Mar 1, 2016

Top 10 Tips For Staying Warm This Winter!

On a cold and drizzly winter’s day, there is nothing like returning to a warm and cosy home – but how can you be sure that you are heating your property efficiently?
With the Winter Solstice just a month away, running an efficient heating system is important not only for reducing heat loss but also for saving you money on your energy bills. So, here are our top 10 tips for staying warm this winter: 
1. Un-crowd your radiators
Radiators can be rather unsightly, even with a lick of paint – that’s why so many of us hide them behind sofas and dining tables – but a crowded radiator is not conducive to a warm home. If you have objects such as sofas or dressers blocking the airflow around a radiator, these objects will absorb some of the heat emitted by the radiator meaning it won’t heat the room efficiently – and you might find yourself turning up the thermostat to combat this. To ensure your radiators are working to their fullest potential, we suggest you rearrange your room so as to allow maximum airflow around them.
2. Redirect the heat
Installing shelves above and foil behind radiators helps to redirect the heat. A shelf will help to redirect the heat to the lower levels of your room and foil will help to prevent heat from being absorbed into the walls. 
3. Invest in some thick curtains
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. Households can lose up to 10 times more heat through their windows as they do through insulated walls. When drawn, a pair of thick curtains not only makes it harder for heat to escape, but also makes it more difficult for the cold air to get in.     
4. Make sure your timer is set appropriately to your needs 
Everyone is different – we all work different hours, spend different amounts of time at home and want our homes to be comfortable and warm as soon as we step in the door. To optimise your energy use and still stay warm this winter, try adjusting your heating timer to suit your circumstances. If you work from 9 until 5, programme your heating to come on at 4 o’clock to start heating your house just before you arrive home. Many bill payers will be shelling out on high gas or electric heating bills because they are unnecessarily heating their homes throughout the night. If you go to bed at the same time every night, try programming your heating to switch off an hour or two after you head to bed and to switch back on again an hour before you wake. During the night you’ll be so cosy under your duvet that you will hardly notice. 
5. Counteract those mini draughts

Unless you live in a very new home, it is inevitable that you will lose some heat via draughts around doors and windows and gaps around floors and skirting boards. Even you cat could be adding to the draughts. But there are things you can easily do to combat this: 
 i. add weather stripping to doors to eliminate air leaks around door frames, or even adding a bolt to secure a door in the frame can help (especially if the door is a bit warped). 

 ii. ensure your letter box is fitted with a draught excluder e.g. brush excluder to stop the cold from blowing in. 

 iii. invest in a magnetic cat flap with draught proofing to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. 

 iv. you could even put a curtain up over the door – this will help protect against draughts from air leaks, letter boxes and cat flaps (your cat will soon learn to manoeuvre around it). 
6. Get insulated 
It is estimated that homes with un-insulated lofts will lose 25% of their heat through the loft space alone. Loft insulation can be a DIY job (materials are readily available at DIY stores) and if your loft is not insulated to the recommended minimum this is worth doing.
There are some issues that you need to consider when laying loft insulation (your health and safety, dealing with electricity cables and down-lights etc.) but there is good advice readily available from the Energy Saving Trust, manufacturers and DIY stores, so this doesn’t have to be an expensive job. 
7. Consider a chimney balloon
If you have a fireplace but never use it, you might want to consider installing a chimney balloon. A chimney balloon is designed to block your chimney, keep the warm air in and stop draughts. They are easy and fast to install and, what’s more, they also give Santa a softer landing!  
8. Have your boiler serviced annually 
It happens to us all. It’s the run up to Christmas, the temperature has dropped and on one exceptionally chilly morning you shuffle out of bed to find that the radiators are cold and the flame has gone out – your boiler is kaput. It is recommended that you have your boiler serviced at least once a year to ensure it is working efficiently. If you are living in a rented property, it is the law – so if your boiler has not been checked in the past year, do contact your landlord.
We recommend that you book your service as soon as you can – this way, if something is wrong, you have time to get it fixed before the weather turns.    
9. Bleed your radiators
If the heating is on and you notice cold spots when you touch a radiator, the chances are the radiator needs bleeding. Bleeding your radiators will remove any trapped pockets of air that are stopping the heat from evenly spreading and will also help maintain the life of the pump. Bleeding a radiator is a simple do-it-yourself job. U Switch offers a great guide: http://www.uswitch.com/energy-saving/guides/how-to-bleed-a-radiator/ 
10. Wear more (warm) clothes

Now, this is a bit of a given but not a completely daft point to make. Wearing your warm Christmas jumper is a good start but, in my experience, it’s all about the socks! If you’re anything like me, when your feet are cold all of you is cold. Feet have a big impact on your overall body temperature and keeping them bare on a winter’s day can make you feel a lot colder, no matter how many jumpers you wear. Many find that the simple act of wearing socks (or indeed a pair of big, novelty Christmas slippers) can make you feel warmer almost instantly, so you’re less likely to turn up the thermostat and are more likely to make a saving on your heating bill. 
So, next time you feel a bit chilly at home, don’t reach for the thermostat; consider what else you could do to turn up the heat!
Stay warm and energy efficient this winter with our top 10 winter warming tips. Give them a go!

Feb 29, 2016

Landlord Legionella Risk Assessments

Over the past few years, instances of illness and death due to outbreaks of Legionnaires Disease, caused by Legionella bacteria, have appeared on the news and in the press. While this may have raised public awareness of the risks of Legionella, a duty of care on employers has been imposed by UK legislation since the mid-70’s. Employers in the residential built environment such as those in control of premises, including landlords, are required to understand the health risks associated with legionella. Duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) extend to risks from legionella bacteria, which may arise from work activities. 

Organisations are required to assess the risks posed by systems and equipments containing and/or using water to enable, ‘….appropriate control measures to be put in place to protect the health and safety of employees and members of the public who could be affected by work activities.’ The person appointed to carry out the risk assessment may be the duty holder/Responsible Person, or an employee of the duty holder/Responsible Person, but in many cases it is an external contractor. In each case, they should be able to demonstrate that they have specialist knowledge of Legionella bacteria, relevant water treatment and the water system(s) to be assessed, and are competent to carry out any necessary surveys, measurements and sampling.

Feb 28, 2016

Top Tips for a better EPC rating.

1. Try and make sure as many of your fixed light fittings as possible have low energy lamps fitted.

2. If you have a hot water tank, make sure there is plenty of insulation around it. Good insulation can make a significant difference to the rating.
3. Loft insulation. If we cannot see the loft is insulated because either we cannot gain loft access or because the loft is boarded over please have any paperwork available to prove loft insulation is fitted.
4. If you have cavity wall insulation which is not visible due to rendering etc, make sure you have the paperwork available.
5. If your double glazed windows were fitted after 2002 and the date is not visible in the units, please have paperwork available to show the installation date.
6. Boiler information: We will try to establish the exact make and model of the gas or oil heating boiler. Where this is possible, the exact efficiency of the boiler can be established. This is likely to be higher than the software default setting for that type of boiler. Establishing the boilers details from visual inspection can be difficult, so please have any information manuals or service history available.

Feb 27, 2016

Landlord Legionella Risk Assessment

What is Legionnaires’ disease
In case you’re not fully acquainted, Legionnaires’ disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia that particularly affects people already more at risk due to age, illness or immunosuppression. It can also cause less serious illnesses. The bacterium Legionella Pneumophila, which is often present in natural sources of water, can multiply to harmful levels in manmade water systems so it’s important to assess the risk of Legionnaires’ before letting property.
On the case
UKALA and the NLA work closely with the government and other stakeholder bodies, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), about changes or additions to agents’ or landlords’ responsibilities and we think we know where the confusion has arisen.
Late last year the HSE produced a revised, simplified version of the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) ‘Legionnaires’ disease: The control of bacteria in water systems L8′. However, while the ACOP was updated, it didn’t change or alter the responsibilities placed on landlords in any way. Landlords (and in some cases agents) have always had a duty to assess and manage the risk of Legionella exposure to their tenants.
So what is your responsibility
The simple fact is that landlords who provide residential accommodation have a legal duty to ensure the risk of exposure of tenants to legionella is assessed and controlled. However, in most residential properties where smaller domestic-type water systems are installed and there is regular water usage, a simple assessment may show that there are no real risks from Legionella. This may be carried out as part of a mandatory visit or as routine planned maintenance with a specialist supplier.
Our advice for landlords and agents
Our advice is simple. Landlords must carry out a simple, straightforward assessment and where this shows the risks are low, no further action is required. Where a risk is found, the type of action necessary will follow on from the nature of the risk but will normally only require simple control measures.
For agents, it’s important to remind your landlord clients of their legal obligations and signpost to advice and or services. If you do offer a risk assessment service but your landlord client declines this, then it may also be wise to get written confirmation that they intend to deal with the issue themselves.
The following advice is worth considering:
Check the cold and hot water temperature – To prevent Legionella growth, cold water should be maintained, where possible, d below 20C and hot water stored at 60C and distributed at e 50C. Where possible, set control parameters e.g. temperature on the hot water tank to ensure water is stored at 60C.
Are there areas where stagnant water occurs (deadlegs), e.g. pipes to a washing machine that is no longer in use. You can ensure water cannot stagnate anywhere in the system by removing redundant pipework or appliances.
Have any rooms or properties been vacant for long enough that water will have been stagnant in the pipes or are there infrequently used outlets, e.g. showers, taps If so, have a system for periodically running the taps/showers and flush the system through prior to letting the property.
Is there debris in the system, such as rust, sludge or scale (often a problem in old metal cisterns), that could provide food for growing legionella. Avoid debris getting into the system e.g. ensure cold water tanks, where fitted have a tight fitting lid. Check periodically and clean out when necessary. Consider modernising old tanks and cisterns.
Are any tanks covered to prevent access to mice, birds, insects and general dirt and debris. All water cisterns should be covered and insulated.
Is backflow possible from fittings into pipework. Particularly consider hoses attached to external taps as they are more likely to suffer contamination, which could then be drawn into the property.
Is there a cross-connection between pipes conveying water supplied for tenants’ direct use with pipes conveying water from some other source. Follow pipes to track the flow of water, particularly those people will have direct contact with.
Are any of your tenants vulnerable to infection, e.g. older people, those already ill. You should advise about the risks, the control measures you are taking and the precautions they can take.
What if there is a problem with the system during tenancy. Advise your tenant to inform you if the hot water is not heating properly or if there are any other problems with the water system, so that you can take appropriate action.

Feb 3, 2016

Legionella Risk Assessments

Landlords of residential accommodation have responsibilities for combating Legionnaires’ Disease. Health and safety legislation requires that landlords carry out risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria, which cause Legionnaires’ Disease and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise the risk. Most rented premises will be low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced.This information is intended to give a brief guide to what the landlord should do. For further advice please contact a member of our team.
What is Legionnaires’ Disease?

Legionnaires’ Disease is a pneumonia like illness caused by the Legionella bacteria and can be fatal. The infection is caused by breathing in small droplets of water contaminated by the bacteria. The disease cannot be passed from one person to another.
Legionella bacteria are found in the natural environment and may contaminate and grow in water systems, including domestic hot and cold water systems. They survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 – 45°C if the conditions are right. They are killed by high temperatures at 60°C or above.

Jan 27, 2016

EPC’s for Landlords

The way in which energy efficiency ratings are determined is changing, following a campaign spearheaded by the Residential Landlords Association.
The Government has agreed to adapt software used to establish Energy Performance Certificate ratings – after it was revealed up to 10,000 properties could have been wrongly classified.
Figures from the Building Research Establishment (BRE) showed that Energy Performance Certificates can understate the energy efficiency of homes with solid walls and uninsulated cavity walls, and the group claimed that thousands had been given incorrect F and G classifications – the lowest ratings possible.
From April 2018 onwards a minimum EPC rating of an E will be required in all private rented accommodation.
Now, following a meeting with the Department for Energy and Climate Change the RLA has been assured that the Government is making changes to the EPC software which measures the thermal efficiency of solid walls – to bring this into line with the research published by the BRE.
Richard Jones, policy adviser and RLA company secretary has welcomed the news.
He said: “From April 2018 landlords of properties given a rated of F or G will have to upgrade to meet the minimum E standard.
“If landlords are faced with compulsion this should be based on sound science, especially as landlords face financial penalties for non-compliance.
“There has been a question mark over the reliability of EPCs around solid wall properties, many of which are owned by private landlords.
“The BRE report has confirmed these suspicions and it is vital that the Government takes action to rectify this problem at the earliest possible opportunity as the start of compulsion draws near.
“We welcome the assurances we have received from the Government and will be keeping a close eye on the situation.”

Jan 20, 2016

Guide to Energy Performance Certificates

Guide to Energy Performance CertificatesWhen is an EPC needed?

Where a dwelling is being let an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) will be required.
An EPC is required as follows:-
Individual house/dwelling (i.e. a self contained property with its own kitchen/bathroom facilities) – one EPC for the dwelling.

Self contained flats (i.e. each behind its own front door with its own kitchen/bathroom facilities) – one EPC per flat.

Bedsits or room lets where there is a shared kitchen, toilet and/or bathroom (e.g. a property where each room has its own tenancy agreement) – No EPC is required.

Shared flats/houses (e.g. a letting of a whole flat or house to students/young professionals etc on a single tenancy agreement) – one EPC for the whole house.

Mixed self contained and non self contained accommodation – one EPC for each self contained flat/unit but no EPC for the remainder of the property.

A room in a hall of residence or hostel – no EPC is required.

There are fixed penalties for failing to provide an EPC/make one available when required. The fixed penalty for dwellings is £200 per dwelling. There is a six month time limit for any enforcement action to be taken.
What changes have been made?
Changes took effect as from the 9th January 2013 as follows:-
Property advertisements must contain the asset rating ie. the EPC rating for the property and the SAP rating where an EPC is available.

The requirement for Property Particulars to be accompanied by a copy of the first page of the EPC has been scrapped. However, these must show the EPC rating and the SAP rating for the property if an EPC is available.

It is intended that listed buildings and ancient monuments should be excluded from the need for an EPC but it is doubtful that the wording of the relevant exemption achieves this.

In addition, further changes took effect as from 1st October 2015 for new tenancies starting on or after that date. Landlords will now have to provide the EPC to tenants before they can rely on a section 21 notice.

Jan 15, 2016

Do I Require A Legionella Risk Assessment?

“A suitable and sufficient assessment is required to identify and assess the risk of exposure to Legionella bacteria from work activities and water systems on the premises and any necessary precautionary measures.”ACop L8 paragraph23

All rented property must now obtain a ‘Legionella Risk Assessment’ according to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

Landlords of residential accomodation have responsibility for combating Legionnaires Disease . Health and Safety legislation requires that landlords carry out risk assessments for the Legionella bacteria which cause Legionnaires Disease and thereafter maintain control measures to minimise the risk. Most rented premises will be low risk but it is important that risk assessments are carried out and control measures introduced.

 

DO I NEED A LEGIONELLA RISK ASSESSMENT

Legionella risk assessments are required by law

They are a statutory requirement under the Health & Safety at work act 1974 amonst others.

A Legionella risk assessment is a fundamental step in protecting your employees and the public from exposure to contacting Legionnaires disease

They should be reviewed every two years or following a system change.

Legionella risk assessment should meet the requirements of the HSE’s ACoP L8.

Legionella bacteria are found in the natural environment and may contaminate and grow in water systems,including domestic hot and cold water systems. They survive low temperatures and thrive at temperatures between 20 – 40ºC if the conditions are right. They are killed by high temperatures at 60ºC or above

Legionella Risk Assessment

What does a Legionella Risk Assessment Involve ?

 

Our comprehensive and compliant Legionella Risk Assessment includes identification and evaluation of all potential sources of risk associated with Legionella within your building or water system.

 

This involves;

    A detailed inspection of each room

    Water temperatures taken across the site measured against acceptable ranges.

    Identification and detailed inspection of all site assets.

    Identification, evaluation and prioritisation of all risks

    Control scheme recommendation against the identified risks.

    Photography of all site assets and risk areas.

 

Following the site visit, the risk assessment is typed out and issued to you electronocally and/or in hard copy depending on your requirements.

Jan 12, 2016

An interesting EPC Article

Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) are now required for all commercial buildings whenever built, rented or sold. Although the term has been bandied about for some time, there still appears to be some confusion within professional circles about how the certification process actually works. For instance, I was in communication recently with a solicitor who was under the impression that obtaining an EPC for one unit within a multiple-occupancy building would also cover similar units within that building. Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward as that. Unless there is a communal heating system for multiple units, then a separate EPC is required for each unit within the property. So perhaps it’s time to set the record straight and spell out exactly what EPCs mean for commercial properties?
The origins of EPCs lie in the UK Government’s compliance with The European Union Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, which promoted the improvement of energy performance of buildings within the Community. From 1st October 2008 the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations (NI) 2008, stipulates that all Non Domestic Buildings being sold, rented or sub-leased (to new tenants) are legally bound to have an EPC with its own unique reference number available for inspection when placed on the open market. The sale or letting of the property will not complete without a valid certificate. 
An EPC gives summary information about the potential energy performance of a building, its fabric and services. It provides an A to G rating – called the Asset Rating and focuses mainly on the amount of CO2, which is estimated to be released from the building. The energy performance of the building is benchmarked against current building standards. EPCs will be accompanied by a Recommendation Report highlighting measures, which, if adopted, have the potential to save energy and money. Energy Performance Certificates remain valid for ten years unless the building is modified.

Dec 13, 2015

Legionella Risk Assessment

Legionella AwarenessThere are new laws for landlords and letting agents to make sure their tenants are protected from legionella.
Following an update to ACoP L8 (the legislation designed to stop the spread of Legionnaire’s Disease), landlords and letting agents are required by law to carry out a risk assessment on all hot and cold water systems to ascertain the threat of legionella – or face hefty penalty fines of up to £20,000. Previous guidance stated the risk assessment should take place every two years, the new L8 recommends that a review takes place when necessary – e.g. when there has been a change in the system (or tenants).
To comply with the new law, landlords and agents need to assess whether or not conditions allow bacteria to thrive, as well as identifying and inspecting areas of stagnant water, infrequently used outlets, debris in the systems and thermostatic mixing valves.
L8 was updated in 2013, and landlords should be checking their properties. If a tenant falls ill or, at worst, dies because of negligence, then landlords are liable to be charged under the health and safety at work act with hefty fines possible.
If a risk is found, the landlord must appoint a responsible person to implement control measures and improvements.
 Q: Can an installer carry out a risk assessment on domestic properties and what does this entail?
A: Yes, the risk assessment can either be carried out by the landlord/agent or they can task another person with relevant knowledge, experience and training – such as a plumbing and heating professional – to do this for them. All gas-elec engineers have completed a legionella awareness course and are familiar with the requirements of the risk assessment which covers the following:-
• Are there hot and cold water systems that can generate water sprays which can be breathed in by tenants and other occupants? If so, are there areas of corrosion, slime deposits, dead legs and stagnant water?
• Is hot water at a minimum temperature of 60C and cold water below 20C at the outlets? Legionella bacteria flourishes between 20C and 45C in dirty systems.
• Are systems and thermostatic mixing valves free of debris, correctly installed and maintained?
• Are water cisterns covered and pipework insulated in-line with current Water Regulations?
• Are shower heads clean and in good condition? These should be cleaned and de-scaled regularly
• Have domestic hot and cold water systems that are not regularly used (such as in properties that have remained un-tenanted for more than a few days) been flushed through? This should be done on a regular basis.
The following should be understood by the landlord/managing agent.
Q: What advice should Landlords be giving to tenants so they can minimise the risk?
A: Landlords should inform tenants of the potential risk from Legionella and advise them on any actions arising from the Risk Assessment this may include:-
• Controlling the release of water spray or stored water
• Raising the temperature of water – this can cause a scalding risk, so thermostatic mixing valves should be installed.
• Showers that are rarely used, for example, should be flushed through regularly and water should not be left to stagnate.
The Risks

The risk increases with age but some people are at higher risk including:
people over 45 years of age

smokers and heavy drinkers

people suffering from chronic respiratory or kidney disease

diabetes, lung and heart disease

anyone with an impaired immune system

The bacterium Legionella pneumophila and related bacteria are common in natural water sources such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs, but usually in low numbers. They may also be found in purpose-built water systems such as cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools.
If conditions are favourable, the bacteria may grow increasing the risks of Legionnaires’ disease and it is therefore important to control the risks by introducing appropriate measures outlined in Legionnaires’ disease – The Control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8).
Where does it come from?

Legionella bacteria are widespread in natural water systems, e.g. rivers and ponds. However, the conditions are rarely right for people to catch the disease from these sources. Outbreaks of the illness occur from exposure to legionella growing in purpose-built systems where water is maintained at a temperature high enough to encourage growth, e.g. cooling towers, evaporative condensers, hot and cold water systems and spa pools used in all sorts of premises (work and domestic).
How do people get it?

People contract Legionnaires’ disease by inhaling small droplets of water (aerosols), suspended in the air, containing the bacteria. Certain conditions increase the risk from legionella if:
the water temperature in all or some parts of the system may be between 20-45 °C, which is suitable for growth

it is possible for breathable water droplets to be created and dispersed e.g. aerosol created by a cooling tower, or water outlets

water is stored and/or re-circulated

there are deposits that can support bacterial growth providing a source of nutrients for the organism e.g. rust, sludge, scale, organic matter and biofilms

Cases of Legionnaires’ disease are often the result of infections caught in the UK, but a number of cases occur abroad.
Symptoms and treatment

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to the symptoms of the flu:
high temperature, feverishness and chills;

cough;

muscle pains;

headache; and leading on to

pneumonia, very occasionally

diarrhoea and signs of mental confusion

Legionnaires’ disease is not known to spread from person to person.
How is it treated?

The illness is treated with an antibiotic called erythromycin or a similar antibiotic.
What to do

If you develop the above symptoms and you are worried that it might be Legionnaires’ disease, see your general practitioner.

It is not always easy to diagnose because it is similar to the flu. A urine or blood test will be helpful in deciding whether an illness is Legionnaires’ disease or not. When doctors are aware that the illness is present in the local community, they have a much better chance of diagnosing it earlier.

If you suspect that your illness is as a consequence of your work then you should report this to your manager, as well as your health and safety representative and occupational health department, if you have one. There is a legal requirement for employers to report cases of Legionnaires’ disease that may be acquired at their premises to the Health and Safety Executive.