My Winter - plumber Steve Bartin
UK Plumber of the Year 2018 and WaterSafe member Steve Bartin talks about how winter affects him and his business.
My winter as a plumber
When the weather turns colder I’m much busier as customers want to make sure their homes are ready to receive family and friends in time for Christmas. It can seem like the end of the world if things go wrong just before a houseful of guests arrives! This means lots of checking boilers and lagging water pipes to prevent them from freezing and bursting.
How the weather affects my business planning
Planning ahead is really important for me and my customers - I know what sort of call-outs to expect in winter and I make sure I have plenty of general plumbing stock to cover emergencies like burst pipes. In an ideal world people could help themselves (and me!) by trying to do their winter preparations a bit earlier. Getting your boiler checked in the summer before you need it is a good idea, as well as wrapping up water pipes with lagging to insulate them when cold weather arrives.
I do need to plan my work to make the best of my time and I use the Met Office app every week throughout the year to plan my inside and outside jobs, and every day or so in winter. If lots of rain is forecast I’ll try and rearrange outside jobs like putting in a new water main or a job that involves going in and out of someone’s home, to minimise mess.
Adjustments for winter weather
Winter is a busy time for me and my business and I need to make sure I can reach my customers in rural areas. When temperatures fall to below freezing I get up 10-15 minutes earlier each working day to defrost my van’s windows so I’m not wasting time in the morning.
The biggest issue for me when snow and ice arrives is often getting my van out of my street, so when I know the weather’s going to be really bad I plan ahead and park on the main road – but having my van out of sight leaves me worrying it’ll get broken in to.
I have also learnt that over the years I need to ensure I have plans in place for my own requirements. I’ve built up a great network of local trusted businesses and suppliers – my garage for example knows how important my van is to my job and I can always rely on them for help if I need it.
Checking on my older customers
My older customers are a priority at this time of year – and my experience is that if they are planning to be away during the festive season they tend to want to turn everything off to save money. However I always advise them to leave their heating on low and set their thermostat to around 14 degrees – to prevent pipes from freezing. I also tell my customers to run their taps through when they get back from a break to get rid of any standing water.
Top tips for preparing for winter
It’s not too late to insulate - have a look in your loft – if you have storage tanks or pipes make sure everything is well insulated to help prevent them from freezing and bursting. Don’t forget pipes in unheated areas like garages and outbuildings.
Sort out any dripping overflows from loft tanks and toilets or safety pipes from appliances urgently! These problems need to be sorted – not only is this costing you money and wasting water, but if that puddle created on the path from a leaky outside tap freezes, you or someone else could easily slip and get seriously hurt.
Leave your heating on low if you’re going away - about 14 degrees centigrade should keep water circulating in your pipes in very cold weather – if you’re going to be away for a while, turn off your water supply and drain the system.
Finally know where your stop tap is! Should an emergency occur you will need to turn the water off quickly. You’ll usually find it under the kitchen sink, but it can also be in an airing cupboard or under the floorboards near the front door. Make sure the stop tap is easily accessible and that it works!
Find out more about Steve Bartin