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!

Prevent Christmas Sliding Down The Greasy Pipe And Blocking Drains!

It’s Christmas! Hoorah, lots of snoozing in my basket!

But Bernard my master always expect there to be emergency call outs – and he’s never been wrong yet! The weather’s mild at the moment but if temperatures do drop, there’s bound to be pipes which will freeze up because they’re outside and haven’t been lagged properly.

Can’t wait for Christmas Day – all those scrumptious scraps which find their way into my bowl – even if I have to fetch them off the table myself! Woof woof! Bernard pretends to be annoyed but then he fills my water bowl with beer and I suddenly need to start chasing my tail!

Turkey fat, oil or grease

Of course, it’s all about eating and drinking over the festive season and sinks can so easily get blocked, especially if someone decides to pour the turkey fat, oil or other types of grease or thick foodstuffs down the plug hole. Trying to clear the blockage with hot water may not help very much because in some properties the pipes may have not been correctly installed.

The problem of misaligned pipes is not uncommon and can sometimes be the reason why residue easily builds up into a blockage causing a kitchen sink to take an unusually long time to drain away and start to smell, even if not excessively used. However, a smell coming from a kitchen sink drain could simply mean the waste pipe traps need to be cleaned out. It’s no fun for me trying to sniff out buried bones!

Preventing a build up of waste

Apart from ensuring that turkey fat is never poured away down the sink, one good tip to help prevent a build up of waste blocking up the pipes is to pour boiling water down the kitchen sink followed by hot soapy water on a weekly basis. Follow this up with half a packet of soda crystals and another kettle full of boiling water down the sink every two weeks.

If the toilet or bathroom sink and bath plug holes appear to be blocked then there is likely to be a problem with the drainage system. If the outside drain starts to overflow each time then it’s time for a plumber to lift the grates and trace the blockage.

Seasonal wishes

Hopefully, we won’t get too many blocked drains to deal with on emergency callouts! Bernard spends the whole year conscientiously telling all his customers how to take care of their water systems and reminds them to have their boilers serviced and radiators checked well before the winter season.

I’m sure Bernard would want to join me now in wishing you all – our lovely customers past, present – and those who might need to call because of a blocked or burst pipe – a very merry Christmas!

Just can’t wait for Christmas Day – every year, Bernard always has a present for me. A cat may have nine lives but Moo the dog expects to get a new leash on life! Woof woof!

See you all here in January!

Water Pressure Problems May Be Difficult To Tap!

My master, Bernard loves to tell his customers that I’m able to respond to his questions by answering back in spoken English. Customers refuse to believe it until Bernard asks me, ” What covers a house?”  and I reply twice to make sure, “roof – roof!” And of course it’s easy for me to say how sandpaper feels, “rough – rough!”  The pressure is always on to perform.

Talking of pressure…

At this time of year, as temperatures fall, we always receive a number of calls from customers who fear that the cold weather has caused the water pressure to drop in their home and affect normal supply. If water has frozen in a pipe then supply can be affected. However, the “truth –truth” is that there’s likely to be another more common cause.

The most typical reason is due to water supply being temporarily reduced or stopped completely for repairs to burst mains or routine maintenance. Advance notification tends to be rare and it’s always best to check first to see if neighbours are also affected and/or online with the area supply company.

Changes in supply demand

Another reason outside of the home can be the length of the external supply pipe. On longer supply pipes, particularly those with a smaller internal diameter, the water pressure at a property’s boundary can be affected if the internal supply pipe is too small to deliver the flow of water to the taps at a high enough pressure.

The pressure of the water coming through household taps can sometimes vary anyway due to the changes in response to the demand for water being placed on the distribution system.

Water pressure is actually at its highest at night when very little is being used while during the day and at peak times of use, such as at breakfast or an evening meal, more people in a residential area are using more water, which can cause the pressure to drop. A bath can take longer than usual to fill with water and cause a delay in getting your ducks in a “row-row-row!”

There can be various reasons for a water pressure problem within the home…

Leaks from pipes or fittings are usually the most common reason for reduced water pressure and it’s important to check by carefully listening for hissing sounds from inside pipes or looking for damp patches.

Some pressure problems can be caused by faulty, damaged or leaking pipes and fittings, for example, to ball valves and stop taps. On older properties, the pipes may have become corroded and are restricting water flow.

A partially closed branch stop tap inside a property could also be the cause of low water pressure. By gently opening up the tap, the pressure can be increased, then open and close several times until the number of turns from open to closed is constant and the tap is fully open. Finally, reverse back by a quarter of a turn to prevent the tap from seizing up.

So, it may be no more than a coincidence that water pressure becomes low when the cold winter weather arrives but Bernard may still need to come and take an urgent look.

I might even come along too and answer any customer questions but I’m sure they wouldn’t want to see a dog outside when the weather is so bitterly “raw-raw-raw!”