Monday, 18 June 2018

When is self Employed, not Self Employed

We have recently had a court case where a so called self employed person who was dismissed after requesting to reduce his working week after suffering a heart attack from 5 days to 3 days, which was denied and he was dismissed, he has won his case, he had worked solely for this company for 6 years.

The court ruled that he was classed as a worker, not self employed, because:

"Although Smith paid self-employed tax and was VAT-registered, the Court of Appeal ruled that he was a worker based upon his lack of control over the work, as he was contractually obliged to do a minimum number of hours work a week and did not have the right to transfer his work to a subordinate"

This to me is not the only point, he solely worked for this company, he did the work that they acquired, he drove their branded van and wore their branded uniform, to the public he would of appeared to of been an employee of the company and he worked solely for them for 6 years, this in my opinion is not been self employed, I am self employed, I find my own work, I survey the jobs, I price the job, I send the quote out, if I win the job I design the job,  supply the materials then do the job and then invoice the job and get paid for the job, I also have all the other paper work associated with running my own business and like many others, my job is not 9-5, or set within any set hours, I work whatever hours are necessary to acheive what I want to acheive, but ultimately I am free to work whatever hours I choose.

I have also worked on the other side, both as an employee and self employed working direct for one company, neither of them is the same as what I do now and apart from the holiday pay and paying standard tax and NI, the working conditions working direct for one company as a self employed plumber and as an employee where basically the same, I worked the hours set by the company at the agreed pay, so is that really been self employed?, in my personal opinion, no

The industry needs workers who can work for one company, then shift to another, as the industry need these types of workers but maybe its time to have another category for this type of work in the eyes of the law and the HMRC, maybe we should have Self Employed for those truly working for themselves and running their own business, then a category of Sub Contractor for those working for solely one company currently seen as self employed, they should have different HMRC rules applied and different pay structure including holiday pay, basically its just another grey area within our industry that needs clarification.

In my opinion it is wrong for companies to have self employed working solely for them for years, wearing their branded work wear and driving the company branded van, in effect giving the public the impression they are employees, but allowing the company to avoid the costs and benefits associated with having them as an employee.

What is your opinion on this?

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Are Renewables Value for Money

We have heard so much over the past 10 years or more about been Green, Sustainable Energy, Renewable Energy etc, etc, so why has it not taken off.

Even with Government Grants RHI and FiT (Bribes in my opinion) the uptake has not been great, why is this? Well in my opinion its simply, people can see that these overpriced, expensive components are never going to repay the capital cost in savings during their lifetime, we see all this info saying payback in 10 years, 5 years, 3 years or whatever, what is this based on, its based on theoretical data, not real life, houses are different, each home has a different heatloss, peoples personal comfort levels are different, there is no standard in personal comfort levels, so much of it will depend on personal use, theories and guessing don't work in the real world.

The uptake from installers to the likes of MCS were dreadful, why was this, again cost and also bureaucracy, it seemed that constant hoops had to be jumped through and much silver had to cross palms to belong to MCS, but renewables was likely to be a tiny percentage proportion of a plumbing and heating business, so the costs and time needed to comply with the schemes requirements were simply not worth it to the majority of sole traders and SME's, but without these groups on board it was always going to fail, if they can't get installers on board to beat the drum of renewables, what chance do they have with the public

When we look at the reality of renewables, what would anyone do when faced with the following options, a GSHP installation costs between £13,000.00-£20,000.00 or a gas boiler install £2,000.00-£3,000.00 its a no brainer, the GSHP is not going to save you so much in energy costs that its worth the extra £10,000.00 capital outlay and why should GSHP's, solar, biomass get grants, nothing is free, we are all paying for these grants, but in my opinion, the returns are simply not viable.

If renewable options are good, why has the new build market not embraced them, why do we not see solar on every new build, why do we not see ASHP's or GSHP's been installed on every new build, again, its the costs, bureaucracy and the lack of demand for these technologies from the public.

While on the subject, why is Biomass treated as a renewable, or sustainable, in my opinion it is a dirty fuel, why is it seen as green to grow trees then tear them down to burn as fuel, yet coal mining and burning is seen as bad, where is the difference, both are bad for the environment and burning both are bad for air quality, so why is one praised as been good.

I understand that we do need to find cleaner ways to heat our homes, I just do not think the current options are the real solution, we do need to find solutions, but to be successful the costs needs to be reasonable so that ordinary people can afford them and installers are free to install them without putting up barriers, to prevent uptake

These are just my personal opinions on this matter

Monday, 21 May 2018

Is Government Really Interested in Energy Efficiency

Looking at Building Regulations and the new build housing market, it's difficult to believe that the Government is serious about energy efficiency and saving consumers money on their energy costs for their homes, all I see in new build is minimum insulation, standard double glazed windows, radiators running at high temperatures, pipes not insulated, there is so much more that could be done to improve efficiency without costing the earth, if we can't get the new build market right, what chance do we have with existing stock.

In my opinion insulation levels of new homes should be greatly increased, if we reduce the heatloss first, everything else falls into place to reduce running costs, why build a house with a 15kW heat loss, when we could make it a 9kW heatloss with better insulation, the lower the heatloss the lower the heat input required to maintain comfortable room temperatures which will lead to reduced running costs, it's as simple as that, I also feel that new build should be embracing UFH now as standard, or at the very least be designing the system and sizing the radiators to heat the rooms at a 50*C flow temperature, not the 70-80*C that I mainly see in new build, also standard cheap radiators should not be used, better quality efficient heat emitters should be used, this in itself would increase efficiency by a large amount, as the boiler would always be in condensing mode, even without weather compensation, the likes of Boiler Plus just seems to want to add components which in reality will do a basic minimum to save energy, they need to tackle the main issues to reduce running costs, better insulation and better heating system design, most new build homes have the boiler and cylinder if they have one, (most seem to go the combination boiler route, which is not always the best solution in my opinion) shoved in a small cupboard, or the boiler is in the utility room and the cylinder in a cupboard on the first floor, which creates a long primary run which does run at a higher temperature to heat the cylinder, which then has heatloss, the cylinder and boiler should be together, so the primary flow & return to the cylinder is as short as possible to reduce energy waste.

Boiler 4 pipe technology that some boiler manufacturers have should be used in new build, still using old outdated cylinder thermostats in this day and age is ridiculous, using a sensor direct from the boiler to control cylinder temperature is more accurate and safer in my opinion.

System balancing appears to have been dropped completely from system commission, its an essential part of ensuring the system runs efficiently

So who is responsible for holding things back, Government, Manufacturers, Housebuilders? I just do not understand why new homes are been built in 2018 to what are very poor building regulations, that simply do not go far enough to reduce the energy required to heat those homes, we need change, at the moment it just appears to be a box ticking exercise, with no real meaning, stating that a home is A rated, or B rated in reality means absolutely nothing, all a homeowner wants is low fuel bills and I do not believe the EPC means that bills will be low, especially with todays Building Regulations

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