaining the symptoms over the phone to the plumber could save precious time and money!

It also means that Bernard might get to feed me on time and save me having to raid the biscuit barrel!

Preventing Limescale Building Up A Large Scale Boiler Problem

Bernard’s family all settled down to watch “101 Dalmatians” on the TV over Christmas.

When it finished, Bernard was asked how it was possible that I was staring so intently at the screen almost as if I was really involved with the movie! It was noticed that I whimpered at all the sad moments, moved around nervously in my basket at scary bits, but most of all, howled like crazy at the funny parts.

“Yes,” said Bernard “It was weird of Moo to do that. He hated the book!”

Woof woof!

There was a lot of terrible wet weather over Christmas and New Year but it’s been mild so no emergency callouts to deal with freezing pipes like last year – yet! We hear that some of the polar conditions currently being experienced in the US are due to arrive here in the UK next week! But Bernard and I are always ready and know exactly what to do when pipes freeze, radiators or boilers stop working…

1 in 6 households are in hard water areas

A particular problem in the greater London area where Bernard mostly works is the build up of limescale, which can cause major problems in central heating systems. More than six in ten properties around the UK are supplied with hard water rich in minerals such as limestone. The average household living in an area with hard water will accumulate around 70kg of limescale in just 12 months, clogging up hot water pipes, appliances and heating systems.

Of course, I don’t mind how hard the water is as long as there is plenty always in my bowl (or else I will find a drink elsewhere – woof, woof!

First signs of a problem will be boiler noise

Limescale is formed when water is heated above 55 degrees and tends to form in the hottest part of the system. The first signs of a problem will be boiler noise caused by overheating of the water as a result of steam bubbles, which collapse loudly as they move away from the heat transfer surface and into the cooler water.

As limescale builds up on the heat transfer surface it has a direct impact on system efficiency, which can be reduced by 12 per cent by just a 1.6mm layer of scale, according to British Water. A loss of heat transfer efficiency means the boiler has to work harder by burning more fuel, resulting in an increase in home energy bills.

Bernard often finds that it is the build up of limescale that is the culprit when investigating a customer’s noisy boiler!

Protecting appliances and pipework

Preventing a build up is easy these days. From using chemical water softeners (for appliances such as kettles, washing machines and dishwashers) to installing electronic descalers to protect the pipework and ultimately, the boiler. Never try to forcefully chip scale away from tap nozzles or heating elements as this will likely to cause structural damage.

I have to admit the I’m not too keen on tasting the white crunchy bits of limescale myself – I much prefer one of Bernard’s tasty hobnobs!

Best To Be Gas Safe Than Sorry You Didn’t Check First For Plumbing Credentials!

On the 1st April 2009, Britain’s gas safety scheme known as Corgi was replaced by the Gas Safe Register. From that date onwards, by law, anyone who works on gas appliances, such as boilers, now needed to be on the Gas Safe Register.

Naturally, the fact that a Corgi was no more is something we canines are more likely to know than humans! But it is still of concern how Corgi continues to be mentioned whenever the issue of finding a properly trained and qualified plumber comes up in conversation. You may even spot a trade van with a Corgi sticker still attached to the side door.

Passionate about the job

Doing the job properly by a trained and qualified installer is something my master, Bernard feels passionate about. Just at the end of November he read about a gas explosion at a private residence in Manchester caused by damage to live electrical wires, which burned a hole in a gas pipe while a new boiler was being installed.

Apparently, the plumber had burnt the cables while using a blow torch to solder together gas pipes that ran alongside. Despite being badly charred, the cables were then wrapped in plastic tape instead of a proper repair made.

According to official figures, around 40 people are fatally injured each year from gas explosions and more than 25 people will die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning due to badly installed or not properly maintained gas appliances. Even more people suffer health problems from CO exposure directly related to a gas appliance.

Deciding if the plumber is right as well as the price

Luckily for me, I can smell gas right across north and east London where Bernard spends most of his time installing boilers and taking care of customer’s central heating systems.

Humans may have bigger brains but can they smell a rat? The kind of rat I’m talking about is the type of installer that humans seem to not worry as much about checking up on their Gas Safe credentials as they are on securing a suspiciously low price.

Unfortunately, trying to decide over the phone if you have found a good plumber when they give the pricing for even small jobs may not be the answer. Most good plumbers will prefer to provide quotes only when they are actually front of the job to be done so their ‘fixed quote’ is certain to be 100 per cent exactly correct – and customers will have no nasty surprises later!

Check to ensure a plumber is fully licensed

Apart from guarantees, references, online reviews and obtaining different quotes ( for the same amount of work to be carried out), it’s always crucial to spend time checking to ensure a plumber is fully licensed and carries full insurance to protect you and your neighbour’s property in the event of a catastrophe. While asking about “long they have been in business for” may be reassuring, it’s not always the case that reputable trades-people last while rogue traders simply disappear!

I’m proud to be able to say that my master, Bernard is Gas Safe registered, a Worcester Bosch Group partner and gives a 5 year guarantee – and he replaced all his Corgi stickers, but sadly not with pictures of Moo!

No Summer Check Up? You Could Have Winter Heating Problems!

If you saw the recent TV programme in which hidden cameras revealed just how much my fellow canines get so fretful when we are left alone in the house, you’ll understand why Bernard, my master, lets me sometimes travel in his van when he’s away a lot on call-outs.

When customers see me, Bernard is suddenly called upon to give his ‘expert’ advice on the welfare of dogs as well as working out what’s wrong with their boiler! One customer actually asked Bernard if he knew how to keep his dog from barking in the front yard. Bernard told him to put it in the back yard! Woof Woof!

Central heating turned on – nothing happens!

From the start of autumn we are always very busy responding to calls from customers who may have just turned on their central heating for the first time since before the summer months – and nothing happens!

One piece of ‘real’ advice Bernard always gives is to check that your system is still running by putting the heating on for about 15 minutes once a month. It helps to keep the boiler pump free from debris accumulating. At the same time, it’s always worth having the boiler serviced too – just like my seasonal visits to the vets for a check-up!

Whenever there is a potential problem with a boiler, the key advice is to always call a professional, trained, qualified and industry-approved plumber like my master, Bernard.

Many types and brands of modern boilers today are sophisticated electronic systems, which are constantly being upgraded and require their own specialist knowledge. Yet it’s simply staggering how some people think that they can simply get “this mate of a mate from down the road to come and have a look – it won’t cost anything!”

Simple checks that homeowners can do

On the other hand, there are some simple checks that homeowners can do, which can help identify common but very simple and obvious boiler problems that you should be able to fix yourself.

The most obvious is to check to see if the boiler pilot flame is alight or power light is on. A pilot flame can be relit by carefully following the manufacturer instructions while the power on newer boilers may be restored by checking to see if a circuit protection device has tripped and needs to be reset.

It’s not unusual for a meter, which is in a cupboard alongside many other stored items, to have its on/off switch knocked off.

Another simple check is to see if the central heating programmer been set correctly or if an individual room’s thermostat is set too low preventing the heating from coming on. If the system has not been used for a while or if there is a leak, then it’s likely that the boiler pressure is not correct.

Beyond the simple checks described above, no attempt at plumbing DIY should be made with the boiler – especially if it’s a gas boiler! My master always recommends the importance of making sure a gas boiler is checked and serviced regularly in order to cut the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I can normally sniff a biscuit half a mile away and can never understand why some humans can’t do the same!

Peace Of Mind Guaranteed Or Counting The Cost Of A Cowboy Plumber

“It’s enough to make you barking mad!” says the master who just came across a recent survey, which reports that nearly 70 per cent of people admit they choose their plumber “on cost alone”.

According to a study of around 2,000 consumers, finding a cheap plumber trumps any concerns over whether they are registered with Gas Safe and other approved contractor schemes or even if they have any professional training or qualifications.

The master says quite rightly that it’s the “cowboy” element that constantly gives the professionally trained and qualified trade a bad image. Incredibly, the survey found that nearly a quarter of the people polled said they “have fallen victim to a rogue plumber” and a further quarter know someone else who was also caught out by a botched plumbing job.

Trying hard to cut back on unnecessary costs

The master knows that times are tough and everyone is trying hard to cut back on unnecessary costs. So it can be a real disaster in more ways than one if you wake up in the morning and the house is cold and there’s no hot water. The challenge of a repair or replacement of a boiler that has suddenly “stopped working” can be seen in different ways by different people.

For far too many, their response means they seem willing or oblivious to suffer costly problems weeks or just days later. More than 50 per cent said they are prepared to risk asking an unqualified person to carry out plumbing work in their home. So it should come as no surprise to find that 80 per cent of those asked also said they “don’t always expect their plumber to do a good job.”

Hot water and heating vital to everyone’s daily lives

The proper, legal and safe functioning of gas or oil fired hot water and heating systems are vital to everyone’s daily lives. Yet the necessary training, qualifications and experience required to ensure that the systems do work are considered of less importance than finding the cheapest quote and accepting a substandard, even dangerous level of workmanship.

Consequently, nearly 70 per cent of those surveyed also stated they always get a second opinion to see if they’re being charged the “going rate”.

The master absolutely agrees with customers being careful to see that the quotes they receive do generally reflect a genuine, accredited industry level of service quality expected of a fully qualified and experienced plumbing and heating installer.

Guarantee

Today, a boiler can account for more than half of a household’s total energy bill, and energy prices are set to continue to rise, so having a properly functioning and efficient boiler is vitally important. Installation of a quality, energy rated boiler can now be guaranteed for at least 5 years by a fully compliant plumber.

Can you say that about your boiler?

I say “woof, woof” – if the master has done it for you – and I’m definitely not barking mad!

Avoid The Winter Call Out – Check Your Central Heating Now!

Grrr ….gas price rises coming thick and fast now! It’s not simply a problem of finding the extra money to cover the winter quarterly bill. Every year millions of customers face a crisis when the boiler packs up unexpectedly – just when a cold snap arrives or worse, the night before Christmas!

If the cold snap lasts as long as they have been doing in the last couple of years, then all sorts of unexpected problems can occur. It’s simply staggering how many emergency call outs there are every day as it starts to get colder from November onwards.

But as daily gas consumption rises more boilers break down. The rise in energy prices have also meant that people have, increasingly, delayed turning on their heating.

One in six consumers will wait until November before putting the central heating on for the first time since last winter while three per cent will keep putting another jumper on until December or until the first sign of frost, and one per cent hold out until snow arrives!

But the added delay also increases the likelihood of storing up more problems with the boiler, radiators or pipes just when they need to be fully working and providing heat.

Before temperatures start to fall…

The master always advises customers to have their boilers and central heating checked over before temperatures start to fall . It’s so much easier to fix a boiler or water flow in milder weather than when temperatures are below freezing and there’s the possibility of a blockage.

It’s easy to simply forget about the heating system but there can be so many things that can go wrong simply because the system has “not been looked at for a while.”

Most people know about radiators failing to heat up because of corroded pipework causing a blockage of sludge in the system, which prevents the free flow of hot water.

But many people will simply leave the boiler set to ‘hot water’ all summer and then switch to both ‘hot water and heating’ when they feel the first nip in the air. What actually happens is that a valve turns to allow the water out to the radiators but if the valve has been damaged or simply stopped working during the year, then the first time it’s realised there is a problem is when the radiators fail to warm up.

So many things that can go wrong…

As well as a failure of motorised valves, no heat or hot water could also mean broken diaphragms and airlocks, a faulty thermostat or low water levels. A boiler which keeps switching itself off could also mean a problem with the thermostat, or the pump not circulating the water in the system properly.

Low water pressure is another possible cause. A water leak in the system is the most common reason for a loss of pressure, but a pressure relief valve may need replacing, and leaks and drips can be caused by a variety of issues.

And those strange banging, whistling or gurgling noises you hear when you’re trying to get some sleep at night? Once again it could be low air pressure or most commonly, air in the system or the build up of lime-scale in the boiler’s heat exchange.

There’s so many things that can go wrong which can so easily be avoided with a pre-winter check up!
The master is always right – he should know, of course, he is a fully qualified Gas Safe plumber!