Protecting vulnerable people from plumbing and heating risks amidst a crisis

hot tap running

The recent coronavirus outbreak has brought some important issues to the fore, especially with people’s health and wellbeing, while staying at home.

As the nation is gripped in lockdown, many people are battling self-isolation, or having to balance working from home with looking after dependents. With our healthcare system already working at full capacity, it’s vital that we protect vulnerable people – such as young children, the elderly or people with disabilities – from being exposed to health hazards at home that could lead to unnecessary trips to A&E.

In this blog, we want to share some tips and focus on common areas in the home where installers can help to safeguard vulnerable people from potential accidents.

Scalding from hot water is one of the most common injuries to vulnerable people in the home. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) reported on accident figures which showed that nearly 600 people are suffering the devastating and enduring effects of a severe scald injury in the UK each year. Three-quarters of the victims are under the age of five. However, older people are at the highest risk for fatal injuries from burns and scalds – four to five times greater than the population as a whole.

Older people were shown to be at particular risk of dying as a result of hot tap-water scalds, with an average of 15 pensioners dying each year as a result of such accidents. Another report from RoSPA suggests, older people are at the highest risk for fatal injuries from burns and scalds – four to five times greater than the population as a whole.

With these alarming figures, thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) were made a legal requirement for new build domestic and commercial properties or properties undergoing a ‘change of use’ from 2012. This was done to overcome the challenge of balancing water at a high temperature to prevent Legionnaires disease whilst avoiding scalding.

These valves are installed before the water outlets so that water can circulate within the system at high disinfection temperatures of above 60°C, to prevent legionella bacteria from breeding in domestic environment. The TMV then blends the hot water with cold water at point of use to achieve a pre-set safe temperature from the outlets.

To help protect end-users especially the vulnerable group, it is highly recommended that installers advise homeowners or landlords to fit TMVs in properties built pre-2012 for additional peace of mind against scalding. It is also important to select TMVs that are quality approved and accredited.

TMVs used in the domestic application must be certified under the TMV2 Scheme. At RWC, we offer a range of TMV2 valves from our Reliance Valves brand, these are EasifitAusimix and Heatguard.

The Easifit is particularly suitable for domestic properties due to its small size, as space is at a premium under baths, basins and behind showers. The Easifit TMV also operates at exceptionally low flow rates, helping reduce the property’s overall water consumption. The valve comes in a 2-in-1 option, that includes check valve and strainers, as well as a 4-in-1 option, which in addition incorporates isolators and test ports to enable easy servicing and repair.


Avoiding ‘fuel poverty’ with smart heating technologies

As we move towards summer, few people think about winter, but now is the time to plan ahead to protect vulnerable people from cold-related illnesses. According to This Is Money, Britain suffers 175 deaths a day in winter due to fuel poverty. Statistics reveal that in England, 11 per cent of households suffer from fuel poverty; in Wales it is 12 per cent whilst in Scotland, the number rises to 25 per cent.

The elderly are more at risk to cold-related illnesses such as hypothermia. To avoid these circumstances and ensure that households can afford to turn on the heating without incurring too much expense, we must start looking at more efficient ways to control heating in the home.

For example, many homes use one single thermostat to control central heating for the entire property. Yet, often, only one or two rooms are in use at a time, leading to energy wastage.

Smart heating technology can help combat these issues. Although there is an initial cost to install these solutions, in return they offer energy savings of up to 40 per cent. Compatible with both radiators and underfloor heating, our JG Aura smart thermostats allow homeowners to only turn on the heating in rooms that are being used. This energy efficient system can be managed remotely from smart devices, allowing users to turn on the heating only where and when required, also ensuring homes do not stay heated when the property is empty.

Aura underfloor heating

Prepare now to prevent pipe bursts in older properties during winter

Most elderly people could well have bought their homes 40 or 50 plus years ago. However, the plumbing and heating systems in these older properties are more likely to be outdated and suffer from issues like frozen and burst pipes. This is especially the case with properties that use cold water tanks stored in the loft, where temperatures can be much lower.

Burst/frozen pipes can cause huge inconvenience to this vulnerable age group, as they struggle to find help. To help prevent the water in the pipes from freezing when temperatures plummet, installers should lag them where appropriate. Lagging keeps the heat in the pipes and is commonly used to insulate central heating pipework, as well as pipes in loft spaces to prevent freezing – which is typically a colder part of the home. Insulating pipes is an affordable and simple solution to freezing pipe problems.

Also, make sure you use lagging that has been approved to British Standards (BSI), as they would have been tested using appropriate methods.

Finally, best practice should also be offered to homeowners to prevent pipe bursts. This advice could include some simple steps such as isolating and draining the outside cold-water taps during freezing temperatures.

burst pipe

Preventing plumbing and heating risks

Plumbing and heating systems can pose potential health and safety risks if they are not installed or maintained properly. Now more than ever it’s essential that plumbers do whatever they can to keep vulnerable people safe in their homes.

In these challenging times, we’re with you all the way. From technical advice to helping you source plumbing material such as pipes, valves and fittings. Together we can protect the vulnerable people and help reduce visits to the A&E.

For the problem solvers, the urgent fixers, the everyday heroes and the truly up against it, we’re with you all the way.

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Andy Lea

Technical Sales Engineer

About the author

My journey in the construction industry began when I trained as a plumber.

Fuelled by ambition, I took the leap and became self-employed, running a successful business for eight years. Seeking to expand my knowledge and enhance my skills, I pursued a Higher National Diploma, which provided me with a broader perspective on the industry.

Today, I proudly celebrate 22 years with RWC, a company I've called home. As a spokesperson, I have the privilege of sharing my extensive expertise and insights, connecting with audiences and conveying RWC's vision and innovative solutions.