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A.steve

Request For Crowd-Sourced Information...

17 posts in this topic

The trials and tribulations as a renter continue, for me... The latest is the second absolute failure of the hot water and heating in just over a year. From everything I've seen, it looks like blocked pipes - and my (non-professional) opinion is affirmed (if not proven) by looking up the boiler fault code - which suggests 'blockage' or 'failed pump' (though the pump is making quite a racket).

An engineer called today - and confirmed "serious problems" - as he took the cover off the boiler and fiddled. I noticed something I thought was odd - as the claim du-jour seems to be a problem with water pipes - when I looked inside the front cover of the boiler.

So - my question to renters who might have had similar hassles: Are the markings on the inside of the front cover of my boiler 'normal' - and should I be concerned at this point that the boiler might have been pumping out carbon monoxide?

[img]http://i40.tinypic.com/rckmww.jpg[/img]

Hi resolution version: [url="http://i44.tinypic.com/vo38yd.jpg"]http://i44.tinypic.com/vo38yd.jpg[/url]

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Not an expert (or even close), but it definitely looks like you're pumping a small amount of carbon-something out of there.

Couldn't tell you if it's normal or not :unsure:

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Get one of these:

[url="http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/7001617.htm?CMPID=GS001&_%24ja%3Dkw%3A{keyword}%7Ccgn%3Apla%7C%7C7001617%7Ctsid%3A11677%7Ccn%3Apla%7C%7C7001617%7Cmt%3A{MatchType}%7Ccrid%3A14542145259"]Carbon Monoxide Alarm[/url]

[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328541695' post='3252844']
If anyone on here home owner or renter are worried about a gas appliance phone transco 0800 111 999

Its free, they will not fix anything but they will make you safe.

If your in rented its your landlords responsibility to repair any faults.

If your a owner it is your responsibility to fix the problem

You must use a gas safe registered plumber.

You can find your nearest one by going to the gas safe website and type in your postcode.

Symtoms of carbon monoxide include sickness, drowsiness,tightening of the neck muscles.

You can normally smell a gas leak, if you do turn off the gas at the meter and phone transco.

Hope this is clear to all

Stay safe
[/quote]

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[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328541695' post='3252844']
If anyone on here home owner or renter are worried about a gas appliance phone transco 0800 111 999

Its free, they will not fix anything but they will make you safe.

If your in rented its your landlords responsibility to repair any faults.

If your a owner it is your responsibility to fix the problem

You must use a gas safe registered plumber.

You can find your nearest one by going to the gas safe website and type in your postcode.

Symtoms of carbon monoxide include sickness, drowsiness,tightening of the neck muscles.

You can normally smell a gas leak, if you do turn off the gas at the meter and phone transco.

Hope this is clear to all

Stay safe
[/quote]
I'd also add - buy a CO monitor. #I got one (£20) a few months back as our boiler always seems a bit ropey (renting).
So far, so clear.

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[quote name='libspero' timestamp='1328539493' post='3252786']
Not an expert (or even close), but it definitely looks like you're pumping a small amount of carbon-something out of there.

Couldn't tell you if it's normal or not :unsure:
[/quote]

That's exactly where I stand at the moment... My view entirely.

[quote name='SarahBell' timestamp='1328539851' post='3252798']
What did the man say?
[/quote]

The man today said that the entire heating system was Fubared - and needed major work. I asked him about the marks on the inside of the boiler and he said that they were "normal" - I'm not sure I believe him... last time he was here (when every major compoent in the boiler was replaced by another engineer) he wasn't able to get the front cover off the boiler and called out for a boiler specialist.

[quote name='SarahBell' timestamp='1328539851' post='3252798']
Did he have a gas safe ticket?
[/quote]

I don't believe the guy today has a gas safety certificate... he didn't offer one by way of credentials... and, I guess, many plumbers dealing with water pipes don't need gas safety certificates.

Asking about gas safety certificates opens a whole new can of worms. I have a safety certificate - the lettings agent wrote to me and advised me of the scheduled day of the visit... explaining that they were handing out keys to the man, so I wouldn't need to stay home. As it happened, I was at home all day... and, as far as I'm aware, no-one called. If a gas engineer did call, he did so without alerting me to his presence; moved all my washing up (that was in the way); did an inspection - and returned my clutter exactly as it had been. The date on the copy of the safety certificate was the same as the day arranged. I thought the 'silent engineer' hypothesis a bit far fetched... I raised the issue with the lettings agent verbally - their outward response was shock - and insisted another safety visit would be urgently needed - but none was ever arranged.

[quote name='SarahBell' timestamp='1328539851' post='3252798']
You could ask on uk.diy
[/quote]

Good call.. Will do. :)

[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328540422' post='3252811']
Call Transco right now on 0800111999.

If you are unsafe they will cap off your meter, inform your landlord it is his legal right

Carbon stains on a boiler are quite commom but you need to be sure, it might be a open flue appliance, do not use the boiler until transco have been.
[/quote]

Thanks for the Transco advice - though I'm going to delay. The plumber has already condemned the system as a whole and it is shut off pending major work. (Brrrr... Oh-damn... quite a drive to my sister's to take a shower...) My concern is that the marks suggest to me that there is a problem with the gas/combustion side of the system - not just the water side... With a view to being able to bathe at home again as soon as possible, I'd like to be as informed as possible about every angle. To understate things somewhat, I don't have a lot of faith in the lettings agent or the tradesmen they've selected.

[quote name='PricedOutNative' timestamp='1328540613' post='3252816']
Could just be dust.
[/quote]

It's not like the rest of the dust in the flat... the particles are very fine... definitely look as if they're to do with burning hydrocarbons to me. What I'm less sure about is the cause. If this is a problem that's been present for a short, recent, period - it might be down to the blocked water pipes and/or faulty water cylinder and/or sabotaged water feeder tank and/or calcification of radiators and/or a failed heating pump. If so, when those issues are resolved - perhaps the issue with the carbon will be resolved. What I want to avoid is accepting a fix that only deals with part of the problem... and, for that, experience shows I need to have done my homework.

I'm looking at "investing" in a [url="http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Honeywell-sf450e-carbon-monoxide-detector-/120851890569?pt=UK_Safety_Alarms&hash=item1c23558189"]carbon monoxide detector[/url]... at least, that way, I won't be taking risks with my health - or be forced to approach the lettings agent with "wishy washy" subjective concerns. Any comments about good (inexpensive) CO detectors would be appreciated. :) Edited by A.steve

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[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328541695' post='3252844']
Symtoms of carbon monoxide include sickness, drowsiness,tightening of the neck muscles.
[/quote]

I've not suffered any chronic symptoms - but (perhaps this is subconscious) I do feel more alert and generally healthier today
- since the boiler has been shut off. All very subjective and not very scientific, I'm afraid.

[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328541695' post='3252844']
You can normally smell a gas leak, if you do turn off the gas at the meter and phone transco.
[/quote]

No gas smell... just spectacularly poor performance from the heating system for several months... Radiators only getting warm in the top 1" - and never hot - even with everything turned to maximum - for example. The first time I wondered about the gas angle was today when I saw the dirt patterns I didn't expect on the inside of the boiler front-cover. This suggestion of improper combustion made me wonder if I've been exposed to low-levels of CO for a prolonged period... where it's been difficult for me to identify a gradual change in my environment.

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[quote name='PricedOutNative' timestamp='1328540613' post='3252816']
Could just be dust.
[/quote]

That was my first thought, then I looked more closely and decided that the hole must be at the bottom not the top which, if correct, means the particulates were rising not falling suggesting warm combustion gasses rather than falling dust. I guess convection currents could be sucking dust in at the bottom, but I decided that was less likely.

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[quote name='libspero' timestamp='1328547161' post='3252954']
That was my first thought, then I looked more closely and decided that the hole must be at the bottom not the top which, if correct, means the particulates were rising not falling suggesting warm combustion gasses rather than falling dust. I guess convection currents could be sucking dust in at the bottom, but I decided that was less likely.
[/quote]

You're absolutely right - the hole is where the electronic panel sticks out (at the bottom... at eye-level on the wall-mounted boiler) giving an LCD readout and a few buttons.

I can't completely disprove the 'dust' theory - but the colour and particle size suggest burned hydrocarbons... it looks a bit like the dirt that builds up slowly on exhaust pipes.

The round circle mark is where a big, round, silver, cylindrical thing sits inside the boiler (visible only when the photographed panel is removed.) Around this big silver cylinder, there's quite a bit of empty space.

I'm rather ignorant about how boilers work... I understood the one in my parents' home (which, compared with today's units, would have fitted into a Flintstone's episode) - but these innards look to me like a sealed silver box... I can't see how any gases from combustion could have escaped... The flue is out the top, and does a 90-degree bend straight through the wall... I don't get to see a pilot-light or anything like that... so I can't see how fumes could escape... though ( fairly obviously, I think) they have.

[url="http://www.heatingspares247.com/support-docs/vaillant/ecoMAXPro.pdf"]This is the unit[/url] - though the service manual is double-dutch to me.

P.S. Update... The whole system - boiler; pipes; storage tank and radiators are all condemned... In one sense, that should avoid risks - but will likely leave me cold, and with inconvenient ablutions, for a few more days. Edited by A.steve

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Good grief. Ring Transco today or as soon as possible to get a second opinion. The first guy you had around sounds like a numpty who only said it was fubarred because he doesn't know what he is talking about.

I thought carbon monoxide alarms were required for rental properties now? I know the place I used to rent had one and seeing as the landlord was as tight as a gnats whatsit I doubt they bought it out of the kindness of their heart.

Basically, man up and get things moving instead of over analysing it on the internet.

Edit: From the link you posted, the boiler seems to be a fairly modern one (and Vaillant are generally regarded as an ok make). However, a quick google threw up this page: http://www.vaillant.co.uk/installers/Service/service-reminder/. So it may be the seal mentioned in there has not been replaced with the graphite version, it's got damaged and the soot you see is the result of something getting burnt. But you really need a proper gas engineer to look at it. Edited by efdemin

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Those markings are dust, that has been blown past the plastic cover by air currents (usually powered by the heat from the boiler, causing hot air to rise). It's a normal feature that you see on boilers that have been operated (you can also see it on walls and ceilings near light fittings, for the same reason). The air currents from heating are very gentle, so only the very finest microscopic dust gets blown around - but this type of dust is very "sticky" and will get stuck and stain most surfaces.

You should always have a carbon monoxide alarm, if you have any kind of gas appliance. If you don't already have one, you should obtain one immediately.

Modern boilers should be extremely safe, because they are designed to be hermetically sealed boxes in operation. The only way for air to get in, and fumes to escape is via the flue pipe, and there are electronically controlled fans and pressure/temperature sensors that will verify that the air is circulating correctly, and that the main unit is sealed, before starting the boiler - and if incorrect air flow is detected during operation, they will shut off and lock-out. If the main unit isn't properly sealed (e.g. it has been disassembled and not reassembled properly), then the pressure sensors will prevent the boiler from starting.

The old fashioned boilers that took air from the room, and used the heat of combustion to push fumes out of the flue, were a carbon monoxide risk - because if the flue was blocked, the fumes would go into the room, and because of the disordered air flow, not enough oxygen would get to the burner causing carbon monoxide production. There was no control system for the air flow - if something was blocked, or incorrectly adjusted, there was nothing to stop carbon monoxide from being pumped out into the room.

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[quote name='efdemin' timestamp='1328552565' post='3253058']
I thought carbon monoxide alarms were required for rental properties now?

I know the place I used to rent had one and seeing as the landlord was as tight as a gnats whatsit I doubt they bought it out of the kindness of their heart.
[/quote]

I don't think it's a legal requirement - though, I think, smoke alarms are... and combined devices do exist. I've two smoke alarms - but I don't think either is dual purpose.

[quote name='efdemin' timestamp='1328552565' post='3253058']
Basically, man up and get things moving instead of over analysing it on the internet.
[/quote]

Thanks - the internet was not my first port of call - LOL. I posted here after one (I think legally solid) paper-based letter hand-delivered; an email (including a scan of the letter); a call to the emergency out-of-hours helpline and a call to the office demanding immediate action at 9:01am. I've combined this by checking on progress every couple of hours (on average) by phone. I'm not a shrinking violet - I just prefer to be maximally informed... lies are easier to spot that way. :)

[quote name='efdemin' timestamp='1328552565' post='3253058']
Edit: From the link you posted, the boiler seems to be a fairly modern one (and Vaillant are generally regarded as an ok make). However, a quick google threw up this page: http://www.vaillant.co.uk/installers/Service/service-reminder/. So it may be the seal mentioned in there has not been replaced with the graphite version, it's got damaged and the soot you see is the result of something getting burnt. But you really need a proper gas engineer to look at it.
[/quote]

Good find... thanks. I'm absolutely sure that this boiler hasn't been serviced in over 18 months. Edited by A.steve

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[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328555512' post='3253106']
As i said to you hours ago, phone transco, if you have not got a landlords gas safety cert, they will report your landlord to gas safe.
[/quote]

:) Thanks, yes - you did.

I do have a gas safety certificate - though its date of issue is a day I stayed home expecting a call from a gas engineer to do a gas safety inspection... but (as far as I'm aware) no-one called.

The boiler is known to be faulty - and everyone accepts this. I'm on a fact-finding mission with the aim to become sufficiently informed that I can't be fobbed off... knowledge is never wasted - and all that. Edited by A.steve

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[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328557842' post='3253155']
I was waiting for a reply.
[/quote]

Sorry for my inadvertent snub-by-omission... it wasn't intentional. :)

[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328557842' post='3253155']
I get phone calls from distressed tennants all the time about dodgey landlords and unregistered plumbers and i tell them the same thing PHONE TRANSCO.

This is my last post on this subject.
[/quote]

I feel I'm on top of the safety angle - the boiler is completely shut down because the water-side of its connectivity is known to be faulty - and, in any case, the boiler shut itself down with an error code. I don't need Transco to tell anyone that attention is required... With hindsight, it might have been sensible to call Transco before the boiler failed - but that opportunity has passed. I will definitely be checking the credentials of anyone who works on the boiler this time - and I'm going to ask for an updated gas safety certificate... with Transco as a backup plan in case I don't get immediate compliance. I hadn't previously moved on the safety certificate as I only have suspicions that it might have been inappropriately issued... no proof... just a string of coincidences. Experience suggests that while coincidences are unusual - they're not impossible. Murphy's law is sure to apply should I approach things half-baked.

I'm beginning to lean towards the idea that the dirt is just dust - not evidence of noxious emissions. I am definitely not going to take any risks... but, similarly, I'm not going to stick my neck out on the hunch that the plumber is wrong. I have no reason to doubt the landlord's good intentions - though I've had a string of problems with the letting agency. Edited by A.steve

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[quote name='bobthebuilder' timestamp='1328573185' post='3253395']
Im glad you are so sure of things you obviously know nothing about, i think you are a fool
[/quote]

I readily admit to being a fool. ( Paraphrasing Eastern doctrine: only an idiot doesn't realise they're a fool. ) :)

I am, however, a risk adverse fool... who's being pragmatic about inconvenience, and facing up to the reality of my actual situation.

As ever, real life is always more complicated than the tips of icebergs even the most public people share anonymously on the net. ;)

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Transco guy: "It's just dust."

Safety fear eliminated. Still rather cold and bathing in a retro Victorian style.... Grrrrrr. Still fighting to get this sorted sometime before Summer.

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