The South's Leading Independent Merchant

01273 511100

HPS Merchant

Encouraging women into the plumbing industry

Chris Derrer - Monday, April 30, 2018

It’s fair to say that Britain has one of the most multi-cultural societies in the world, with people of all roots coming together to make us one of the most diverse nations on the map. We’re known for progressing quickly and welcoming all kinds of change. Since 2018 has been celebrated as The Year of the Woman, we have decided to dedicate this blog to encouraging women within, and into the plumbing industry. We want women competing for those top plumbing jobs, and we want to start seeing a rise of female employment within the plumbing world – and quickly.

We can’t help but notice that certain industries, such as those within engineering, and trades – as well as our own unfortunately, often make the integration for women difficult. This is often due to stereotypes, sexism, and employees who believe that the once male-dominated industry should remain just that… and as the latest EDF advert states, “We’re pretty serious about changing that”.

We’re not going to list all the ways that one might think that plumbing is preferred by males, because quite frankly – all we want to talk about is listing all the reasons why women should be working the plumbing industry, just as well as they work all other industries. Just because there’s a slight amount of manual labour, and a potential mess if you get it wrong – shouldn’t automatically make people believe it’s a job for a man. We’re pretty certain that if your house was flooding due to a burst pipe, you wouldn’t care who walked through the door if they were the only one who could fix it, would you?

Many women have already started making waves within the plumbing industry, by creating their own female-only companies. These companies are becoming increasingly popular with women themselves who are looking for plumbers and would feel more comfortable with them being female too. This is just one way that women are using their ever-growing creativity to smash the obstacles in their way. If you’re doing something you love, then you’re not going to care whether you get a bit grubby on the job! Much like a dentist, if you love teeth it’s the career for you, if you don’t love teeth then maybe not so much, right?

We don’t need to overcomplicate it, we just need to change it. You’re not paid to pass opinion on women or men in the workplace – you’re paid to do your job. If you’re good at your job, you reap the benefits and are recognised for this – equally, if not… well, you get the opposite. The younger generations of girls and future generations need to be given the same opportunities as boys when it comes to jobs and experience within the engineering or trade industries. This is very simple too. The more we encourage women and girls to pursue their work in something they enjoy, rather than putting them off because “it’s messy”, the more we will gain extra pairs of skilled hands within our industry. If you’re already in the industry (male, female, unicorn) then it’s down to us to encourage our girls to get involved!

Keeping an eye on the little things

Chris Derrer - Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Many people don’t tend to worry about the smaller things in life, it’s just one of those things that is installed into your brain early on, like the saying “If you spend all your time on the little things you end up missing the big picture”. Now although that is mainly true, it’s not so much in the world of plumbing! Overlooking those little things can lead to slightly bigger little things, which leads to even bigger little things, then that all eventually turns into one or many BIG problems… not fun to tackle on a Monday morning we’re sure… Here are some smaller things you may or may not know to check next time you’re called out on some maintenance.

Check pipe insulation

Firstly, this isn’t about checking for holes in the pipe itself, any holes in pipes are pretty evident (water – duh), this is looking more into the insulation that keep your clients water warmer for longer and their pipes from rusting in the elements. Just giving the insulation a once over with the eye from all sides should be enough to tell you if any parts need changing.

Check under the kitchen sink

We’ve all heard the saying “Everything but the kitchen sink”, but in this case even the kitchen sink needs a look in… The reality is that many people’s under-sink cupboard is full of cleaning chemicals, baskets, cloths, carrier bags, tools… anything and everything is kept under there. Unfortunately all it takes is one jolt on the sharp edge of a container, or a chemical spill and the pipe that goes under there is compromised. Just keep an eye out for anything lodged against it, and advise your client to make ample room for their pipework to make sure they don’t interfere with the pipes. A slight knock could loosen a seal enough to cause a leak!

Check for Rust

Spotted some rust appear on your pipes? Worse still… noticed rust coming out in your water from taps etc? Act now. A small bit of rust may just suggest a small component needs changing, a very rusty pipe is a leak waiting to happen, not t mention the potential health risks should that rust be in your drinking water!

So there you have it, 3 simple things to keep an eye on if you want to make sure you keep those bigger problems at bay.

Join the conversation over on our Facebook and Twitter channels now.

When should you call a plumber?

Chris Derrer - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

There’s an old saying in the world of plumbing… “We’re here to fix what your husband broke” and believe us when we say… although it is often said in jest, there can often be some truth in it! We think that the plumbers out there will agree with us when we say that sometimes people shouldn’t attempt to do DIY on their more complicated and crucial plumbing! Some things are okay to do (especially as a confident DIYer) like replacing valves or bleeding the radiators. That’s absolutely fine… But doesn’t it seem logical that only a professional in a certain field should do that particular line of work? You wouldn’t fancy yourself to program a rocket to the moon would you? Maybe not quite the same, but you get the point!

Here are 3 things that we think you should definitely call the plumber in for, instead of doing it yourself. More importantly, for the plumbers out there who may be reading this, you could look at this as a list of things you should nominate yourself to do when the client brings up what they are planning to do.

  1. Boiler Maintenance:

Old boilers used to need servicing a lot more regularly and they weren’t as efficient as the boilers today, so luckily for the average Joe on the street, this piece of maintenance doesn’t need to be carried out as often. However, because it is “just maintenance” doesn’t mean it’s easy and it doesn’t mean you’ll do it thoroughly enough. Perhaps it’s best to call the plumber to be on the super safe side and cover yourself in case anything does go wrong? It’s really not worth having no heating or hot water!

  1. Major Modifications:

People want the most for their money, it’s just something that is important to almost everyone these days. So what some people end up doing is trying to DIY a new bathroom or kitchen, however with very little plumbing experience, the average non-plumber could very easily cause more problems than improvements. Then what? That’s gonna take a long time and a lot of money to fix, meaning you’re more out of pocket in the long run.

  1. Installing a toilet:

OK, so we know it may not be as complex as boiler maintenance or installing a new shower cubicle… but do you really want to risk a mistake when it comes to the toilet? That’s a whole different kettle of fish! Broken porcelain = a leaky toilet and that is a hygiene catastrophe waiting to happen, not to mention it’s a little bit gross. Make sure you ask a professional to install your new throne if you want the best finish and best results possible (and no dodgy smells).

Underfloor heating, is it the right choice?

Chris Derrer - Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The idea of underfloor heating feels like quite a new one doesn’t it? Most of us haven’t grown up with underfloor heating in our homes, at best we may have heard that it was placed under top flight football pitches, to stop the ground freezing over for the game, but that was about it. Underfloor heating hasn’t been readily available to regular family home owners for very long, in comparison to other plumbing luxuries and services. So that being said, imagine this scenario… You’ve finished unclogging a wet wipe induced clog for what feels like the 100th time this week, however as you’re about to leave they quickly want to pick your brains for a second about getting some underfloor heating for the cold, hard, tiled floors in the winter. How do you know whether it’s a suitable solution for them, as oppose to getting some new radiators or insulation? Well here’s what to think about when your client asks:

 

Is there enough room?

Depending on the solutions available, your client must have ample space underneath the floor to insert the system. This can vary by quite a large margin, so best you familiarize yourself with all the available systems so you can offer solutions for whatever space you have available to install in.

 

Is wall-space an issue?

One of the reasons for getting underfloor heating is the fact that the walls are either too small to fit a sizeable radiator to, or the walls are blocked by art work or furniture. If wall space seems to be an issue, then underfloor heating could be the one. Fitting a radiator is generally always the easier job and therefore it will cost  dramatically less than underfloor heating… which is vital information that your client need to know before making a decision.

 

Budgeting

Does your client have ample budget? Underfloor heating can cost quite a bit of money to install because it requires a lot of work. Getting the flooring up, possibly having to replace it is hard enough as it is, as well as the intricate placement of pipes and/or electrics depending on if you have a dry, or wet system. Different systems have different cost implications from a materials and labour point of view, so best you know the budget before you suggest any options so as not to scare any clients off!

 

What can HPS do?

Our branches are full of knowledgeable staff that can talk you through the different kinds of underfloor heating available and the features and benefits of each. This can enable you to advise your clients on what would work best for them whilst offering super competitive prices. Find your nearest one here: http://www.hpsmerchant.co.uk/hps-branch-locator

3 Things That Really Annoy Plumbers

Chris Derrer - Friday, February 23, 2018

As plumbers we have a very skilled, yet simple job. Everything flows downwards, payday is Friday and all you gotta do in the meantime is make sure remember not to bite your nails if you forget your gloves. Okay maybe it’s not that simple, some of us work hard and we don’t fit into the status-quo -  however, there is one thing that we can all agree on: there are certain jobs that don’t need to have been done, but you had to do them because the client messed up big time. And that’s okay. It’s our job at the end of the day, but sometimes, we really wish these things weren’t in our to-do list.

Here are 3 things that us plumbers would rather our clients wouldn’t do:


 

  1. Use drain unblocking products

There’s nothing more frustrating than causing a problem by trying to prevent another problem. But that’s exactly what a lot of people are doing by pouring corrosive drain cleaners down their plug holes to stop hairballs etc from causing a blockage. The highly corrosive nature of these products can cause them to irreparably damage your pipes and cause expensive work to be carried out.

 

  1. Use the toilet as a bin

For heaven’s sake! This one is kinda unforgiveable isn’t it? I mean, we can understand the confusion when it comes down to deciding if something is general waste or recyclable but having a crisp wrapper in your hand and having to decide between the bin and the porcelain is a little silly. Basically, rubbish clogs up pipes, and we know that only water and human waste is supposed to fit down there – NOT WET WIPES.

 

  1. Fiddle with valves 

Heating and radiator valves are specifically designed to retain pressure inside the hot water system, so why does the average Joe feel like he should fiddle with it? Answer: they just shouldn’t. If you have a tiny dribble or a great whacking leak… always call a professional. For a tiny dribble, the cost of the repair will usually be so low that it’s not worth risking disaster by fiddling. If it’s a big leak… don’t even think about trying it yourself.  Hot water inside a pressurised area with a hole in it spells disaster. Imagine pressured scolding water bursting out the system and into the home! It’s not safe, it’s not easy to fix and it could really damage the property.

Why a water filtration system could be good for your clients

Chris Derrer - Wednesday, February 21, 2018
“What’s wrong with the water that comes out of the tap?” we hear you ask… “Surely it must be safe and regulated” Well… yes, but it’s not quite that simple. Which is why a home filtration system could be something to make your clients aware of...

Environmental Conservation

Globally, around 1 million plastic bottle are sold per second. So if we take the words of Sir David Attenborough on Blue Planet II seriously and put down that plastic water bottle production is terrible for the environment, there’s a problem. Especially when you take into account that only around 38% of plastic bottles are recycled… we need a solution. We’re not saying water filtration systems in the home are that solution, but if every home had one, how many less bottles of water would people buy?

COMPLETELY safe drinking water

So this is really just a well-known fact by now; tap water contains cleaning agents and chemicals, like chlorine and also a bunch of negatively charged metals such as magnesium and calcium which are not only bad in high doses, but also makes the water taste less than pleasant. Filtration systems clean water between entering the home and being released from the taps, leaving only the filtered, low level contaminating (and better tasting) water for us to drink.

Little to no aggravation of skin

This one’s a bit of a no-brainer… our skin is very absorbent, meaning the water we wash with can get absorbed. The bad thing is when the un-filtered water comes through the shower all the chemicals that are absorbed with the water can block up pores, cause spots, eczema or psoriasis. This is common in areas with hard water issues. The secret to clear skin? Maybe it’s a water filtration system?

Money Saving

Doing your job once and correctly is the best way for you not to waste your time and for your clients to not waste money. So, what if you could remove all the contaminants and metals away from the pipes, taps and showers etc? It stands to reason that your clients would end up with longer lasting home plumbing systems, it can mean that radiators will have to be bled less often and so on. All because metals aren’t starting to cake all around the inside of the pipes and cause their inevitable damage.

Why is the boiler be losing pressure?

Chris Derrer - Monday, January 29, 2018

You’re nice and toasty in bed at 6:30am and ring, ring, ring, ring! After taking a few seconds to stir, and asking yourself what kind of person is up this damn early complaining, you answer your phone. The person on the other end of the phone has no heating… the cause? Low boiler pressure. As much of a common problem this is, we would like to take your through the quickest and easiest, yet most effective steps to take in determining the issue and fixing it.

 

Firstly (and likely the most obviously)

 

Check for any leaks in the system… This includes the boiler itself, any cracks in radiators or gas/central heating pipes. This means checking radiators, valves, inputs, outputs, pipework, and joints. Whilst that sounds like a lot, it’s quite quick and easy and lost pressure is most commonly found in central heating systems that have cracks or lose valves. Once you have repaired or replaced these items, pressure should rebuild naturally within the system. Hey presto, we have heat!

 

What if you can’t find any leaks?

 

Then the problem is not down to a leak, but what it could be down to is a faulty pressure release valve. You should be able to locate and either repair or replace the valve, though the second option is likely to be more effective for your client as a long-term solution. Be sure to tell your client to keep an eye on things after it has been fixed and to see if the pressure slowly returns towards it’s normal status.

 

Boiler maintenance?

 

Often a lack of pressure comes down to pure lack of maintenance of the system. If the system is maintained properly then there is less chance of a breakage, split, or faulty valve occurring to a such an intensity where pressure is lost. Tell your client to maintain the boiler by doing certain easy-to-do tasks. One of which is getting it serviced frequently, either by yourself or a gas safe engineer. Servicing boilers regularly also means there will be less chances of malfunctions that can lead to Carbon Monoxide poisoning and other horrendous and lethal accidents. Carbon Monoxide poisoning from faulty boilers causes around 3,450 deaths a year in the UK and that’s only for people aged between 16 and 64, according to a recent study. We should always be making our clients aware of the dangers associated with central heating and boilers, because one day it could be a cracked valve… the next it could be a rather expensive fix, or even worse human health issues.

How to Install the Perfect Bathroom for your Client

Chris Derrer - Friday, January 05, 2018

Bathroom designs and styles are always changing. Wet rooms and shower rooms are becoming increasingly popular and can often be the best-looking room in the house. Your clients may ask that you advise on what YOU think they should have installed. So, what are the factors to consider when giving this advice?

 

  1. Will it fit?

A pretty obvious one to start with. We tend to post occasional pictures of botched plumbing jobs done by cowboy plumbers on our Facebook, so believe us when we say we are no stranger to people who have made silly mistakes like not considering this one. Basically, don’t be that guy/girl! Measure and stick to the units you started with, preferably mm. Just to be safe!

 

  1. Water System

The choice of shower can be limited due to a certain number of factors, one of which is the type of water and heating system. Mains pressure systems requires a large water cylinder to store the heated-up water in, where as a combination boiler system will rely on the mains pressure, but does not need any additional storage cylinders. Basically, it heats the cold water as and when used. Finally, there’s the Gravity system which uses (you guessed it) Gravity within it’s mechanics. Pumps are often used in upstairs water sources to drag the water up to the taps/shower etc, otherwise it would all flow downwards, towards the centre of gravity.

 

  1. Tray/Tub/Former?

Depending on the space you calculated, from the first point on this list, you now must make a decision on what style shower to put in. Obviously, what the client wants has to come first, but you can use your expertise to sway them towards a more suitable option for the space. For example, a shower with a tub at the bottom will take up more floor space than a tray. If your customer is pushing for more functionality and accessibility, a walk-in shower is best, especially for people who use wheelchairs.

 

  1. Type of shower

The market today has many kinds of showers, but lets keep to the main ones that you most likely will choose between, for now. There are thermostatic showers which reduce temperature change issues, as turning on a tap/flushing the loo elsewhere in the house will not shift the temperature. Mixer showers have a hot and cold feed and the two then ‘mix’ together to get the perfect shower temperature you desire. Along with standard electric showers which heat the water from the cold feed before outputting it, there are also new digital showers which can offer increased control (and style). They can be touch pad activated, or even voice controlled through Bluetooth devices to set the correct temperature and flow.

 

  1. Budget

This one is very important, as it basically decides what is and what isn’t possible for this installation. With a low budget comes limited options, but with a larger budget and a larger shower room there is more freedom of market choices. Talk to your client about the prices of the different shower options and then they can decide what they want and how much they wish to spend.

 

If you consider all 5 of the above points, you’re on to a winner and it all comes down to your installation skills… but we know you’ve got that side covered!

Wireless Thermostats: When and How they should be installed

Chris Derrer - Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Controlling our heating from a distance wirelessly, whether it’s to heat up the home with more fluidity, or simply the convenience of not having to walk to the thermostat all the time is becoming a real trend. Wireless and Bluetooth heating control devices are becoming more and more popular as of late with apps like Hive and Nest becoming super popular with the market and are well integrated into smartphones and smart home devices such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home. We know that some of you may have installed one of these before, but for those who are unfamiliar with this kind of application, here are some things to consider when and if should you fit these pieces of technology, considering the kind of environment they will be in.

Expected Range of communication:

Within the average household, wireless signals and Bluetooth products should communicate, to a reliable extent, up to a distance of 30m in any direction from the source. It is important to consider which product you will grace your customer with as the signal will have to be strong enough, or persistent enough to travel through walls and ceilings. Also note that older houses built in the 30’s tend to have very thick walls and ceilings, so that is something that could impact the communications. They may also struggle in very large properties where the control device is more than 30m away from the thermostat… we’re thinking this won’t be a problem 99% of the time though!

Other devices:

The last thing you need when you’ve finished your day of fitting a wireless thermostat, is to be called back and the client is very adamant you’ve done something to their internet, or automatic garage door. Many wireless thermostats work off something called a frequency and it is measured in Hertz (Hz) and the average frequency for the wireless thermostat is between 433MHz (Mega Hertz) and 868MHz, which are the frequencies that control garage doors, remote doors, etc… By far the best and most sophisticated frequency is 2.4GHz (Giga-Hertz) and that is very well controlled and globally accepted by WI-FI and Bluetooth devices. It is a very busy waveband and can handle much many more devices at once. This is always the safe option, but can be slightly more costly.

Consider the environment & boosting:

In the majority households there is only 1 or 2 floors; a ground floor and an upstairs. However, some houses end up with loft conversions, an extra floor or an extension, which means that the device could be out of range as we mentioned earlier. If you think that extensions, thick walls, or extra floors/loft conversions are going to promote any problems look into signal repeaters and boosters that take the original signal received and amplify up to another 30m in any direction from the source of the repeater.

And there it is, a good idea of the things to consider when installing wireless heating controls. Like we said earlier, they can be really useful and help the homeowner to save a lot of money in utility bills if managed correctly. Knowing how to install one without any major problems with connectivity and bandwidth occurring is a good thing, because in the future this is something that will pretty much be everywhere and in everyone’s homes, like the basic boiler controls are in today.

Getting Started In Plumbing & Apprenticeships

Chris Derrer - Thursday, December 14, 2017
Being a plumber is actually a very rewarding occupation. It utilizes a person’s problem solving, troubleshooting and is also very practical and hands-on, if you’re into that… It also means you may be up to your ‘you know what’ in water at some point where you shouldn’t be, however that’s all a part of the fun… right? Okay maybe not, but on days when that doesn’t happen, you’ll go home feeling productive for the day. But how do you become a top plumber these days? Well we’re willing to impart some of our wisdom of the plumbing world and getting started onto some of you potential plumbers out there who are thinking of donning the chainmail (we mean overalls) and trusty noble steed… (the Van).

How do you get started in plumbing?

Well years ago when there was something called a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) training for tradesmen of all kinds was booming. It was a relatively cheap way of gaining the right qualifications, alongside the relevant workplace experience, to then have a job where you could be essentially self-employed by the end of it… Nowadays we call it an apprenticeship but they can be done in a variable mixture of subjects and interests, including NVQ level 2/3 plumbing, which is essential to become a plumber in England and Wales, Scotland requires a minimum of level 3 NVQ to become a plumber. Nowadays, apprenticeships for those who are young and/or are in education or training still are generally free for those who are studying and they get paid a wage as well, although it may not be that much for your first year or two, it’s surely worth it to be able to know everything required about plumbing so you can be essentially your own boss in a few years time?

Is a career in plumbing really for me?

Whether it is possible in your mind or not, you need to be able to cope with certain things being a plumber…. Water being one of them, obviously, but there are other things to consider, such as long days and long drives if you extend offers to clients who live far away. You must be hard-working, efficient and willing to learn all the time to keep up with the changes in the field which are common. You’ll need an eye and a brain for maths and science as well as the grit and stamina to work under questionable conditions – such as high or cramped spaces. Be sure that you’re okay for unsociable hours and weekend work if you eventually want to become your own boss at the end of it all, because that’s mainly when other people have the time to call a plumber. If you answered negatively to any of the questions above, you may want to re-consider the trade you’re going into. That’s not a bad thing, young people and those in training need time to figure things out and what works for them, it’s always a learning cycle of learn and apply.

What about the upsides?


There’s upsides to plumbing, plenty of them should you choose this very rewarding path. There is currently a shortage of skilled plumbers in the UK, so plumbers are in high demand and there’s plenty of work out there. There is also a movement to get more females into the profession of plumbers, because ladies in this line of work are scarce and therefore highly sought after. Plumbing work is generally well-paid due to the level of skill required to carry it out. You can expect to start on a solid wage after you’ve completed your training and for experienced workers or those who are self-employed the top end is limitless - just ask Charlie Mullins of Pimlico Plumbers. He started out as a plumber aged 15 and now owns a company that turned over more than £35m last year!


Search all products