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Future proofing my hot water system.

(8 Posts)
Miniwookie Mon 27-Mar-17 11:36:03


We are a family of 7 living in a 5 bed 2 bath house, originally 1920s 3 bed semi with two beds and 1 bath in a loft conversion done by the previous owners.

The hot water system feels a bit cobbled together and we have a few issues with it. As we've just got planning permission for a ground floor extension Inc a decent size utility room we would like to get this sorted at the same time.

Currently have a gas boiler with traditional cylinder tank in the airing cupboard and header tank in the loft (eaves)

Issues are:

Poor pressure from hot taps compared with cold to the extent that the bath mixer won't work as the cold water stops the hot coming through.

Both showers and the loft sink have noisy pumps, which wake us up if anyone has a shower or runs a tap in the loft bathroom at night.

The radiators in the loft are connected to the water system instead of the heating so are only on when the hot water is on.

There is a red metal tank thingy with a pressure gauge on it next to the boiler which constantly needs topping up otherwise the loft radiators stop working. This seems odd as I've only seen these with unvented cylinders in previous houses.

My main issue is the noisy showers as our DC are close in age and at some point we will have 5 teenagers living in the house as well as me and DH, so don't want them to not be able to shower early/late or have both showers at the same time.

My boiler is due a service so I'm going to have a chat with the engineer, but any pointers on what I should be looking to do would be gratefully received.

HorseDentist Mon 27-Mar-17 11:49:09

I'm in a very similar situation with my 1930's house.
I have given up on looking for a solution that works for all areas and am now looking for a full refit with brand new powerful combi boiler and a new layout. Storage heaters in the attic floor as like yours they only work when the water is on, the bathroom too.
Watching with interest in case you can save me several £1000's

Miniwookie Mon 27-Mar-17 12:29:03

When we bought the house the vendors told us there is something under the bathroom floor that would allow the loft radiators to be connected to the CH, but as they had the bathroom floor retiled before they did the loft they didn't want to take it back up so I'm hopeful that issue can be resolved.

Re the boiler etc, I was wondering if an unvented system might be better as we had that on a previous house that was 3 storey (new build) and it always worked well. I don't think a combi boiler would suit us as we'll have too many people making demands on the hot water.

PigletJohn Mon 27-Mar-17 12:38:07

improving the plumbing depends on a good incoming water supply. Very often the incoming waterpipe will be small and will not deliver good flow, which is why British plumbing traditionally has a cold tank in the loft which is filled slowly but can deliver fast to fill the bath.

Your house is 1920's so the incoming pipe is probably half-inch lead or steel, and about due to be leaking by now.

So I would be thinking about having a new waterpipe laid out to the stopcock or meter under the pavement. It is not a complicated job, but a bit of an effort to dig a trench, especially if you have concrete in the way.

Your house probably has a space under the wooden floors where a pipe can go. It need not take the same route as the old pipe.

If you have or suspect lead pipes, ask you water co to test the drinking water for lead content. Do that today because they may be slow to make an appointment. There may be a lead pipe replacement subsidy, or they may reconnect free, or they may replace their bit of lead pipe at the same time. The test must be completed before you start work.

Plumbers are weedy, delicate little fellows with soft hands, so they (or you) can employ a labourer or a sturdy householder to dig the trench. The water co will want to inspect it to verify that it is deep enough.

Have the new pipe laid in 25mm or preferably 32mm plastic. The difference in cost is trifling and the effort is the same.

Specify that you want full-bore stopcocks fitted. Small ones are cheaper but will constrict the flow.

Inside the house run a new 22mm pipe to the boiler or hw cylinder and to the bath(s), don't let the plumbers throttle it down to 15mm which has only half the capacity.

Once you have a new pipe, you will be amazed and delighted at the improved flow. You can now use an unvented cylinder, which gives unsurpassed performance and can be heated by your old boiler. If you have only one bath or shower you can use a large combi.

The red vessel you mention is for the radiators. If it needs frequent topping up you have a leak, unless the pressure gauge swings a long way up and down when the radiators are hot and cold, which indicates a fault in the vessel. Unvented cylinders have a white pressure vessel, suitable for drinking water.

Miniwookie Mon 27-Mar-17 14:47:25

Thanks PigletJohn The incoming pipe is ideed lead so we were thinking about getting it replaced while work gets done as we are having trenches dug to move drainage anyway. We had the water tested recently and the water quality was acceptable, which presumably means we won't get any contribution from the water company for the replacement of the lead pipe?

Two baths and showers (one separate cubicle and one overbath) so think unvented may be the way to go.

Really appreciate the advice. Thanks.

Miniwookie Mon 27-Mar-17 14:49:37

Oh and we do have a minor leak, slight drip from a valve in the utility room, so that explains the red vessel thing.

PigletJohn Mon 27-Mar-17 15:14:57

it's worth checking if there is any kind of lead replacement scheme. In some places there is a council one.

I think I heard there was a target to replace all lead pipes but I might be mistaken.

RubberTeeth Mon 27-Mar-17 16:06:59

I'm in a similar situation. However, we have been told that upgrading the water pipe could a waste of money. That's because we're at the top of a steep hill. Instead, one plumber recommends installing an accumulator tank with an unvented cylinder. Two others have said just upgrade the incoming pipe. Why is it so hard to get an opinion you can trust?

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