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What is the best water system?

(25 Posts)
ninosatu Tue 19-Nov-13 08:06:50

We just converted the loft of our victorian terrace, making it a 3 story, 5 bed 3 bathrooms/showers with the loft bathroom using an electric shower. When we did the loft a few months ago the contractor said that our combi boiler was enough to feed the three bathrooms. A couple of days ago the boiler broke down and the plumber that we called suggested 3 options: replacing a valve ( cost around £400), changing to another but better combi ( £2100) or using a sealed water tank (£4900). He also warned that if we choose to replace the combi, we won't be able to use two , let alone three showers, at the same time. If we choose a water tank, we have to dismantle/ destroy the newly decorated wall and wooden floor which has been installed for less than a month. At the moment we can survive taking turn having shower in the loft bathroom and wearing thick jumpers but in the long run, when the house is full, we will need at least two bathrooms can be used at the same time. Any suggestion for a solution? Money is very tight now as I have used all our savings and my redundancy money for the house improvement project in the hope I can rent some of the rooms to students.

PigletJohn Tue 19-Nov-13 11:07:58

how did you select this heating engineer? What is this £400 valve you mention?

fill a bucket at the cold tap on each floor of the house; time it; calculate how many litres per minute it delivers. Do the same with the hot. Report back.

How old is your house, and can you see the colour and diameter of the incoming water main?

ninosatu Fri 22-Nov-13 12:28:24

Thank you for the replay. By the way our boiler is Glow worm Betacom 30C and is about 7 years old. The first plumber was recommended by a friend. Since then we have asked another heating engineer ( didn't check the certificate but he owns a bathroom store nearby and did our plumbing when we did the kitchen improvement). He quoted to change the main valve for £375 but suggested to change the boiler to Vaillant ecotech plus 397 instead, for £2500. Given the choice we leaned towards replacing the boiler but then when I checked for reviews of the boiler and I found that this Vaillant boiler was very bad.

It's Victorian terrace, I think it's built pre-1900. Calculating the water flow from each floor I found that the hot water tap is stronger than the cold water except in the loft and that the flow from the cold water tap in the loft was the strongest.
From cold water taps in ground, first floor and loft respectively the flow was 8,5 , 4,5 and 12,5 litre per minute. From the hot water tap, it was 9,2, 8,3 and 8 litre per minute though there is no hot water at all at the moment.

If we have to change boiler, I now favour Worcester Bosch Greenstar Highflow 550 or 440 CB.

Any suggestion?

PigletJohn Fri 22-Nov-13 15:10:00

the first floor cold water tap sounds like it has an obstruction in the tap or pipe, which could doubtless be repaired or corrected.

if you get 12.5 litres per minute in the loft, that is enough for a reasonable shower from a combi. You may improve the flow at some taps by improving the pipework, for example smoother straighter runs with fewer tees and elbows, and only use full-bore valves. It would probably be worth examining the run between stopcock and boiler, and perhaps rerunning it in 22mm; that will help you get good hot water flow.

If the maximum flow you can get is 12.5 litres per minute, there is not much point in buying a bigger boiler that can handle more, unless you fit new larger supply pipes first.

It sounds like the flow from the pavement to the house is reasonable, but nothing special. When the pipe needs to be replaced, have it done in a larger plastic pipe with large valves.

Vaillant and Worcester Bosch are generally considered to be good boiler brands. A less well-known brand in the "Which" top three is Viessmann, which I have, but be sure to have it fitted by an Approved Installer who has been on the maker's training course. As they are less common and don't go wrong much, many installers are unfamiliar with them.

ninosatu Fri 22-Nov-13 21:31:12

Appreciate your quick response and suggestion.
A British Gas engineer is coming tomorrow to give a quote and on Tuesday an Approved Installer from Worcester Bosch is coming to do the same. I'll report again about their suggestion.

I don't know what can be done with the pipework. It was mostly new as the kitchen was gutted and rearranged at the same time we built the downstairs shower room/wc last year. The loft was done this summer. I haven't even finished painting the whole house. Real headache!

Yesterday I had shower in the loft while the hot tap in the first floor bathroom was open. Today I had it while no other tap was open... I didn't notice any different in the flow. Why is that?

Thanks again.

PigletJohn Fri 22-Nov-13 22:00:20

perhaps you were unusually lucky.

bucket-test the shower.

ninosatu Sat 23-Nov-13 11:06:35

I we change the supply pipe ( is it the pipe from the pavement?) but not other pipework ( because it will be very expensive to put back the wooden floor) do you think the flow will be markedly improve to warrant a bigger boiler?
If no one willing to change the supply pipe at the moment ( this time I find it very difficult to find a recommended plumber ) Do you think it is still worth just changing the valve of my current boiler with the current quote of £375?

I don't know if Glow worm is a good brand or not, but we never have problems until now.


MrsTaraPlumbing Sat 23-Nov-13 17:32:53

Piglet will give you the best advice.
I just wanted to pick up on a couple of other things mentioned.
The more open taps drawing hot water from a combi boiler the more the flow at all or some will be reduced.
In my house we can have two showers going with out combi boiler - but it isn't always possible in all home with any combi.
I think most will struggle to supply enough hot water to 3 showers at the same time and there are some combis that also store hot water - this might help.
It is a question of what you need though. You may have 3 showers but it is more important to know whether are they ever going to be used at the same time. In our house it is very rare to need to use 2 - but we have a big shower enclosure so we can all get in one together!

I don't know if your boiler should be replaced now. I do know we would expect it to last a lot longer 12-15 years usually.

Good plumber - someone who works and lives local and has worked in that area for a long time is a good sign - of course word of moutg recommendations. You could look for members of CIPHE on their website.

PigletJohn Sat 23-Nov-13 18:46:51

we still don't know what this valve is.

ninosatu Mon 25-Nov-13 19:16:13

That was my first thought. But it seems all the plumber/engineer i called suggested to just change the boiler rather than spending £400 for a valve for an old boiler.

Sorry PigletJohn, but both the first plumber and my local engineer/plumber( who also did the plumbing in the kitchen ) only said the main valve. None of them bother to check the flow before recommending boilers.

So when a British gas rep came, the first thing I asked was to recheck the flow which was 10L/minutes in the kitchen/ground. She recommended Worchester Bosch Greenstar Junior i28 and quoted £2800 to install it, including rectifying the flue pipe which she said did not comply with the current law ( though was only done last year and passed by building controller ) , a free homecare for a year and 10 year guarantee if we continue with the homecare product.

She didn't think bigger supply pipe would markedly improve the flow as we live in high ground and highly populated area in London.

I have had an appointment with another Worcester Approved Installer for tomorrow, but they just notified me that they could not make it and have to be reschedule. I haven't made another appointment because I am just so tired with all of this.

£2800 is actually too much for me at the moment but it seems I have no choice as the weather will soon be much colder.

sleeplessbunny Mon 25-Nov-13 19:27:45

we have the greenstar 550 from worcester bosch. It is fine but really it is just a combi with a small tank inside to up the hot water flow rate if necessary. If we have the tank part switched on (takes more energy as it has to be kept hot all the time) then we can use 2 showers simultaneously (not for long though!) but usually we just leave it in Eco mode (tank doesn't heat up) and we just take it in turns to shower. It is useful when we have guests though.

As PigletJohn says, if your cold water flow rate isn't brilliant to start with then it doesn't really matter how powerful the boiler is, two showers at once will still be crap.

In our last house we had a pressurised hot water cylinder (also called unvented I think) and it was fab, the best hot water system IMO. It just uses a standard boiler (ours was 20+ years old and still going strong), heats up the tank in it's own time and then you have gallons and gallons of high pressure hot water to enjoy. Was no problem at all to have 2 showers at once, although you do need a large tank to make sure it doesn't run out. It was expensive but well worth it. The only reason we didn't go for it in the new house was lack of space for the cylinder.

ninosatu Mon 25-Nov-13 21:05:09

The British gas rep said with the flow rate like mine, we cant use the unvented system because it needs 30l/minute flow or three time ours at the moment.

The shower in the loft is electric it does help.

But I am so annoyed that we have to rectify the flue pipe ( cost over £300 ) which was installed only last year when we remodelled the kitchen and had been passed by building controller. Why did the building controller pass it if it was against the law ( the law, according to BG rep was passed 5 years ago).

Do you think British Gas give the best value for money service? Or should I still wait for a quote from another installer?

sleeplessbunny Mon 25-Nov-13 21:29:15

Personally I would use a local plumbing company, not British Gas, but that's just my preference. If you got building reg approval for the flue then I find it strange that BG are saying it's not correct. Why don't you speak to the building control officer at your local authority about it? Either they made a mistake (which I find unlikely) or there is some confusion about what is allowed.

I know with the unvented system we had, the plumber fitted a regulator to balance out the flow rates, but I never knew what they actually were so that's not much help to you, sorry.

ninosatu Mon 25-Nov-13 22:26:26

The one who did the the plumbing for the kitchen was my local /plumber/engineer / bathroom store owner and general contractor ...but off course he only sent his staff. At that time I was so glad that my contractor used him because his store was only two minutes walks from where I live. Now I am not so sure, if what the BG rep said turns out to be right. He was also the one who recommended Vaillant ecotech plus 937 which I now know is a waste of money because it needs the flow rate twice what we have to get the maximum use of it.

But thank for your input. Maybe I should reschedule the other installer...if he agrees to let the flue as it is, it will be £300 less already.

PigletJohn Mon 25-Nov-13 22:31:23

Do you think British Gas give the best value for money service?


No, but you can generally depend on them to be the most expensive.

ninosatu Tue 26-Nov-13 12:53:24

Thank you PigletJohn. I thought they were the most reliable. I WAS GOING to take their offer right there and then but my husband forbid it.

We are now used to the me excuse to go out everyday and just come back and stay in bed with an electric underblanket.

PigletJohn Tue 26-Nov-13 15:09:53

I think they are pretty dependable, in the sense that they are not going to go bust or run off with your money; and if they do a bad job (they are only staffed with human beings), they have a huge and cumbersome complaints process which, in the end, should see you right.

It can be diffcult to find a good local installer, and the best way is trough personal recommendation. Nor with a pin in the yellow pages, not by picking a flyer off the doormat, and definitely not by reading a paid-for listng off the web with glowing reports that might have been written by the advertiser and his chums.

ninosatu Fri 29-Nov-13 05:23:41

A local installer from Worcester Bosch came and gave a quote but it's not better than BG so we decided to use BG instead. We also want to change the supply pipe at the same time.

PigletJohn, can two different size of pipes can be connected? If so I would like BG to install a bigger boiler and change the pipework in our boundary asap so that we can have hot water and heating while waiting for Thames Water to connect it to the main. I have spoken to TW, they could not give precise time and can only guarantee one bar pressure. A plumber said it could take 8 to 10 weeks.

If the above possible what size of pipe do you suggest and how big is the suitable boiler? We want a combi, either with a tank or not.

I appreciate your input..

PigletJohn Fri 29-Nov-13 09:27:44

If you are going to the trouble of having a new plastic pipe laid, have at least 25mm. Many people will say that should be enough.

However, the next size up, 32mm, costs very little extra in materials, and nothing extra in labour, so I would go for that. It is important to have full-bore stopcocks and fittings so there is no constriction, all the way into your house, and large copper pipes all the way to the boiler, so there is no need to dig up the pipe if you want to add e.g. a garden tap or swimming pool or a Megaflo later.

BTW if a Megaflo or similar has not yet figured in your calculations, be sure to consider it now. Used with good water flow from a big pipe, it can give a stunning shower and unsurpassed bath filling.

ninosatu Fri 29-Nov-13 15:47:35

Thank for the info, but can those be done now? I mean can the new pipe be connected it to the present water source inside our boundary so that we can have hot water and heating while waiting for Thames water connect it to the main? Some people say it may take up to 10 weeks.

ninosatu Fri 29-Nov-13 15:59:42

Maybe not Megaflow. The plumber said we have to change the gas pipe as well if we fit unvented boiler/ Megaflow? And it means we have to break the new wooden floor.

cs54 Fri 29-Nov-13 16:07:53

Ensure the mains supply connects directly to unvented cylinder first.

PigletJohn Sat 30-Nov-13 00:33:06

A big combi is likely to need a bigger gas pipe than a boiler that feeds a cylinder, because it has to heat the water immediately on demand. However a big combi will not be much good unless you have a big water pipe providing lots of flow.

If you want to supply three bathrooms you are going to need a lot of hot water, and a Megaflo or similar is likely to come out on top, but it is going to be tricky getting all the work done quickly at this time of year.

I wonder if you should be looking for a temporary solution to bodge along for the next (unfortunately the coldest) couple of months. It would be possible to install a pressurised cylinder with your existing water pipe, but you will not get the best out of it until you increase the water flow. Or maybe you should get your old boiler patched up. Very difficult for us to appreciate the situation remotely. You are going to be dependent on the abilities of your local heating engineer, and your trust in him/her.

ninosatu Mon 02-Dec-13 09:32:03

After a long consideration I think you are right , temporary solution is the best way at the moment, so I am going to fix the boiler first. It will give me a breathing space to fine a better and more permanent solution. Thank you everyone, especially PigletJohn...I am so glad I came to this site. It makes me realize that you cannot just leave everything to the professional without knowing the details and doing your own research first . That was our mistake when we did the house improvement (kitchen/site extention/shower last year and loft this year). We even left the house empty when we did the we don't know what kind of plumbing we've got and what kind of damage will have to be done when and if we redo the pipework. What a mess!

sophiecross Sun 03-May-15 15:20:24

Hello ninosatu - we're in a similar situation as you were two years ago. What did you do in the end and how did it work out? Did an increased supply pipe to your new combi lead you to be able to get two showers at the same time?

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