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How Much Are Home Improvements? Depends Who You Are…

Many of us rely on tradesmen to help us build our dream homes, whether that be building a new conservatory, painting and decorating or fitting a new bathroom. Lots of us are clueless when it comes to understanding what’s involved in the work we ask our tradesmen to do, meaning we readily accept their quotes.

So, do quotations really differ depending on who you are, or where you live? We gave a middle-aged woman, a middle-aged man, and an elderly man a list of 90 plumbers across 9 English counties. We asked them to call listed plumbers to obtain a quote for fitting mixer taps in their kitchen.

Fitting a mixer tap is usually a straightforward job for a plumber. With the plumbing already in place, it’s a case of swapping the older tap, for the new tap.

So, how much did quotations differ?

Differences by Region

London emerged as the most expensive for this particular job at £85. That may not come as a surprise, given that Londoners are used to inflated prices. The West Midlands was the second most expensive at £70. Those in the North West are in luck if they need the services of a plumber as it was cheapest at £63. This was followed by South West at £64.

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Quotes for the work varied across all regions, and in some cases, the range was quite extensive.

While London had the most expensive overall average, the difference between the lowest and highest quotes was just £7. This means that London plumbers are the most consistent when it comes to quoting, which I guess is good news. In contrast, there was a £20 difference between the lowest quote of £55 for the male caller and the quote of £75 for the elderly caller in the North East.

Ok, so calling a tradesman might cost you more money depending on location, we can live with that. But let’s take a look at how quotations vary depending on the caller.

Male, Female and the Elderly

Our three callers contacted the same plumber over a two-month period, asking for a quote for exactly the same job. We analysed quotes obtained by our three callers to find the average for each, and the results were concerning.

The average price across all quotations for each caller was as follows:
Male: £62
Female: £71
Elderly: £75

So, the male caller managed to obtain the cheapest price overall. He was charged nearly 15% less than the female caller and 21% less than the elderly caller. But was this the case in every region?

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Unfortunately, it was. In every single region apart from one, the male caller was quoted the lowest average price. London was the only exception, with the female caller receiving a lower average price by just £2.

The elderly caller fared the worst in 7 out of 9 regions, levelling with the female caller in the West Midlands.

Male VS Female

Now that we’ve established that the male caller obtained the cheapest quotes, we wanted to find out the worst offending region for overcharging women. We did our sums and figured out the percentage difference between the average price for males and females.

We can reveal that plumbers in the North East are the most likely to quote different prices based on gender, with a 53% increase between the male and female caller.

Male VS Elderly

When it comes to overcharging the elderly, the North East is the worst offender once more. The Elderly caller was quoted 36.36% more than the male caller in this particular region. The North West was the second worst offender, charging 27.27% more, followed by the West Midlands with 27.1%.

Lowest VS Highest

The range of quotes for the male, female and elderly caller varied significantly.

Lowest Quotes

For the female caller, the lowest quote was £40 and this obtained from a plumber in the North East.
The lowest quote for the male caller was £45. Plumbers in the North East, East of England, South West and North West all gave this price.
The most modest quote given to the elderly caller was £50 and this was obtained from three plumbers based in the North East, East of England and West Midlands.

Highest Quotes

The highest price given was £120. The quote was given by a plumber in the North East to the female caller and by a plumber in London to the elderly caller.
£90 was the highest price given to the male caller and that was quoted by a plumber in London.

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Of course, we acknowledge that plumbers and other tradesmen might not be able to give a precise quotation up front, without seeing the work in question. However, it does seem from our research, that on the spot quotations favour men over women and that the elderly pay the highest price. How much do your home improvements cost? Well, the data suggests that it depends on who you are.

Methodology

The aim of this study was to investigate the extent in which costings in the plumbing industry can vary depending on location and the caller. Anchor Pumps acknowledges that quotations will vary depending on region and the way in which a quote is calculated. For example, if the plumber charges a flat hourly rate or whether they charge by job type.

In total, quotes were obtained by ten plumbers for 9 different areas of England. Plumbers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were not included in the study. Each plumber was contacted on three separate occasions across a three-month period. First by a female caller, secondly by a male caller and then by an elderly caller. Each caller requested an over the phone quotation for the same job.

The Request: A new mixer tap installation to be fitted in the kitchen, a straight swap with the plumbing already in place.   

Please note that there were twenty-two additional plumbers who stated that they could not provide a quote over the phone without inspecting the work via a photograph or in person. These were not included in the study as no upfront quote was provided.

Quotes included in the study do not include additional VAT.

Below are quotes obtained for each region. The overall averages have been calculated to the nearest whole number.

If you would like to discuss the study, please email apmedia@gmail.com for further details.

London

South East

South West

West Midlands

East Midlands

East of England

Yorkshire

North East

North West

Common central heating pump problems

central heating pump problemsThe central heating pump is the beating heart of your central heating system. You can find out more about boilers and central heating systems here. But how do you prevent problems from occurring, and how do you deal with them if they do?

Always disconnect the pump from the electricity supply before inspection, carrying out repairs or attempting a replacement.

Pump Not Starting

Is the spindle turning? If not, use the manual handle or a screwdriver inserted in the shaft to start it. Other fixes include increasing the pressure and flushing with water. Do not submerge the pump.

If the central heating system is not calling for the pump to start or a fuse has gone, call a qualified professional to check the wiring.

Humming in the System

The most common cause is vibration from an incorrectly seated pump. Turning the pump down may fix the problem. If not, tighten the bolts. Remember that a correctly running pump will vibrate slightly.

Radiators Heating Unevenly

If the radiators are hot downstairs but not upstairs, your pump could be jammed. This problem commonly occurs when the heating has been turned off for a while – over the summer, for example. You’ll need to locate your pump, which is usually near the boiler.

A gentle tap with a hammer should kick-start it. Otherwise, proceed as for a non-starting pump.

Jammed Propeller

If you’re having work done on your central heating system, then foreign bodies can enter the water supply and jam the propeller. You’ll need to open the pump and thoroughly clean it.

Over the years your system can accumulate grime that can affect the running of the pump. You’ll need to give the entire system a power flush to clean it. Allowing the water to deteriorate and become sludgy can severely compromise the life of your pump.

System Airlock

If air gets trapped in your central heating system during a refill, it can result in no heating. First bleed the radiators with a radiator key, and then locate the bleed screw on your pump.

Slacken the screw, but don’t undo it completely. You’ll hear any trapped air escape, accompanied by a trickle of water. Close the screw and top up the system.

Does My Pump Need Replacing?

There are several instances when your pump cannot be fixed and will need replacing. Internal corrosion will stop your pump’s components working. Corrosion occurs more quickly when a central heating system has not been in use for some time. Make this a priority check when buying an older property.

If the pump is leaking, then it may need to be replaced. This is almost certainly as a result of corrosion which can’t be fixed. If brown liquid is leaking from the start capacitor, or it looks burnt out, you can replace this part only.

If the pump is no longer circulating, the gate valve could be faulty. If this is the case, you will need to replace the pump. If the pump is on but not circulating water around the system and feels hot, the motor may have failed.

How Can I Remove My Old Pump?

If your pump has failed, you will need to remove the faulty pump and replace with a new one. Choose a reputable brand like Grundfos, and make sure it matches the size of the pump you’re replacing. This avoids the need for any adjustments to pipework.

First disconnect from the electricity supply. Then turn off the water supply to the pump by closing any isolation valves. If these are not fitted, make sure you do so for future ease of pump maintenance. Then drain down the pump.

Finally, remove the union nuts, clean the valves and replace the washers.

Fitting a New Pump

Ensure that the direction of the flow markings on your new pump matches the previous fitting before attaching the valves and checking for leaks. Now, with the pump switched off, release any trapped air. Then rewire and switch on the pump.

Throughout this procedure, ensure that everything is dry and there are no leaks.

Service Regularly

Your heating pump will give you several years of service if you keep it and your central heating system well maintained. As it’s the heart of your system, consider replacing an older pump with a newer, more energy-efficient model.

Following this simple checklist will enable you to easily solve most common central heating pump problems and keep your system running at maximum efficiency for years to come.

Common Water Leaks in the home!

Common Water Leaks

Water leaks in the home can be from a variety of sources, from dripping taps to leaking toilets. Water leaks can be costly, so looking after your heating and water system correctly should be a priority. Many properties use macerating pumps such as the Saniplus. These should be regularly maintained to avoid any leakages.

Even if a leak is relatively minor, it may still cause plenty of damage over time, and if you’re on a water meter it could cost a lot too. Fixing a leak will save you money and avoid damaging your property any further. Here are some of the most common water leaks found in the home.

While some will require the services of a professional plumber, many can be dealt with by anyone with some competent DIY skills.

Dripping Taps

Possibly the most common water leak is the dripping tap, usually caused by a washer wearing out. There are several reasons a tap may become leaky: they are not turned off properly; over-tightening of a tap; turning a tap off with force which can cause wear to the tap washer; a quarter-turn tap may develop a leak due to debris becoming wedged in the quarter-turn tap valve or water being too hot. Turn off the water supply before investigating.

Leaking Radiator

This is often discovered around October time when the heating is turned on and radiator valves have become stuck over the summer months from lack of use. Replacing the valve is a fiddly job and best left to a professional, but it is a good idea to check if tightening up the coupling nut will solve the problem first. Corrosion of the pipes is also common, as they are permanently exposed to water.

Leaking Toilet

Possibly the most irritating water leak is from the toilet, and this can leak in several ways. A crack in the tank or bowl must be replaced immediately. A damaged or broken ballcock and float valve can lead to an overflowing cistern. A faulty fill valve or worn feed line can cause water to constantly drain into the cistern. Combine this with a blocked overflow pipe and the tank may overflow.

Leak Under the Bath

A leak from the bath, especially in an upstairs bathroom, can cause some very serious damage to ceilings and floors, so it is essential to not only spot it early but to get it fixed immediately. A leaking bath can be caused by poor seals around the wastes (overflow or plughole), the sealant around the bath failing or leaking pipes which may require the side panel of the bath to be removed to spot the issue. Bath leakage is commonly identified by damage and staining to the ceiling of the room beneath.

Leaking Shower

A leaking shower hose is very common and generally occurs when the hose has exceeded its life expectancy (which is normally long). It is easy to replace with a new hose. Enclosed shower leaks can be similar to bath leaks. Check the pipe work and sealant joints. Pipes can be hidden behind tiles so are harder to get at. Look for signs of damage such as tiles lifting. Shower pumps can help improve the performance of your shower and increase the water pressure. High-quality pumps have good safety and durability records and continue to improve, but there is always a chance that a pump valve is the cause of the leak.

Leaking Sink

This is normally caused by one of the following three issues: a leaking water hose that causes lots of mess, spraying water everywhere; a leaking drain line that can be identified by letting water run down the drain or emptying a full sink; a faulty drain seal around the plughole that is easily identified by filling the sink and leaving it and seeing if the level drops or if moisture appears beneath the sink.

Leaking Pumps

You may have booster pumps, domestic sanitary pumps or heating circulation and hot water pumps in your home. It is always best to use high-quality pumps that are known for their durability and safety records. Cheap, low-quality pumps may be the cause of leakages in the home. Pumps are becoming increasingly more reliable, but leaks do occur, mainly due to the vibration they produce when the power shower or central heating is on.

Leaking Boiler

This is possibly one of the most expensive leaks to fix. A boiler can leak at any age, but cheaper boilers are more likely to leak than more expensive ones. There are many boiler parts that can go wrong and start to leak, and it is advisable to call out a professional plumber if your boiler is leaking.

These are the most frequently found water leaks in the home. If you discover a leak, you should try to ascertain where it is coming from. Turn off the water supply to prevent more water from leaking. Then either attempt to fix it if you feel it is something you can do, or call out a professional plumber to carry out the repairs. The quicker you deal with a leak in your home, the less damage it will cause and the cheaper it will be.

The disturbing effects of water pollution and how you can help!

effects of water pollution

Water pollution is a problem the world over, and its effects can have a detrimental impact on the environment and our health. There are lots of ways that water pollution can be reduced, by making changes to the products we use, and how we dispose of them. Making use of water treatment systems, domestically and industrially, such as Grundfos pumps, can also help to win the battle of reducing the disturbing effects of water pollution.

Damage to ecosystems

One of the most serious consequences of water pollution is its negative impact on aquatic ecosystems. Fish and other marine life exposed to dirty water full of contaminants and waste can be susceptible to disease. In many cases, they may die.

Pollutants in our seas and rivers can increase the growth of toxic algae. When fish and marine animals are exposed to toxic algae and other pollutants, such as lead or cadmium, their health is compromised.

Water pollution can upset the delicate balance of our ecosystem, and may cause a decline in certain species. Many birds, fish, dolphins and other sea creatures washed up on beaches often perish due to the effects of exposure to pollutants.

Harm to human health

The real danger of contaminated fish exposed to pollutants is if they end up in the food chain. When humans consume these fish, they can become ill. Poisoned seafood, especially raw shellfish, can cause hepatitis and typhoid in humans, for example.

It’s not just eating fish polluted by dirty water that can cause ill health to humans. Swimmers, surfers and fishermen who come into contact with contaminated water can experience a number of health issues. Ear infections, skin problems and stomach upsets are frequent complaints that are often the result of human exposure to water contaminants.

In poor countries, the technology and resources aren’t always available to supply clean, drinking water. When pollutants contaminate drinking water, the consequences can be devastating. It’s estimated that around 14,000 people die or suffer disease annually from drinking polluted water.

Careful disposal of waste

Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to reduce the disturbing effects of water pollution. One of the most important ways to reduce pollutants from entering seas and rivers is to be more mindful about how we dispose of waste.

Items such as wipes, medicines and nappies should never be flushed down a toilet. There is the risk that they can’t be filtered properly by waste disposal systems. The end result is that they make it into our rivers and seas, causing potential harm.

Chemicals, such as paints, cleaning products and cooking fats should also never be poured down the sink. You can usually dispose of these safely at waste recycling centres.

Avoid chemicals

If we become less reliant on chemicals, there is less chemical waste to pollute our waters. Find ways to reduce your reliance on chemicals, whether at home, in the garden or at work.

There are many natural products that can be used for cleaning that are just as effective as some of the more hazardous items. Lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar make excellent ‘green’ cleaning agents. If you buy cleaning products, choose environmentally-friendly options.

Adopt an organic approach to gardening. Avoid using pesticides and chemicals to control aphids. Instead, consider companion planting and biological controls, and create a compost pile for disposal of kitchen scraps.

Reduce and save

Think about ways you can reduce and save. Reduce your use of chemicals, plastic, packaging or other items that may harm the environment and end up in our seas.

Save water. If you use less water at home or work, it can help to safeguard this scarce resource. It can reduce the amount of contaminants entering the water system.

Consider installing a water efficient toilet with dual flush or an efficient shower pump. Only use the dishwasher or washing machine when it’s full, and select economy modes. This saves water and electricity.

Be clean

Being careless with litter and waste increases the risk of it ending up in rivers and seas. Dispose of litter carefully if you visit a beach, in particular. Try to recycle as much as possible.

If you have a dog, always pick up and dispose of pet waste, to avoid it running into drains and water supplies. Maintain your car, so that it doesn’t leak oil or chemicals onto driveways that could get washed down drains.

If you’re a homeowner or business that uses water or waste systems, make sure you install efficient pumps. These can help to keep systems clean and avoid contaminants entering the wider water supplies. Even if you have a tank, pool or pond, a submersible pump can help to keep systems clean and avoid dirt and pollutants entering drains.

Upgrade systems

Inefficient or outdated waste or water disposal systems at home or work could contribute to the rising pollution levels in our water, so upgrade your systems if necessary.

The price you pay will be minimal, compared to the importance of protecting the environment and safeguarding our seas. If you’re thinking of buying a new pump for domestic or industrial purposes, this is a great way to save water and keep it clean. 

The cycle of water before we drink it

the water cycle

The water cycle is amazing – a combination of natural processes, human intervention and high-tech delivery that gets clean, safe drinking water to you the instant you turn the tap on.

The Natural Cycle – Evaporation to Rainfall

In the natural part of the water cycle, the water evaporates from rivers and lakes, condenses in the air and forms clouds. They drop the water as the rain we know only too well. This puts the water back into rivers, lakes and natural underground water stores known as aquifers. Some towns which lack a river or are in a dry area get most of their water from these aquifers. River water will be safe for birds, fish or other wildlife, but not for humans to drink directly.

The Human Part of the Cycle – Water Treatment

Water from rivers and aquifers is pumped out by your water company and pumped into the water treatment plant. The water varies in quality when it arrives, but all the water is put through processes to clean and filter it so that it’s safe for drinking and comes out at one uniform quality. The water companies are only authorised to draw a certain amount of water from rivers, which is why they are keen for all of us to use it wisely.

Reservoirs – Water Stores and Natural Filters

The water company may use a reservoir to store the water it has pumped before it processes it. The reservoir helps the company to even out supply and demand and deal with the vagaries of the weather. If it doesn’t rain for a while, or they have pumped as much water as they are allowed to from rivers, then they can draw on the water in the reservoir.

One advantage of reservoirs is that they are a kind of natural filter. Particles such as mud and dirt in the water sink to the bottom. That means that when the water is pumped out for treating, some of the worst dirt no longer has to be taken out.

Filtering out the Nasties

Particles need to be removed from the water, so the water company filters the water using two different kinds of filters. First, the water is pumped through a rapid gravity filter – this is a tank filled with coarse sand. Particles are trapped in the sand as the water goes through. Next, it’s filtered more slowly, using much finer sand in beds. This gets rid of the tiniest particles, and the water is now at a quality that is fit for drinking. Next, the water goes to a covered reservoir, where nothing can contaminate it.

Getting the Drinking Water to You

The water company uses its network of pipes and pumps to get the water to your street, house and tap. Despite the water being of the highest quality, most of us will use the greater part of it for baths and showers, watering the garden and washing up. This creates wastewater, which once it goes down the drain and reaches the sewers is pumped out to sewage treatment works. Once it is clean, it can be put back into the rivers, where it condenses, and we go round the whole cycle again.

Keep Pumping

You can see the way in which the water – raw, clean or dirty – is pumped around at every stage to get it to the next point in the cycle. High-quality pieces of equipment, such as Grundfos pumps, are used throughout the water treatment process. The pumps that are used in this cycle need to be able to control the flow very accurately and precisely add tiny doses of anti-bacterial and other treatments.

Reliability is extremely important, as is the fact that these pumps can be installed wet or dry – no need to drain the water storage facility to put the pump in. Low energy use is a requirement, because it has a major effect on treatment costs. And with companies like Grundfos, maintenance can be at longer intervals, because the equipment is designed to be robust.

Pumps are the heroes of the water cycle process, delivering rainfall to the water treatment works and clean water to our taps – we’d be lost (and thirsty) without them!

Check out our recent infographic to learn more about water in the UK.