NO! It’s not, is the simple answer.

The number of homes installing cavity wall insulation has crashed by 97% since the government's flagship energy–efficiency scheme was introduced, new figures have revealed. Previous energy-efficiency schemes meant cavity wall insulation – one of the cheapest ways of cutting energy bills and climate-warming carbon emissions, was heavily subsidised or free. But under the Green Deal, which aims to upgrade the efficiency of 14m homes, households have to take out a loan to pay for the measure.

Figures from the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency, which monitors the issue of installations and guarantees, show that only 1,138 installations were completed in April 2013, down from 49,650 in April 2012. The government's own impact assessment predicted in January 2012 that cavity wall insulations would collapse by 67%, but the reality has far outstripped this estimate. Government data shows that 1.4m cavity wall insulations are needed to meet its carbon targets.

This crash shows a "desperate need for financial stimuli for the Green Deal".

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The Green Deal is an ambitious, long-term programme designed to deliver home improvement in Great Britain on an unprecedented scale." He noted that a cashback scheme currently offers £250 for cavity wall insulation, although this will not cover the total cost. "Additional help for this type of work may also be available for people in hard to treat properties, and those on benefits or low income," he added.

Luciana Berger, the shadow minister for climate change, said: "This staggering collapse in the number of energy-efficiency installations is a disaster for our economy and a body blow for hundreds of small businesses across the country. This is all the more damaging when there are at least 5.8m homes in the UK that still need cavity wall insulation, according to the government's own estimates."

The government's impact assessment also predicted a drop of 93% in loft insulations, the most cost effective energy-efficiency measure of all!

- Mark Jenkins

The BPEC Charity is once again taking nominations for its Life Award programme, which offers a grant of up to £15,000 to those with plans of improving others' lives using their plumbing skills.

Last year £30,000 was given to four projects which ranged from developing a safe water system to a health clinic in Mozambique, apprentice plumbers working alongside a village community in Uganda to build drinking water wells and similar safe drinking water work in Nicaragua. A little closer to home, the charity also gave money toward the development of a virtual plumbing college online to support students and teachers alike. Regular updates on these projects can be found on the Life Award's progress blog

There are three separate opportunities for financial support over each year which are open to ALL who are working in the UK plumbing industry, whether you are self-employed, a tutor or even an apprentice. These are the BPEC Life Award, the BPEC Support Fund and the BPEC Sport Awards.

The BPEC Charity, also known as BPEC (Training) Ltd, was re launched in 2012 with the strapline of "re-investing in our industry". The charity's focus is to raise the knowledge and skills of those working in the UK Plumbing and Heating industry. It also provides the opportunity to offer support to those who would like to pursue a career in the industry, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. More about its vision, mission and values can be seen HERE.

You can register to find out more about the Life Award. The deadline for entries is the 31st July.

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Access Training's bespoke plumbing courses are BPEC accredited, a sure sign of the quality of learning we offer students. If you are interested in gaining the necessery qualifications to become a plumber, our experienced teaching staff are ready and waiting to help you. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

 

As of the 1st July 2013, all bathroom products covered by Harmonised European Standards will be required to have the familiar marking pictured above fixed to them or their packaging.

This comes with the introduction of new legislation from the CPR (Construction Products Regulation) that will be in place throughout Europe. These changes are mandatory and failure to comply could lead to an up to three months prison sentence and/or a fine of £5,000 per incident. Products will also need to bear a type, batch or serial number, with technical documentation being retained for a period of ten years after the product has been sold.

While the CE mark is NOT a quality mark it does however indicate that the product is fit for its puporse. It is a key indicator of compliance with European legislation and enables it free movement throughout the European market.

Chris Taylor-Hamlin, technical director of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, said: 

"It’s a serious issue. Fortunately members of the BMA have been fully informed, through our technical committees, for over 12 months about the requirements of the new Regulations and have been able to plan changes to their inventory - it’s one of the many advantages of membership. But we have heard of some horror stories of suppliers who have been blissfully ignorant of the changes and are now having to spend thousands having their products tested and relabelled. It’s hit their bottom line.

"CE marking is a necessary burden. It outlaws non-compliant products, and highlights those suppliers who have no infrastructure for recording keeping and batch marking. These new regs mark a major step change in our industry."

Research by the Electrician Technician Registration has found that "a lack of recognised standards for industry competence" is restricting both electricians' ability and their eventual career progression.

The study looked at how electricians' perceived their professional and discovered many were confused about what constitutes "competence" and which industry bodies could be called upon for careers guidance. Participants in the research also claimed that the vast amount of electrical qualifications available to them made it difficult to decide which routes of study to take in order to gain professional recognition. They also agreed that without a visible benefit of pursuing such qualifications, they feel no reason to aspire toward them.

In an attempt to address these concerns, the Technical Advisory Panel and Steering group (TAPS) - a collaboration of bodies including the IET, the Engineering Council, Electrical Contractors' Association and the Joint Industry Board, will now act on these key issues highlighted in the research;

 

  • Developing careers pathways to enable professional recognition for electricians to progress to engineering technician.
  • Adopting a 'one body' consistent approach to providing advice on a national scale with an electrician technician membership package.
  • Mapping the engineering technician professional standards to the established industry competence card schemes, NVQs and apprenticeship frameworks.
  • Promoting the benefits of gaining engineering technician recognition to support career progression.
The full report can be found HERE.

Not sure on the qualifications you need to get you your dream career? The staff at Access Training is made up of industry professionals who will be able to advise and guide you on exactly the electrical qualifications you need to make it in the industry. If you want to follow your dream and become an electrician today, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Following a recent appliance safety campaign report that illustrated the low success rate for product recalls in the UK, the Electrical Safety Council has taken new measures to promote public awareness of the dangers these products can cause.

The report, titled Safer Reports, Better Business - A 360° Approach to Improving Electrical Appliance Safety, found that the average success rate for electrical recalls is a mere 10-20%. In the last six years, there have been over 250 product recalls, so with this figures in mind there are still hundreds of thousands of potentially dangerous products still in circulation. Or worse, still being used in households!

Most products recalled are usually done so because the present a risk of fire or electrocution, with many of them items such as chargers or adaptors. Though the media may pay more attention to larger appliances (fridge freezers, dish washers etc.), these smaller things present exactly the same risks. 

The report also researched public attitude toward product recalls, and revealed two main obstacles - indifference and underestimation. It found that nearly two million adults have knowingly ignored a product recall in the past, with a further million admitting to currently owning an electrical item that has been recalled. It seems many people would rather jeopardise their safety instead of sending back that new HD television they bought to be replaced!

In order to make information about product recalls clearer and more readily available, the ESC has launched their own online product checker, where products can be searched by brand name, model number or product type. On top of this and an extensive media campaign, the ESC will also be working closely with manufacturers and retailers to develop new ways in improving recall rates.

The ESC product recall checker can be viewed HERE.

common electrical problems

Some electrical problems are more common than others, and not everyone requires an intensive electrician course or professional qualification to deal with the issue at hand. With this in mind, here's a short list of five of the most common household electrical problems, and how they can be fixed with ease.

1. No power from an electrical socket

This common household electrical problem could be due to a number of things, some of which you will be able to fix yourself without the aid of a professional electrician. Usually, it's down to a tripped circuit breaker, or perhaps the fuse has gone.

Alternatively, it could be because of a loose wire somewhere. It's easy to check whether the circuit breaker has tripped or the fuse has blown, but if its neither of these you may need the aid of a power tester/voltage meter. If the test results in low or no power, it probably means the wiring is loose somewhere and requires further inspection.

2. Flickering lights

Again, this household electrical problem could be due to any number of reasons. Flickering lights or those that do not turn on/off when commanded are usually due to a larger problem, as is a buzzing sound you'll hear when the lights are on. The simple answer is that you might be using the wrong wattage light bulb, but it could also be a case of a bad connection. Whatever it is, in most cases this can be fixed by simply changing the bulb.

3. Half the house lights have gone off

We've probably all been here at some point. Usually, this household electrical problem can be fixed by locating your house's fuse box and flipping the switch (be sure all the light switches are off in the affected area though!). However once again it could be a short fuse or loose wiring somewhere. You might be able to locate this with your voltage tester/power meter but it's recommended that you call an electrician if needed.

4. Strange smell coming from switch/socket

When the circuit connection of an electrical device is damaged, the electricity jumps to complete the circuit. Not only creating this smell but also potentially resulting in a fire as the electricity zaps anything along the way. Electrical device arcing also indicates a serious damage to both the socket and electrical device. You'll need to unplug the appliance immediately and seek the help of a professional.

5. Hot switches

This usually occurs in dimming switches when they are running bulbs that are equal to or less than 600 Watts. When this happens, achieve the wattage required to run the dimmer properly by adding the right amount of bulbs. However, if it's the wall socket that's hot, you need to use a voltage meter to look for a high decrease or increase in voltage.

Hopefully, this post has helped you in being able to identify some of the common electrical problems you might find at home, and what you can do to fix them. However it is important to know your limitations, and NEVER attempt something that should be performed by a professional electrician.

If you would like to find out more, Access Training offer a DIY Electrical course in addition to our professional qualification courses, giving you the opportunity to practice your DIY electrical skills under the tutelage of industry professionals. For more information give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

New research from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has revealed that taking energy saving measures on your home (via the Green Deal or otherwise) could see a significant rise in its value.

The report took into account over 300,000 property sales in England between 1995 and 2011, making it the most comprehensive research in this area to date. The results found that on average house value could be increased by up to 14%, with that figure even reaching 38% in certain parts of the country.

For an average home in England, improving its EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) from band G to E, or from band D to B, could mean adding more than £16,000 to the sale price of the property. In the North East, improved energy efficiency from band G to E could increase this value by over £25,000 and the average home in the North West could see £23,000 added to its value.

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said: “We have long known the benefits of making energy saving improvements to the home, but this study is real evidence of the huge potential rewards. Not only can energy efficient improvements help protect you against rising energy prices, but they can also add real value to your property. This Coalition is committed to helping hardworking families with the cost of living. The Green Deal is designed to do exactly that.

“The Green Deal is helping more people make these types of home improvements, reducing high upfront costs and letting people pay for some the cost through the savings on their bills. The Green Deal is a great option for anyone wanting to improve the look, feel and potentially the value of their home.”

If you're reading this as an installer, it illustrates yet another reason why so many people are turning toward renewable energy sources - especially while the Green Deal is assisting in the cost. Training in renewable energy methods is the perfect way of expanding your business as well as getting the satisfaction that you are doing your part to help decrease Britain's carbon footprint. If you would like to find out more about what renewable energy training is available to you, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492.

Full story: Installeronline

Installing a tap will only take you around half a day, but you will need basic plumbing skills. Under current regulations you have to fit an isolation valve and a double check valve inside your home when you put in a new outdoor tap (see below for details). If you need to know more about the regulations talk to your Water Company or local council.

Turn the isolation valve off if there is one on your cold water supply pipe where your new garden tap is to be connected.

If there's no isolation valve, turn off your main stopcock. This is fitted on the pipework and normally found either in the kitchen or where the mains water enters your house.

Finally if you can't find the stopcock, turn off the water authority's valve under the cover in the street or your front garden. You'll need a special long-handled spanner, available from plumbers' merchants. Once the water supply is off, open the cold tap on your sink until the water stops running and the system is drained.

If you're installing a new tap you need to bore a hole through your outside wall for the connecting pipework. It's easiest to make the new connection near an exposed cold water supply inside your house - near the kitchen sink, for example.

Position your outdoor tap at least 250mm above the damp-proof course. Then mark the screw holes where your tap will be.

You will need a 15mm diameter pipe to connect the tap to the cold water supply inside the house. Position the hole for this about 150mm above where you've marked the position of the tap.

Before drilling the hole, run the pipe through a piece of 22mm diameter copper pipe. This acts as a 'sleeve', which will prevent the pipe rubbing and water leaking out of the hole if the pipe bursts. When drilling, make sure the hole is wide enough to take the sleeve's diameter.

Steadily drill through the wall with a heavy-duty power drill and a large masonry bit at least 325mm long. Take out the core bit regularly to clear the loosened masonry and let the bit cool down.

With the supply turned off, cut through the cold water pipe directly below the exit hole you've drilled in the wall. Use a hacksaw or pipe slicer to do this and file the ends of the pipes smooth.

Remove enough pipe to fit a T-piece connector. Connect one end of a short piece of pipe to the T-piece. Connect the other end to an isolation valve. This allows you to cut off the water supply to the new tap if you need to in the future. Isolation valves let you turn off the water to an individual appliance without having to turn off the whole water supply. You can get two types of isolation valve: a push-fit valve, which simply pushes on to the ends of the pipes, and a compression valve.

Fit the valve the right way round or else it won't work correctly – there will be an arrow on the valve showing the direction of the flow of water.

When you've turned off the water supply, mark the section of pipe that needs removing to receive the valve. Cut the section from the pipe and be sure to file the ends smooth again.

Now slide a compression nut onto each piece of pipe followed by the olives. Push each end of the pipe into the fitting and tighten the compression nuts by hand.

Use a pair of pliers to hold the body of the valve and tighten the compression nuts about three-quarters of a turn with an adjustable spanner. When you turn on the water supply again, check for leaks. Tighten the compression nuts a little further if you have to.

Next you'll need another short piece of pipe to connect the isolation valve to a double check valve. Water regulations say you must fit one of these to your outside tap pipework. Double check valves stop water flowing back up a pipe the wrong way. This prevents contaminated water entering your drinking water supply.

For a new outside tap the double check valve must be fitted in your internal pipework, after the isolation valve. Double check valves are installed in a similar way to isolation valves.

After fitting the double check valve insert another short piece of pipe and an elbow. Then fit a length of pipe long enough to reach horizontally through the wall to the outside. When it's through the wall, cut the pipe to leave about 25mm protruding.

Finally, you'll need to cut a piece of pipe that reaches from the pipe protruding from your outside wall down to the position of your tap. These pipes will be connected using another elbow joint.

Connect all the parts together and tighten the joints with two adjustable spanners. You can tighten the joints more if they leak when the water supply is turned back on, but be sure not to over tighten.

Drill the fixing holes for the tap's wall plate, insert plugs and screw the tap plate to the wall. Screw the tap tail into the elbow joint.

Use plastic retaining clips for the pipes on the inside wall to stop the pipes vibrating and knocking against it. Then seal around the pipe hole in the wall with an expanding foam filler or sealant.

Water resistant foam pipe lagging should cover all the pipework that is on the outside of the building to protect against freezing. This will be fitted after testing for leaks.

Finally, turn the water supply back on and check for any leaks. Tighten joints if you need to and then you're ready to go!

- Mark Lewis

 

While we hope that this quick guide has helped you in installing your very own outside tap, there is only so much that can be explained online. If you would like to learn more plumbing skills, whether it be for future DIY projects or to attain the qualifications to become a professional plumber, we offer a number of intensive plumbing courses here at Access Training. If you would like to find out more, contact us on 0800 345 7492.

Until the recent changes to Part P came into force (in England only), if you carried out an electrical task in your home your only option was to notify the work to the local building control office. Building control would then get a qualified electrician to come and test your work and issue the relevant certification.

The changes in Part P now make provision for the home owner to engage a registered third-party certifier to certify that the works meet the requirements of the building regulations and BS7671 2008 (2011).

A word of warning; the third-party certification scheme has not yet started, and is not expected to be in place until later this year.

The 2013 edition of Approved Document P, which applies to England only, makes provision for notifiable electrical installation work to be certified as compliant with the Building Regulations by a ‘registered third-party certifier’. However, those interested should note that, such a service can be provided only by a ‘registered third-party certifier’, who is ‘a competent person registered with a Part P third-party certification scheme’.

Competent persons registered with schemes that authorise them to self-certify that their own work complies with the Building Regulations are not automatically entitled to certify compliance of electrical work undertaken by others. Following development by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the arrangements for third-party certification schemes are expected to be put in place later this year.

Registration with third-party certification schemes is expected to be available to named individuals from trading companies who meet particular assessment criteria intended to ensure that those individuals are competent to inspect, test and report on the condition of electrical installation work carried out by others.

The DCLG is not expecting competent persons registered with existing Part P schemes to use third-party certification in place of self-certification. The third-party certification option is intended for DIYers and other unregistered installers who currently notify their work to local authorities.

- Mark Jenkins

The Government are now offering a total of £19 million of funding towards coming up with new methods of energy efficiency and reducing the country's carbon footprint. And if you're an entrepreneur with some new and innovative ideas in mind, they're offering a share of that money to you!

This funding is the second phase of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund, which since autumn 2012 has allocated £16 million toward the introduction of new products in the renewables sector. Previous examples have included energy/heat storage, tidal turbine testing, a thermally-insulating window and the "Eco power shower".

Energy secretary Edward Davey has said: "We’re on the side of innovative businesses and individuals with drive, passion, ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. This funding will get ideas off the ground and into the market, create new green jobs, and help the UK get ahead in the innovation global race.

"An ambitious and driven small business sector can steer the economic recovery in the right direction. So I want to see Britain’s brightest and best SMEs sending in their applications."

The scheme will be seeking the best ideas from both the public and private sectors, aiming to assist small and medium business enterprises. Subject to the demand and quality of applications, the DECC expects to open Calls for projects every four to six months from June 2013 until the full funding has been allocated. During the application process, applicants will be expected to demonstrate a robust evidence based case for funding, that will include but not be limited to:

 

  • the potential impact of the innovation on 2020 and/or 2050 low carbon targets or security of supply
  • the technical viability of their innovation and coherent development plan that will commercially progress the innovation; value for money
  • the size and nature of the business opportunity.
The deadline for the first call for applications is the 12th July. Interested applicants will need to register their contact details HERE before the 5th July.

 

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has announced that the Government is to increase its infrastructure investment by a massive £40 million, in the hopes that it will further attract new businesses and create thousands of local jobs.

At the time of announcement Eric Pickles said: "Enterprise zones are stimulating job creation and economic growth in different parts of the country with their special package of incentives to attractive new business ventures. The government is putting its money where its mouth is and making sure enterprise zones have the buildings and infrastructure they need to make sites ready for business to set up in."

Enterprise zones are areas which have been specifically targeted for economic growth. The polices surrounding them usually offer infrastructure incentives, tax concession and other reduced regulations in order to attract investors and private companies to them. Among the Enterprise zones shortlisted for this fund are areas in Birmingham, Tees Valley, Wirral Waters, Dover, Manchester, Sheffield and more.

Andy Rose, Chief Executive at the Homes and Communities Agency, which is administering the fund, said: "The response from the enterprise zones to this investment opportunity demonstrates just how crucial upfront infrastructure is to development. It is great news that this additional investment means more priority sites can be funded than first thought, creating more jobs in the areas that need them. We will now work with partners to refine the bids and ensure the investment is helping to maximise economic growth in local communities."

The full Government press release can be read HERE.

(Part 1 of this article can be viewed HERE)

Now that we know what causes brickwork to need re-pointing and how to prepare for it, it's time to look at the procedure itself for getting your brickwork back up to scratch!

POINTING PROCEDURE

You will require a hawk to carry the mortar, a pointing trowel and a soft brush

  • Always start at the top of the walling to be pointed and work downwards to prevent dropped mortar marking the cleaned brickwork below.
  • Make sure the joints are clear of any loose old mortar.
  • Load the hawk with mortar flattened to about a 10mm thickness.
  • Using your pointing trowel, pick up small amounts of mortar from the hawk and press firmly into the “perp” joints, (these are the vertical joints). Carefully fill each perp joint using a second filling if necessary.
  • After filling the perp joints start on the bed joints (these are the horizontal joints)
  • Carefully fill each bed joint with a second application if required.
  • After completing an area of approximately one square meter, finish the mortar off with a pointing trowel. **
  • Apply the mortar filling to the rest of the wall.
  • When sufficiently dry, brush off with a fine brush to remove any excess mortar.
** At this stage there are a number of different finishes you could apply, however they require in-depth tutorial that can't be provided from this blog alone. If you would like to find out more, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 for information on our range of bricklaying and construction courses for DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike.

- Richard James