Posts filed under ‘Guest Post’
How to avoid burst pipes and failing heating systems in winter via Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers
Ahead of the expected cold spell during the winter months, ‘Plumber to the stars’ Charlie Mullins gives his expert advice to home owners on how to protect their property from winter conditions.
The Pimlico Plumbers founder said: “The winter weather can be very troublesome for homeowners who have not taken the necessary steps to prepare their house for the cold. By following these simple steps homeowners will significantly reduce the chance of encountering problems such as burst pipes and heating systems that cannot handle the adverse conditions.
“Not only will homeowners prevent problems but they will also reduce the amount they spend on heating their home in the long run.”
Charlie’s top tips:
1. In these freezing conditions it is crucial to keep your water moving so that pipes don’t freeze up – running your taps every now and then will help to prevent freezing and could save you a hefty plumbers’ bill.
2. Another great tip that people just don’t think of is keeping your loft hatch open a few inches to let warm air into your loft or roof cavity where your water pipes are, which will help no end in keeping water from freezing.
3. Keeping your heating turned on low when you are out or even when you’re away for a few days or longer. It doesn’t have to be high at all, just 5 or 6 degrees C will do it, but once again if water stays above zero it won’t freeze.
4. Make sure your lagging (thermal insulation) is up to scratch: people think it’s too late to do anything about this now but the forecast says there’s at least a couple of weeks of this weather to come, and his will help keep things warm and save real money.
5. Another winner is to have your loft and cavity walls properly insulated – hot air rises so it makes sense to keep the heat inside the building – remember you paid for it so don’t let it get outside as it puts more strain on your boiler and uses up more expensive gas replacing the heat.
6. Regular servicing of your boiler and radiators: since the recession we have noticed an increase in emergency call outs as people try to save a bit of cash by cutting down on things they think are not important. But it makes so much more sense to spend a little getting your heating system up to scratch. Aside from the safely aspect, It will last longer and will perform when you most need it to.
7. Have a timer installed on your heating system: this will save you money by not running things at full temperature all the time, but at the same time give your house a little boost every now and then to keep things from getting too cold and giving you the sort of expensive problems you can experience when your pipes freeze up.
8. Having thermostatic radiator valves fitted to all your radiators to control individual room temperatures will give you the ability to switch heat off completely in certain parts of your house, thus reducing your fuel costs further, while keeping things roaring where they are needed.
An eco-friendly property has many benefits, writes Morris Homes’ managing director Chris Lilley.
As energy prices continue to rise, finding a property that is energy efficient is moving higher up the list of priorities for buyers who want to minimise their monthly payments, writes Chris Lilley, managing director of Morris Homes.
In addition to wanting to reduce living costs, buyers are also becoming more socially aware of the impact that their choices are having on the environment. From choosing more eco-friendly cars to diligently recycling household waste, we’re all aware of the need to reduce our energy consumption.
The UK’s largest carbon village in Peterborough - Vista – was launched to help identify new solutions for building homes that are not only environmentally friendly, but are stylish and affordable for buyers. The development was recently named as the Best Low or Zero Carbon Initiative at the Housebuilder awards.
Inside, the properties at Vista look no different to any new home. They’re spacious, light, warm, comfortable, and designed around modern lifestyles.
However, under the skin of the properties is a range of energy-saving technology designed to reduce carbon emissions by 74 per cent compared to a similar sized property and help buyers save up to £310 per year on their energy bills (based on final As-Designed SAP calculations and British Gas energy prices in January 2013).
For example, every home has solar panels to generate electricity, a rainwater harvesting system to provide water for flushing toilets, and an advanced boiler that recovers and recycles waste heat.
The commitment to the environment continues outside of the properties, with a dedicated composting area, bicycle storage and recycling facilities installed at every property to encourage residents to live a more sustainable lifestyle. There are also 2.7 acres of public gardens and wetlands around the development to reduce the impact on the biodiversity of the site.
To help residents further reduce their carbon footprint every buyer also receives a £250 voucher to buy a bicycle, or a six-month bus pass.
All of these measures will also help towards the Government’s target of reducing carbon emissions from UK homes by 29 per cent by 2020.
Vista was launched last year, and the first buyers have now moved into their properties. Buyers have already told us that their energy bills to date have been dramatically reduced compared to their previous homes.
We’ve now moved on to the next phase of the site and have recently launched a selection of four-bedroom homes to encourage families to move to Vista for a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
It is often said that moving is one of the most stressful things we do in life. But while it’s an unavoidable necessity for many of us at some point, a good proportion of us make some avoidable mistakes writes Mark Prout, managing director of London removals specialists Aussie Man & Van.
Here are his top 10 mistakes people make when moving home – and how to avoid them:
1) Packing late wreaks havoc with your nerves and leads to broken objects and damaged clothes. Always plan to get the packing finished so that you have a good buffer between the day you finish and the removal day.
2) Book your removals firm as soon as you’ve got your moving date. If you don’t, you may find everyone is booked up, particularly if you are moving on a Friday, towards the end of the month or during the summer. You could do it yourself and hire a van but while that may be the cheap way of doing it, it’s time-consuming and backbreaking work.
3) Choose your removals firm carefully to ensure they do a good job: ideally get a recommendation from a friend, family member or colleague. Make sure they are members of the British Association of Removers (BAR). www.bar.co.uk
4) Some people forget how much of their life is computer-based. Back up everything to a portable hard drive so that you can access it even via someone else’s computer if necessary.
5) Forgetting to label boxes means that your kitchen materials end up in your bedroom and vice versa. Label precisely and in detail. If your removal company is packing for you, good firms will label each box with the name of the room it is destined for, ensuring the boxes end up in the right place.
6) Work out measurements well in advance. Don’t end up with an item of furniture that doesn’t fit anywhere, and in a worst-case scenario, blocks access into your new home.
7) Don’t disregard insurance. If you break something, it could be a costly mistake. If you are packing yourself, check your household insurance covers damage and breakages in transit. Removal companies will not be able to provide this level of cover unless they have done the packing themselves.
8) Try to get your new home cleaned a day or two prior to your arrival. This isn’t always possible if you are moving in just as the previous owners are moving out but if there is some leeway, it will make a huge difference. It is also good form to leave your old house or flat clean and in good order.
9) Don’t decide to pack up clutter and deal with it at the other end. Declutter before your move and ruthlessly discard things with no thought to sentimentality. It’s much easier then taking it with you.
10) Take valuables with you rather than packing them up for loading onto a van or lorry. First, you might need them quickly at the other end and secondly, you can relax knowing that your passports and jewellery are not stuffed into a large box, unreachable for days.
For more moving advice, contact Mark Prout at Aussie Man & Van www.manandvan.biz
Move house and save money – how does that work? Well we’ve asked Helen Cripps from uSwitch to explain all in this guest post below…
Whether you have already moved, looking to move or about to move in, take a little shuffle away from the boxes or the property research, enjoy a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive and see what the energy experts uSwitch have to say about saving money in your new home…
1. You can save up to £316 just by switching gas and electricity suppliers!
A word of warning – if you don’t shop around, you will automatically be put onto a standard tariff, which can cost an average of £1211 a year, compared with the cheapest online deals which cost an average of a £895 a year. It may be that you have moved to a new area, to a different sized house, or even just next door, either way it’s always worth 10 minutes online to compare gas and electricity prices. Even though it may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of moving mayhem, the potential to save £316 per year really is not. It could be the cost of a removal company for a day, or at least 15 takeaways to help you ease into your new kitchen. At uSwitch all you need is your postcode!
2. While you have an empty space, make it an energy efficient space…
Whether refurbishing or not, the likelihood is that the majority of your belongings are still in boxes and that your new living space is still relatively clear. So now is the time to look at what small changes could be made to your surroundings that will save money in the months to come. Loft insulation, for example, can save you £128 per year. And let’s face it, when is your loft likely to be empty again? The insulation can be installed effectively (in a fool-proof DIY fashion) in under 2 hours! It might be just the displacement activity you’re looking for to avoid unpacking boxes. It’s definitely worth having a scout around to consider what money-saving measures you could implement that are not going to cost a fortune.
3. New surroundings – new habits?
There’s a link between habitat and habits, so moving house is a great opportunity to establish new routines and ditch some of the old ones. It could be a good time for a quick energy-saving makeover. With everything being unfamiliar, you get the chance to make a fresh start, or at least try and re-programme any lazy patterns of behaviour, like the obvious – leaving things switched on.
Here’s what a few appliances had to say…
“Unplug me! If I’m left plugged in I have to keep going. Waste of my energy, waste of your energy! Charge me at work for a couple of hours; you’re less likely to leave me plugged in for too long then.”
Overused Phone charger, Brighton
“Give me more powernaps! If you’re not using me, let me sleep. I don’t want to be logged into Facebook all day.”
Tired Computer, London
“We’re sick of standby! Neither on nor off, we just wait around, tapping our feet like Sonic the Hedgehog and wasting our energy!”
Just married Television & DVD Player, Suffolk
You’re probably now thinking – is my television on standby? Did I switch the bedroom light off? And when did I last check if I am with the cheapest Electricity supplier? Hopefully you have been inspired to make at least a couple of small changes to your home and habits. Time to start patching up that moving-house-sized hole in your wallet.
The house before renovation started.
In our latest guest blog, we asked property expert Jo King to share her knowledge and expertise when it comes to home renovation.
Jo bought her first property in 1978 at the age of 19 – a 3 bed terrace in East Sussex with plenty of potential for ‘added value’ which she went on to maximise.
With her husband Deric she has built, renovated and added value to a wide range of properties in East Sussex, Surrey and Devon.
Jo puts down their success to tight financial control and spotting the potential for ‘added value’ which has been achieved largely through a combination of physical hard work, thorough and detailed research, tenacity and endless persistence in the face of adversity.
2010 has been an exciting year for Jo and Deric as they embarked on another renovation project involving traditional and sustainable techniques.
Here are Jo’s top ten property renovation tips:
1. Planning Permission & Building Regulations
Familiarise yourself with current planning and building regulations for renovation work. Even if you are contracting out the work it helps to know what’s possible and the likely cost implications when viewing potential projects
Your Building Inspector will require a Structural Engineer’s calculations for Structural Alterations.
Demolition of the gable end for new window installation
2. The ‘Wow’ factor
To achieve the ‘wow’ factor – money spent on an architect can reap rewards. The whole project will have a better finish and run more smoothly if you have good detailed plans.
Finished gable end
Draw up a detailed budget and stick to it. Your builder, architect and engineer should view potential projects and give you an overall budget figure. If the project is too small to justify a team like this, it’s still important to establish your costs.
In general materials and labour will be roughly 50:50 so doing the works yourself can potentially make savings. Be aware most electrical and all gas installations should be carried out or inspected and certified by appropriately registered contractors – your Building Inspector will ask for these certificates.
4. Contractor or DIY Route?
Consider using a skilled contractor or ask him to work alongside you. Having the right skills, tools and equipment to do a professional, speedy job can save you money in ways you hadn’t thought of. Doing the work yourself may slow the project and impact on financial costs. Labouring for your builder can be a good cost-saving method and you can learn along the way.
5. Choosing your team
Get recommendations. Meet them, discuss your project, check previous work and make sure the chemistry is right.
We have learned to pay more for a team who work well with us, are up for a challenge, enjoy their work and take pride in the results. It saves money in the long-term and hassle.
Get your builder to commit to your job until completion, but be flexible. If he’s good he will have regular customers who might need him to attend to small urgent jobs, accept this and don’t give him a hard time.
Completed house. View from the rear.
6. Fixed Price or Day Rate?
If your builder is working to a fixed price ensure your specification includes everything – the extras can be financially crippling if you don’t plan properly.
We prefer to work alongside our builder, paying him a day rate. We know we’ll get a good day’s work and experience has taught us renovation work usually uncovers unexpected changes along the way.
7. Demolition Works and Recycling
Building materials have become expensive and difficult to dispose of. Skip companies have to pass on the cost of additional red tape for building material disposal and highways licenses. Recycle where possible – it’s more sustainable.
Make sure your scaffolder knows exactly what works you plan to carry out so he can erect the structure according to your needs. Get a fixed price for the estimated period of works and a weekly rate thereafter in case the project overruns.
If you use a contractor check they have up to date Contractors’ Liability Insurance. If not, it’s something you should take out to cover the works. Run a safe and tidy site to help avoid insurance claims.
10. Project Manage to a Happy Ending
Whether you employ a Project Manager or manage the project yourself, regular communication with site is essential to ensure everyone understands what’s required of them. Get materials delivered to site in plenty of time to ensure continuation of works. Be prompt, clear and realistic when making decisions. Dithering costs money.