Hot water cylinder – leaking hot water, emergency action, central heating

Its always best to call a plumber, but if you are into D.I.Y , here it goes:

Hot water tank
Hot water tank

A large leak

Stop water entering the hot water cylinder. There are three possible ways to do this. Either close the gate valve on the cold supply pipe from the cold water tank to the hot water cylinder ( this is usually the pipe going through the ceiling above the hot water cylinder )

Or tie up the ball float in the cold water tank. Or, it is supplied direct from the mains, turn off the main stopcock ( usually under the kitchen sink or in the cellar.

Turn on the hot taps in the bathroom and kitchen to drain the pipes and switch off the central heating and any immersion heaters. Then drain the hot water cylinder. To drain a thermal storage unit, a combination boiler , there is a drain cock , which is found at the base of the boiler or cylinder.

If you can not open the drain cock , getting  a London Plumber might be better. You can also try to siphon out the water of the hot water cylinder until the water has stopped flowing from the bathroom and kitchen taps. Remove the hot water outlet pipe from the top of the cylinder or from the immersion heater and insert a hosepipe. Once the system is drained, call a plumber or a heating engineer.

Mortgage costs fall to five-year low

The cost of servicing a mortgage fell to its lowest level in five years in November, figures showed today, with the biggest winners being home movers.

Figures from the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) show falling interest rates and house prices, and lenders’ demands for larger deposits mean those buying a new home in November would spend 12% of their gross income on monthly interest repayments.

Best off were the 33,600 movers taking out new mortgages during the month. They borrowed an average of 67% of their new property’s value and spend 10.6% of their gross income covering the interest on their home loans.

This compares with 14.4% in November 2008, and is the second lowest figure since the CML started collecting data in 1974. The lowest point was reached in the middle of 1996 when monthly interest repayments accounted for 10.2% of home movers’ gross income.

First-time buyers have also seen their monthly mortgage repayments drop, with the 19,300 taking out mortgages in November facing a monthly mortgage repayment equal to 14.4% of their pay, compared with 18.2% in November 2008.

However, these buyers still face having to build up a large deposit before they can take advantage of the low interest rates on offer.

Although some lenders have come back into the market with 90% loan to value (LTV) mortgages, the best deals are targeted at those with the most equity. The average loan advanced to a first-time buyer stood at 75% LTV in November, compared with 83% the previous year.

In 2007 when the housing market was at its peak, first-time buyers were borrowing an average of 90% of their property’s value. Income multiples have also dropped.

In 2007, first-time buyers borrowed an average of 3.36 times their salary, but in November the figure stood at 3.09.

The CML’s director general, Michael Coogan, said it was “encouraging” that mortgage interest costs were so affordable. But he added: “With substantial deposits still needed to secure a mortgage, the market will continue to be relatively restrained for some time to come.”

Continuing low rates

The CML’s figures show remortgaging activity continued to slump in November, with the number of borrowers switching to a new deal falling 6% from October to 31,000. The figure marks a drop of 39% on the previous year, when interest rates were starting to fall.

Coogan said: “With refinancing still unattractive or unnecessary for many borrowers due to continuing low rates, we are now seeing a much more house purchase-focused market, a profile much more like the beginning of the noughties than its latter years.”

Over the past two weeks mortgage lenders have announced a flurry of rate cuts. However, the biggest reductions have been to short-term deals targeted at those with large deposits.

The old boiler “scrappage” scheme unfolds

Posted on January 6, 2010 by robertkyriakides

If you have an old gas boiler one of the very oldest you may benefit from a new boiler “scrappage” scheme launched yesterday, which starts on 18th January. The scheme allows you to claim £400 rebate off the price of a new boiler installation from the government. There are a number of conditions that you must satisfy first:-

  1. The boiler must have G rating. This means that it is likely to be more than 15 years old if it is a gas boiler or more than 25 years old if it is oil fired boiler.
  2. You apply to the Energy Savings Trust BEFORE you sign any installation contract, providing them with the quote you have obtained and filling out a detailed form.
  3. The EST will send you a voucher for £400.
  4. You have the work done and pay the installer in full.
  5. You send the EST the documents proving the work has been done and the voucher.
  6. Five or so weeks later the EST send you £400.
  7. You can apply if you are a householder or a landlord.
  8. If you are under 60 years old you can only apply (for a reason that i cannot quite fathom) if you can prove your existing boiler has not broken down and is in working order.

There are some three and a half million homes with G rated boilers but there is only enough money in the scheme for 125,000 rebates – £50 million.

The scheme is being heralded as costing the Government £50 million but in truth it will hardly cost a fraction of that sum. The average boiler cost of replacement (if you buy a quality long lasting and efficient product) will be around £4,000, because it is likely that in most places you will be advised to replace your hot water cylinder as well. The value added tax on a bill of around £4,000 will be more than the amount that the Government has “given” you.

Do not go for combi boilers; they are always less efficient that system condensing boilers and in the long run will cost you more energy.

The Government expects that the average saving per new installation will be around 1.15 tonnes a year; I think that figure is on the optimistic side, but nevertheless there will be a good carbon savings over the lifetime of the boiler.

Go for a boiler with a very long guarantee; you need the boiler to be not only efficient but long lasting. There are unlikely to be any significant improvements in boiler technology, now condensing boilers have been introduced, so long lasting with a long guarantee and easy maintenance should be your motto. It helps if you source an installer that is used to installing different brands of boiler, so you can benefit from his or her experience, rather than going for your energy supplier’s proffered option. Go for the very best boiler you can afford.

If you are replacing your boiler and cylinder it is also a good time to fit a solar water heating system; the fitting costs will be less and you will benefit from combined financial and carbon savings that are very worthwhile, as well as the additional £400 solar system grant.

Displaying books: more than just a good read

Books really do help furnish a room – and the more of them the merrier, says Nicole Swengley

Books add warmth, comfort and personality to a room. Indeed, leading interiors writer Leslie Geddes-Brown thinks “there should be books in every room of the house, with the possible exception of the larder”. Not only would this provide handy reading material, but books themselves can become a striking decorative feature. “To me, a room without books is missing an essential feature, as important as lights, chairs or carpets,” she says.

Books, she believes, can furnish a home more quickly than a lick of paint. “Take an unadorned space, cover one wall with crowded bookshelves, add a chair and a table, also crowded with books, and you have a furnished room,” she says.

Formal libraries or studies are not the only places in which to store and display books. Intriguing ideas for book storage are revealed in Geddes-Brown’s latest interiors odyssey, Books Do Furnish a Room. Books can be stacked above doorways, below windows, over picture-rails, under stairs, on mantelpieces, above cloakroom lavatories and even within the foot of children’s bunk beds. A cache of books in any of these areas makes the most of dead space while adding a welcoming, homely touch.

As a writer it’s inevitable that Geddes-Brown has thousands of books at home. Her Regency house in north London has two book-filled rooms. “The previous owner built in a pair of bookcases either side of the chimney-breast in the living room but we soon ran out of space so we installed open breakfront shelving along an entire wall in the same room,” she says. “The breakfront is particularly useful if you have very deep or tall books.” A basement office, meanwhile, has “mundane bookshelves” built by her husband, Hew Stevenson, running all round the room.

The couple’s 14th-century Suffolk house similarly has two rooms devoted to books. “The main room on the upper floor was originally a bedroom but wasn’t very practical as it connects two sections of the house, so we turned it into a library,” she says. “We asked the designer, Melvyn Smith, to create a room in the style of a Georgian town-house library and he used black MDF [medium-density fibreboard] to build shelving with gold-edged, reeded pillars. It’s a proper working library with books classified by subject. I found some numerals from an old French clock and stuck them on the shelves for practical and decorative purposes.”

An office within the house contains runs of white-painted, bespoke shelves and, in the kitchen, a solid Victorian cupboard houses Geddes-Brown’s extensive collection of cookery books behind wooden doors to keep them grease-free.

“If you’ve got far too many books, as I have, it’s useful to store them in areas that wouldn’t otherwise be used – for example, above doors or under windowsills,” she says. “Old, redundant fireplaces, especially in bedrooms, are useful for book storage. Old-fashioned wooden trolleys, which you can pick up in junk shops, are great for storing books alongside a desk. If you want books out of sight, stack them under a linen-covered table as a friend does. And if you’re desperate, you could even store them underneath your bed.”

House prices ‘up on a year ago’

UK house prices were 1.1% higher in December than a year earlier – the first annual rise since March 2008, according to the Halifax.

Prices rose by 1% in December compared with the previous month, marking the sixth consecutive monthly rise.

The Halifax, now part of Lloyds Banking Group, said the average home was now worth £169,042.

However, the group predicts that property values will be flat in 2010 owing to the economic outlook.


The figures show that prices have picked up steadily in recent months, having risen by 9.4% – or £14,552 – from the trough of April 2009. This followed a decline of 23% between August 2007 and April 2009.

This increase was driven, in part, by a shortage of the number of properties being put on the market. If potential sellers decided to put their homes on the market this would flatten any future pick-up.

“The prospects for the market this year will depend on how the UK economy evolves and whether there is a significant increase in the supply of properties for sale,” said Halifax housing economist Martin Ellis.

The Halifax calculates its annual price change by taking an average of the past three months, in order to smooth out any short-term price fluctuations.

However, the change in average prices for the specific month shows that the typical price in December 2009 was £169,042, compared with £160,070 in December 2008 – a 5.6% rise.

In its house price index published last week, the Nationwide said that house prices had risen by 5.9% in 2009, with the average home worth £162,103.

The UK’s largest building society has also predicted that prices will show little change in 2010.

Low rates?

Both the Halifax and Nationwide said unemployment figures had not been as bad as had been expected in 2009, which had helped demand for homes.

The Halifax survey showed that prices were 3.5% higher in the final quarter of the year compared with the last three months of 2008.

Mr Ellis said that values had also picked up partly as a result of the increased affordability of mortgages.

“The significant cut in interest rates following the worldwide financial upheaval in the autumn of 2008 has markedly reduced the burden of servicing a mortgage for many households,” he said.

Monthly home loan repayments accounted for 23% of a typical household’s income, continuing the low levels of recent months at their smallest since 2005.

But a separate survey by financial information service Moneyfacts showed that despite the Bank rate being kept on hold at 0.5% since March 2009, eight mortgage lenders had raised their standard variable rate (SVR).

The SVR does tend to track the Bank rate, but lenders are free to change it when they see fit. Many borrowers have chosen to revert to the SVR when their fixed-rate deal comes to an end, as it is often cheaper than remortgaging.

But Moneyfacts spokesman Darren Cook said it was possible that other lenders would also raise their rates.

“By increasing the SVR, lenders are actively trying to encourage borrowers to find a new mortgage deal, but many are unlikely to act until a significant base rate increase is a real possibility,” he said.

“In recent months providers have been forced to increase savings rates in order to raise funding in a very competitive market. Increasing the SVR may be the only way some can offset this cost.”

However, the lenders raising rates have tended to be smaller mortgage providers.

The latest decision on the UK Bank rate will be announced at 1200 GMT on Thursday, with no change expected.

the BBC

Boiler scrappage scheme launched

A government scheme that gives households in England £400 off the cost of a new boiler has been launched.

The boiler scrappage scheme was announced in the pre-Budget report last month.

According to the government it will help households cut their energy bills, reduce CO2 emissions and support thousands of jobs.

Up to 125,000 households in England could benefit from the scheme, which is costing the government £50m.

People who own their homes or landlords who rent homes are eligible, but social landlords, housing associations and boiler installers are not.

There are about 3.5 million homes in England with the least efficient types of boilers.

How do I do it?

To qualify households need to have a working G-rated boiler. It is likely to be G-rated if it is more than 15 years old and gas fired.
Check your boiler is G-rated – the age or a permanent pilot light tend to indicate if it is
Ensure it is in working order and is the main boiler to heat the house
Shop around and arrange a quote for a new boiler from a qualified installer
Contact the Energy Saving Trust with details and receive a voucher before the work starts
Pay the installer in full, then send the receipt and the voucher to be refunded £400. Some suppliers will also offer £400 off the price
A permanent pilot light is also a good indicator as to whether a gas boiler is G-rated. If the boiler is oil-fired, then this is likely to be eligible if it is more than 25 years old.

Householders aged under 60 can only apply if the boiler is the main boiler used to heat the home and is in working order. For those aged over 60, the device does not have to work.

Once you have found out if your boiler qualifies for replacement, the next step is to arrange a quote for a new one from a qualified installer. This could cost anything between £2,000 and £3,000.

Then, you need to provide the Energy Saving Trust (EST) with details of your old boiler and the installer you have chosen fit the new one. The EST will also want confirmation the installer has actually visited your home and provided you with a proper quote for the work.

Assuming all that is in order, a voucher worth £400 will be issued from 18 January. This will be refunded once the work has been done and the EST has received both the invoice for the work and the voucher. It is valid for 12 weeks.

The householder pays the bill in full to the installer and then claims the £400 back from the EST.

The £400 rebate should take no more than 25 working days of the paperwork reaching the Trust.

Bigger deals

Energy companies are expected to use the scheme to drum up business. British Gas, the biggest installer of boilers in the UK, is planning to match the government’s £400 discount.

Battling bills – what help is there?
Other firms are offering similar savings too. The government says the scheme will help to safeguard jobs across the industry which, it says, employs about 130,000 installers.

The government says upgrading a boiler can save a household more than £200 a year. It has also estimated that replacing 125,000 G-rated boilers will save about 140,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year.

Catherine Allinson, from Balham, south London, has had her boiler for more than 10 years and hopes to upgrade to a new one with the help of the scheme.

“My current boiler is pretty inefficient, and has not been terribly reliable this winter,” she said.

“I hope the new boiler will save me money in the long run, so it is worth the investment now, and with the boiler scrappage scheme, I should be able to get a little bit of money off the full cost of the boiler, so that will help,” she added.

The scheme is only being run in England, with the devolved authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to make their own decisions on whether they will run similar schemes

the BBC

D.I.Y forum for the keen amateur

More and more people are now making the effort to maintain, furnish or decorate their homes, either from necessity or for their own pleasure. In 2008 mostly, D.I.Y or do it yourself was most popular among the home owners trying to save as much was possible during the credit crunch or as a hobby.

Forum D.I.Y
Forum D.I.Y

In both cases, if you are a DIY kind of person or you just don’t want to spend money by paying a professional to do the job, help is at hand here DIY forum

Advice and practical help and, after all, good advice is worth its weight in gold. Improving and decorating your house can cost a lot of money ; it is important to know which cost costs can be cut and which should not be. Lots of improvements, for instance , are subsidized by the local Council.

The London DIY forum can help you throughout the home, from hall via living room to kitchen , bathroom, bedrooms and up in the attic. Advice can be given about each subject of interest with basic suggestions, alternatives, choice possibilities and practical solutions. However, you must keep in mind that the advice you are getting it might not be from professionals and it will be rather from other DIY amateurs.

The demands which a modern kitchen must satisfy are treated in various stages for example, and close attention must be paid to the most important living areas , like the living and sitting room. What can be done with the bathroom, loft and attic? That’s something professionals knows best but you might some advice from fellow amateurs too.

Arts and Crafts of India

Wood Carving
WoodcarvingForests all over the state abound in pine and deodar, besides walnut, horse chestnut and wild black mulberry. Wood has been used to great effect in temples and lavishly built palaces. The steep-roofed pine temples of northern HP often bear relief figures carved on their outer walls. Intricately carved seats, doors, windows and panels speak volumes of the craftspersons’ skill. The Bhimakali Temple of Sarahan is a perfect product of the kind.

Woodcarving is still a living tradition in HP. Pahari artisans use wood to make intricate jalis, trelliswork or perforated reliefs that filter light, transforming the interiors of a building with the play of light and shade and balancing mass with delicacy.

The carpenters of both villages and towns make beautiful objects of everyday use like vedis (low benches), bedlegs, cradles, bedsteads, low settees, boxes, ladles, churners, rolling pins, wooden utensils, charkhas (spinning wheels) and hukka nari (the pipe and body of the smoking pipe). You might like to take back something from their range of fruit bowls, beermugs, wooden jewellery, decorative boxes and carved images. Bamboo and willow bark is also stripped and fashioned into sturdy trays and baskets.

To say that HP has a rich tradition of painting would be an understatement. While museums and art galleries preserve the famous miniature paintings of the region, traditional ritual paintings can be seen in most village houses, on the floors and walls. Women draw magic diagrammatic designs called yantras on the thresholds on ceremonial occasions.

Floor paintings are white, done with rice paste, while wall paintings are colourful. The colours are from what the women use in their daily lives – red from kumkum (the liquid for bindi, the dot between the brows), yellow from turmeric powder, red ochre from golru (red clay), and so on.

In some places like Kangra, Mandi and Bilaspur, brilliant wall paintings are done in the torana griha (honeymoon room), where the newly married couple enjoy their first days of togetherness. This painting is known as kauhara or kamdeo. Temple walls, too, sometimes have bright motifs painted on them.

Various schools of miniature painting collectively called Pahari, flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries in the sub-Himalayan states. The hilly region, then divided into 22 princely states, was ruled by Rajput kings or chieftains who were all great connoisseurs of art, with most of them maintaining ateliers.

The focal points of their lives were war, hunting, lineage, and the zenana. Also partial to love themes, especially the legends of Radha and Krishna, the Rajputs liked them depicted in miniature paintings.

Thanks to the fair variety of stone found in this hilly region, stone carving has been explored to the fullest in Himachal. Numerous shikhara (spired) stone temples dot the landscape. The Lakshminarayan temples of Chamba and the temples of Baijnath and Masrur in the Kangra Valley are some splendid specimens of the kind.

Beautifully carved memorial stone slabs called panihars are also found in several places, especially near temples and fountains.

Stone carvers in HP are hammering away at their blocks even today, producing several artefacts of domestic use widely available in the markets. These include traditional stoves (angithi), circular pots for storing (kundi), pestle and mortar (dauri danda), mill stones (chakki) and other things. The centres of sculpting in Himachal are concentrated mainly in Mandi, Chamba, Kinnaur and the Shimla Hills.


It’s necessary to ask questions before hiring a electrician. Most electricians are honest and capable of doing very sensible work. However there will be some that are not, thus raise plenty of questions before hiring a electrician. Typically electricians do not handle all sorts of jobs and you ought to keep this in mind. Some are only concerned in construction and remodeling work. Some electricians only are in to doing minor jobs and repairs. Thus it’s terribly vital that you explain to the electrician before hand how much work you’ll want done. And then see if they can be in a position to do the work you need.

It is very important to think about sure things before hiring a electrician. For insurance functions and when a allow is needed, you may need to hire a licensed electrician. It is vital to know {that a} electrician can buy any harm they cause to your home. And you would not wish to be sued if a employee is injured while operating in your home. It’s good to consider before hiring a contractor out to try and do a massive job, to raise him to work out proof of employees compensation that he ought to carry. And conjointly to see proof of their current license.

{Most electrical} contractors don’t mind giving you a estimate at your home. However if it’s simply a little job they can loose cash simply by driving out to your home. Therefore the electrician might provide you a minimum price or a fixed price for the task you want done. On massive jobs you’ll raise for a hourly rate for a job. You should decision around and get the best rates for the work you need. And have additional then one contractor come back out to your home for a estimate. It is a sensible issue to urge the best overall price for the job.

Don’t buy the materials for the task yourself simply as a result of you’re thinking that it will save you money. As a result of it typically will not. It’s higher if the electrician to make the purchases as a result of he knows specifically what you’ll be needing and how much. Plus if the electrician buys the parts then he is responsible for replacing that part if it is broke or missing a part.

The electrician may would like to cut holes in your wall for the work he is doing. Any repairs will not be done by the electrician. Thus you may be responsible to repair the damage. Thus ask before the job has started how abundant injury doing the duty will cause. On small jobs a electrician could need to be paid when the duty is completed. On large jobs the electrician could ask for a down payment before he goes to begin the job. And then he can either wish the rest of the balance when the task is finished or set up payments for you.

If the electrician should bring helpers to get the work done on a larger job he might should charge a lot of for this. Therefore ask before the task starts. Try and think of everything you’ll be able to that has to do with the duty that you are having done. And forever ask queries therefore you will not be shocked when the job is finished.

With the late nineteenth century seeing developments in using electricity for residential and industrial use, along with this came the electrician for installation and maintenance. There was a rapid expansion in the use of electrical technology from this period due to the versatility of using electricity as an energy source. Electricity became a foundation and still is for modern society to advance as a civilisation. Electrical lighting was one of the first uses for domestic and commercial appliances using the flexible form of energy electricity allowed. The electrician trade was born with experts in this field taught how to install, maintain and repair the electrical infrastructure that enabled the use of lighting and other emerging electrical appliances.

Into the twentieth century electrical engineering broke into many fields in research and technology like electrical engineering or electronic engineering. The first being associated with large scale electrical systems like electrical networks power systems and the latter associated with smaller scale electronic systems like computers and small circuits. This lead to different areas of expertise for the electrician in installation, maintenance and repair including electricians specifically trained for certain appliances like TV repair. Towards the end of the twentieth century the electrician could be split into three different sections. These were divided into domestic, commercial and industrial electricians with each one having to learn particular skills to install, maintain, repair and test electrical equipment for safety. Safety became an important part of the electrician’s trade due to the risk involved not only for the electrician but for everyone involved with electrical appliances. Portable appliance testing was introduced.

The future of electricians looks to be in high demand as it’s estimated that the shortage of trained and qualified electricians stands at about 36,900 in the US and other places around the world. Ways of using electric as an energy source is still diversifying with solar energy systems being installed which convert to electricity and new types of devices like electric cars being worked on. The electrician will need to break into many more fields to be able to learn his trade and use it in an efficient and safe manner.

Electricity DIY and Politics

What’s happened to John Prescott? He was never out of the news? Well John I just want you to know that one of your most stupid legacies has just hit me.

My favorite electrician, who I have abused for many years, tells me he’s retiring and all because of you. Why did you make qualified electricians with 40 years of experience have to suddenly have their work inspected? But worse – he tells me you are allowing me (as a householder) to be able to take my own electric wiring to pieces (as if I know what red, brown, black and blue do!!) but I can’t let him (my sparky) help because he isn’t registered with one of the money making schemes and he wont pay the 500 quid fee (which he would have to pass on to all us) so he’s giving up.

So, this piece of stupidity didn’t impress me when it was all the news in 2005, but now it does effect me because other sparks are charging three times as much just like the damned CORGI plumbers do!