Saturday 30 July 2011

Not for DIY

Undertaking home improvements without the input of a professional can help save money, but it can also result in a poor quality finish and be more costly when involving complicated work.

Installations of features such as a fireplace or stove are better left to professional tradesmen as their expertise will not only guarantee safety for users, but also minimise the need for remedial work due to poor execution.

DIY has long been associated with men, but Britain's women are against their partners meddling, with 61 per cent admitting in a poll that they would rather call in a professional than have them doing the work.

According to the study by MyHammer, nearly half of the women questioned dread their partner doing any DIY, while 58 per cent said they could only rely on them for the very basic tasks.

MyHammer's Gerrit Mueller said: "If you are not terribly skilled it can be more cost effective to pay for work to be done to be sure of a professional job and save money in the long run.

Stylish gas fireplaces can be obtained from specialist online retailers, some of whom may provide professional fitters.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Fireplaces Keep You Healthy In Winter!

Fires & Fireplaces can not only help boost the value of a home, but they can also keep occupants fit and healthy, a newly-published paper suggests.

According to research carried out by the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health on behalf of Friends of the Earth, cold housing is still a major problem, even in 21st-century Britain.

Indeed, the study found that illnesses caused by cold housing cost the NHS £145 million a year, mainly due to the need to treat people for respiratory illnesses and hypothermia.

Furthermore, the institute's head of policy David Kidney has noted that this figure is likely to be just "the tip of the iceberg", with a definitive cost to the health service hard to nail down due to the difficulty of linking cold homes with a wide range of illnesses.

Commenting, Friends of the Earth's warm home campaigner Dave Timms said that it is "shocking" that people still have to put up with homes with cold rooms, suggesting property owners invest in good-quality insulation in order to address the problem.

This comes in the same week that MyHammer's Jim Hustwit advised UK homeowners to invest in improvements such as a new fireplace so as to add value to their properties.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Crystal Fires Turn 21!

In 1990 two brothers, Chris, a gas engineer now with over 30 years of experience and Ian, a skilled sheet metal worker, combined their expertise and opened a retail outlet in Liverpool selling fires made by Ian to be then installed by Chris.

Over the years Crystal Fires have worked with the British Gas Testing House for their product development, approvals and licensing and have gone from strength to strength, winning awards on the way for their original innovative designs.

21 years on Crystal Fires are one of the market leaders due to an extensive range of contemporary and traditional Living Flame gas fires, always with the main focus on build quality and product efficiency. This is demonstrated in abundance with the release of their new glass fronted Manhattan and Miami hole in the wall fires.

Directors quote;
“We have gone from retailing in Liverpool out of a small fireplace showroom to manufacturing in an extensive factory overlooking the historic Aintree Racecourse, supplying our fires to retailers nationwide. Fireplace showrooms like to sell our fires because they know that every single Crystal Fire has been designed, manufactured, assembled, tested and packed entirely by ourselves in Great Britain, and that is why we can confidently offer our Five Year Guarantee.”

Sunday 24 July 2011

Homeowners 'improve rather than move' 06/07/2011

Increasing numbers of homeowners are deciding to improve rather than move home, providing new opportunities for plumbers and heating engineers, according to new research from The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Overall, 48% of chartered surveyor estate agents questionned revealed the slow sales market is prompting people to improve their properties rather than move.

Across the UK, this was most prevalent in areas where the property market is more depressed, such as Northern Ireland, where 75% were improving rather than moving, and in the West Midlands (71%).

However, even in more buoyant areas such as London, buyers are facing high property prices which are also prompting them to stay in their homes.

For those undertaking work to their homes, 44% of surveyors reported additional bedrooms were the improvement which added the most value. Traditional improvements such as adding a new bathroom or kitchen were the next most valuable, at 18%. Adding a conservatory, or reinstating period features were seen as desirable optional extras, but not ones which add value.

Surveyors also noted that costs incurred for improvements will not always be covered by the potential increase in a property’s value, as this also depends on the quality of work and other features of the property, such as its style and location.

David Dalby, professional groups director at RICS, said: "Costly disappointments can be avoided by prior planning and research. RICS advise that whatever you decide to do with your home you should seek professional advice and ensure all works are carried out by qualified contractors.”

Friday 22 July 2011

Give Your Home A Free Check-Up

If you are looking for ways to stop wasting energy and money you'll find lots of ideas here. The Energy Saving Trust is a non-profit organisation that provides free and impartial advice on how to save energy.

The Energy Savings Trust are currently offering a free online evaluation of your property to allow you to see just how much energy you can save by making some improvements to your home, and unlike many other similar reports, it doesnt just give you how much Carbon Dioxide emissions you could reduce, it also gives you it in quids, mulah, money and that really does hit home. Especially with the rising British Gas prices that for dual fuel households already stands to add some £200 + to your annual heating bill.

The check just requires a few details such as the terrain your house is situated in, how many rooms etc, but once this has been completed you can choose to either have the report emailed to you or posted out, below you will see part of the report I recieved:As you can see I could save up to £346 per year and reduce my carbon footprint by over 2 tonnes by doing simple things such as upgrading a boiler (something I'm saving up for) making sure my loft is insulated as well as suggesting slightly more expensive options such as solar water heating or Solar Photovoltaic panels on the roof heat heat my water or generate electricity.

This report only takes ten minutes but the savings could be unfathomable and just think where you could spend that money you've saved.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Labour Leader Challenges Solar-Feed-In-Tariff Cuts

Labour party leader Ed Miliband has called for the government to rethink plans for solar Feed-In Tariffs (FiT).

Miliband has tabled a motion for parliamentary debate on the proposed 70% cuts to the FiT scheme's payments for energy generated through solar panels over 50kW.

The cuts will effectively end the UK industry beyond the domestic sector, critics of the proposals have said, just as other major EU economies plan a massive increase in solar installations to meet the rising demand for electricity that is expected by 2020.

Shadow energy minister Huw Irranca-Davies said: "Minister Greg Barker's decision to go ahead with the proposed dramatic Feed-In Tariff reductions for community, school and hospital schemes is a big blow to British industry and betrays the government's promise to be 'the greenest government ever'."

Monday 18 July 2011

British Gas Announces Price Increase

British Gas has announced it is increasing its domestic tariffs for gas by an average 18%, and for electricity by an average 16%, on 18 August, 2011.

The rise is in response to a 30.2% increase in wholesale costs. The energy company attributes the rise to the higher global demand for gas, "driven by increased consumption in Asia and the impact on supply of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa.

British Gas claims it is currently making a loss on the energy it sells, which it says "cannot continue... as it needs to be a profitable business in order to invest in future sources of energy for Britain".

British Gas' managing director, Phil Bentley, explained: "We know there is never a good time to raise prices, but we are buying in a global energy market and have to pay the market rate."

Until August, Bentley is urging current customers not to jump ship just yet. "Our advice to customers is to wait and see what happens in the energy retail market as a whole before making any decisions about switching supplier."

Saturday 16 July 2011

Fuel Poverty Statistics Revealed

Statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) have been published, revealing that fuel poverty in the UK has risen by more than 20%.

In 2009, there were around 5.5 million fuel-poor households in the UK, up from 4.5 million in 2008. In England, there were around 4 million fuel-poor households, up from 3.3 million in 2008.

The increase in fuel poverty between 2008 and 2009 was largely due to rising prices. Gas prices rose by 14% and electricity prices by 5 % between 2008 and 2009.

DECC says rising incomes, improvements in the energy efficiency of housing and social and discounted tariffs continue to help some households from falling into fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty among vulnerable households, defined as the elderly, children or somebody who is disabled or long-term sick, for 2009 stood at 4.5 million UK households, up 0.75 million from 2008, and 3.2 million households (England), up 0.5 million from 2008.

DECC's projections for England indicate there are likely to be around 4 million fuel-poor households in 2010 and 4.1 million households in 2011. Although some price rises will impact on households in the latter half of 2011, it will be 2012 before the full impact of these are visible in the fuel poverty data.

A spokesperson for DECC said: "Actual fuel poverty figures for 2010 and 2011 will only be known when we have detailed results of the surveys on household income and efficiency programmes, and will be available for publication in 2011 and 2012 respectively."

Wednesday 13 July 2011

Circulating The Heat From Your Stove Around The Room

Many of us are aware of the heating power of the stove, sitting in front of a lovely warm stove with the warm glow coming through the glass and coating the room in the picture postcard glow.

However, when heating a larger room you will probably find that the area around the stove is lovely and warm, while perhaps just a few feet away on the other side of the room the temperature drops dramatically.

This is because of poor air circulation, there is nothing wrong with the stove, it's doing exactly what it's designed to; heat the space around it, but the heat isnt moving around the room.

This is where this accessory comes in, this little fan sits on the top of the stove near the rear and using the heat coming from the stove simply spins the blades and blows the warm air around the room, capable of moving around 100sqft of air per minute this stove fan ensures you room is a constant temperature with no cold spots.

The amazing thing about this stove fan is also that it is fully automatic and requires no electricity or external power supply, it is simply powered by the heat from the stove it is sat on, this means better air circulation which heats up the room quicker allowing you to adjust the burn rate of the stove and save you fuel!

Once positioned on your stove you can almost forget about the fan, silently spinning the aluminium blades to circulate the air while the stove is hot and slowing down as the stove cools.

Friday 8 July 2011

How Do You Judge Good Design?

How do you judge good design? The guys at Brilliant believe good design may be individual, elegant or understated but it should always be original and timeless. A good design is one that is endorsed by the customers and recognised by the industry as something special.
Now well into their third decade, Brilliant have become synonymous with unique designs, manufacturing quality and unqestionable product safety. All of our products are rigourously tested and CE certified.

To complement their already successful traditional gas fires, Brilliant created an extensive range of contemporary products that re-interpret the domestic fireplace, resulting in stunningly modern, yet classical style. These producsts have laid the foundations for a new genre of fireplace and opened up the market for other manufacturers to potentially follow...

Based in a snazzy, state-of-the-art factory, they continually strive to improve their products and concieve new and exciting additions to the range.

The Slab Range
The slab concept originated from a single fireplace, the Slab 30, launched in 2000, it was an instant success, a result of its truly innovative nature and refreshing aesthetic. The Slab was the first of its kind to introduce ceramic pebbles, now a must have in the fireplace industry, the first to arrange the fuel effect on a horizontal bed and the first true "suite" incorporating both fire and surround into one.

Since then the Slab range has evolved and expanding, moving on from just the Slab 30, Brilliant have released the smaller Slab 22 and Slab 16 models as well as a slim version of the Slab 16 for those without sufficient depth. Combined with the use of Corian (R) adds the flexibility for the fire to fit comfortably in almost any style of decor.
The Ledge Range
Another one of the flagship items from Brilliant is the Ledge range. This contemporary hole-in-the-wall style gas fire features horizontal detailing in the Corian (R) fascia that highlights the landscape finish as well as boasting the huge range of colour options and fuel effects that make this fire truly unique in the market.

The Brilliant Newdawn
Moving on from the successes of the Ledge and Slab ranges, Brilliant released the Newdawn range of gas and electric fires. Featuring a range of fuel effects for the gas version and either contemporary pebbles or ultra-realistic logs for the electric fire. The Newdawn fascia, finished in over 100 different Corian (R) colours is available in a contemporary finish with single-piece contruction with curved edges to give that very contemporary feel, while also being available in "Style-B" with square edges and the look of a four-piece construction. The LED flame effect for the Brilliant NewDawn is micro-chip controlled and gives that added realism that just cannot be found on a standard ribbon-flame effect fire.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Record Rise In Domestic Solar Panel Installations

According to the energy regulator Ofgem, record numbers of home owners are having solar panels fitted to their properties.
Recently released figures for August 2010 indictate that panels have been fitted to 2256 homes, well up from 1700 in July and 1400 June. Installations since April last yeat have riseon to a record 6688 homes. The Feed In Tariggs (FITs) system became available on the 1st April last year enabling energy suppliers to make payments to householders and communities who generate their own electricity from renewable or low carbon sources such as Solar electricity or wind turbines.

The system quarantees a minimum payment for all the electricity generated by the system, as well as a separate payment for the electricity exported to the national grid. These payments are in additional to the bill savings made by using the electricity generated on site.
Once installed homeowners should experience a monthly reduction in their electricity bill and then recieve an income from the Feed-In-Tariff provider. However, if you have taken out a loan to pay for the installation you will obviously have to take the montly repayments into consideration.

Feed-In-Tariffs are designed sp that the average monthly income from you will be significantly greater than that of your monthly loan repayments (based on a 25 year loan)
Homeowners recieve 41.3pence per unit of electricity generated, regardless of whether this unit is used on site or sold back to the National Grid. After the panels are installed, the tariff is paid for 25 years and increased in line with the rate of inflation.

This replaces the previous system, under which people could obtain grants to help cover the cost of installing the green technology. According to the energy savin trust solar panels usually cost between £6,000 and £12,000 to buy and install, depending on size. The panels most commonly installed by homeowners consisting of eight panels able to generate up to 2.5kW, cost between £10,000 and £12,000.
The trust calculates such panels could generate up to £700 a year from the feed-in tariff, as well as saving homeowners about £100 a year on energy bills.
In addition an extra £25-£30 could be made by selling unused energy back to the National Grid.
As an alternative to direct purchase by the homeowner, a number of companies are now funding the total cost of the installation in return for a lease over the homeowner's roof. This lease typically lasts 25 years, during which time the homeowner uses any electricity generated for free but foregoes the income from the FIT which goes to the company who financed the installation.

For futher information visit

Monday 4 July 2011

The Aga Rangemaster Just Met It's Match!

Almost everyone has heard of the Aga rangemaster cookers, most people now even call that style of cooker an "Aga" regardless of the brand that actually made the fire!

That complete dominace of the market is about to come to an end, Broseley have released a range of range-cookers that both rival the Aga Rangemaster in terms of stunning good looks, build quality and

The Broseley ThermoSuprema 18.5DSA Boiler Stove combines the features of a traditional range stove and combines it with that of a boiler stove while not sacrificing anything in terms of appea
rance. As a centre piece to your kitchen, this robust, quality built cast iron room heater/cooker will complement any surrounding. The Thermosuprema 18.5 has a large viewing window, which adds to the ambiance of the room, bathing the kitchen area in that lovely warm glow and giving suggestions of where we have come from over the last few centuries, from cooking over an open fire to now using a stunning cast iron range cooker that cooks you food whilst heating your home with the ability to complement existing domestic hot water and central heating systems.The appliance is DEFRA-approved for use in a smokeless zone.

Boasting additional features such as heat conserving double doors,Crankable Grate to allow easier air flow to the fuel, Chrome Fender and handles, Removable Hob Rings, Large Storage Drawer and Temperature Gauge for the best cooking experience.
So, whether you're cooking up a simple dish or the most complex of modern recipes, you can rely on your Thermosuprema to perform beautifully.

Safety Cold Water System
All boiler cookers feature the Broseley ‘Safety Cold Water System’ which allows these woodburning boiler stoves to be connected directly to a sealed heating system without the necessity for extra feed and expansion tanks. Ideal for link up systems with combi boilers, thermal stores, solar themal and many other heating sources. All installations on a sealed heating system need to be carried out by a Broseley Fires trained engineer to ensure the optimum set-up is created to give the most heat to your home.

Available in the both the standard cast finish as a cream finish for that added touch. I feel the cast iron finish works brilliantly with the firebox basking the room in the lovely glow, while you can see your food cooking in the oven next to it and see the your pans on the top bubbling away. A truly enjoyable and some would say romantic cooking experience that heats your home as well as

Saturday 2 July 2011

New Drugasar Gas Suites

Drugasar have launched a new range of suites based around the ever popular Global 70XT, available in both balanced flue and conventional flue versions.

The Cara and Grace suites combine a quality and uniquely-european styled gas fire in the Global 70XT, offering the smooth black or traditional brick interior with the ever-realistic log fuel effect that when warmed up really starts to glow and offer that lovely warm glow.

The Cara suite displayed left features contemporary micro-marble fireplace surround, ideal for a more contemporary living space with the optional black interior contrasting the pure colour of the surround, while the Grace suite shown right is solid natural limestone and features a more classical style with crisp clean lines.

With the previous way of putting a quality piece of design such as the Drugasar range was to purchase one of the separate Drugasar surrounds or take a punt on buying a standard surround and adapting it to fit. The first option always used to a very expensive option, whereas buying a stock surround may not work at all.

Now with these pre-packaged suites all the joy of having a Drugasar fire in your living room can be yours for quite a reasonable price with the RRP on the Cara coming in at £2495 and the Grace slightly more expensive at £2795, compared to other fires that may seem expensive, but when the heritage and experience of Drugasar, combined with the quality and overall finish of these fires means that these fires are a bargin!