Tuesday 11 December 2012

Pump your mains cold water

Boost your mains cold water with a Homeboost

One of the golden rules of plumbing is “thou shalt not pump mains cold water”. I’ll grant you that it’s not the most exciting of rules but it’s an important one... or at least it was.

So what’s happened to consign this rule to the history books? Well Salamander have just brought out the “Homeboost”, a pump specifically designed to overcome poor mains water pressure.

So how come this can work on the mains? Well the water regs never actually said you couldn’t pumps mains water, they just added enough caveats to ensure they always put people off the idea. For instance, the pump would have to ensure that it never delivered more than 12 litres of water a minute, regardless of the mains water pressure. It also had to ensure that there could be no backflow of water back into the mains. For some reason it’s taken until now for someone to design a pump that meets these criteria.

So why would I want to boost my mains water pressure? Well, if you find yourself asking that question the answer is that you almost certainly don’t need to boost your mains cold water. Most homes in the UK tend to get water entering the house at between 2-3 bar pressure. However, the water supply companies only have to guarantee water to your property boundary at 1bar, which is about 10 litres of water per minute. If the pipe taking this water from your boundary into your home is old and knackered you may well experience water pressure far below this nominal 1 bar.

Here in Lincolnshire poor water pressure can be a real problem. Whilst we do have towns and the occasional city the vast majority of Lincolnshire is composed of villages. Some of these could be described as residing in ‘The sticks’, some are most certainly in “The back of beyond” and a few are very much beyond the back of beyond, turn right, cross the ford and take the path signposted ‘Godknowswhere’. News takes its time reaching these places, water can take an absolute age, and by the time is does arrive it’s often under as much pressure as a stoned Hippy lying on a tropical beach.

Ordinarily you get around this by pumping stored water but this requires large storage tanks, which isn’t always feasible and won’t help at all if the homeowner wants a nice new shiny combi boiler. And it’s combi boilers that will probably benefit from this new pump the most.

So what are the downsides? Well it’s not a cheap pump, with an RRP of £358.80 inc VAT! Apparently it makes less noise than a boiling kettle (46dB) but do you want to hear a kettle boiling all day? And of course it’s going to be using electricity the whole time, so you’ll see an increase in those bills.

That said it’s probably still cheaper than the alternatives, which were either large storage tanks and whole-house pumps – more expensive, just as noisy and still using electricity – or digging up your water supply pipe and replacing it with a bigger diameter pipe and hoping that that sorted the problem, which can be very expensive and often doesn’t really work.

To be honest if I had low water pressure my only concern would be Salamander themselves. We always found them to make great pumps at a great price but, in our experience, they have a terrible customer support team  - we had one customer told she’d have to accompany the Salamander engineer to the ATM so she could pay him, as he wasn’t leaving without payment! Which was bad enough but the bloody pump he’d been called out to look at was faulty. Sadly he was either too incompetent to work this out for himself or under a lot of corporate pressure to earn his keep.... Either way, we ended up with a very upset customer and so we avoid Salamander these days - although we might be tempted to give this pump a try.

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