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Express & Star, Wednesday December 29, 2010


Hospital Handy hints on getting broken boiler going again sorry for waiting in A&E Report by Daniel Wainwright

Have you been having problems

It is a problem that has seen with your condensing boiler? plumbers flooded with call outs over Call the E&S newsdesk on 01902 the busy Christmas period – the new 319412 style condensing boilers that break down. expelling it as steam the way old boilers

Health chiefs have apologised after troubled Stafford Hospital was named among the country’s worst for waiting times Department of Health figures for accident and emergency departments showed that only Peterborough and Stamford NHS Foundation Trust fared worse from December 5 to 12. At the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust 1,497 patients attended A&E during the week, with 86.2 per cent seen within a four-hour target, leaving 200 patients waiting longer. The figures showed that nationally, 96.2 per cent of people who visited A&E departments in that period spent less than four hours in the units. Maggie Oldham, chief operating officer at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust said: “We apologise to anyone having to wait a long time in our A&E department or experiencing delays when they need to be admitted. “We have a number of projects under way which will ease the flow through our A&E department. “We are also working with our colleagues in health and social care, GPs and other agencies to make sure that only people who really need to come to hospital, do so at this busy time.” She advised patients that they should consider other healthcare options available – GP surgeries, NHS Direct on 0845 4647, or the Minor Injuries Unit at Cannock Chase Hospital. Pharmacies can also offer advice.

Accident teen is ‘critical’

A teenage girl was in a critical condition in hospital today after a road accident in Birmingham. It happened on Christmas Eve at around 2.30pm in Wyrley Road in the Witton area of Aston as the 18-yearold made her way home from work. It is believed that she was struck by a silver coloured Volkswagen Golf as she crossed the road. Traffic officers are now appealing for any witnesses to come forward. A 39-year-old man from Witton was arrested at the scene on suspicion of drink driving and dangerous driving. He has since been released on police bail and officers are trawling through CCTV footage taken from nearby cameras. Anyone witnesses should contact West Midlands police on 0121 322 6098.

Revamp on the agenda

Planned improvements for Blackstone Meadows recreation ground and the Riverside car park will be discussed at Bewdley Town Council’s first meeting of the New Year. The event will be held at the Guildhall, in Load Street, on January 4, starting at 7.30pm. Members will also discuss their budget for the coming year and hear about policing issues in the town. Residents are welcome to attend and to discuss issues.

Lynda to attend charity dinner

Loose Women panellist Lynda Bellingham will attend a charity dinner in April. Tickets, costing £25, are on sale for the two-course meal at The Village Hotel, in Tempus Drive, to raise funds for Walsall Hospice. The dinner is on April 10 at 7.30pm. Call 01922 423515.

Yet despite the stress and inconvenience a broken boiler can cause during the bitterly cold winter the problem can be reasonably straightforward to sort out without resorting to calling in help.


In many cases the reason for a broken condensing boiler is a frozen condensate pipe. The boiler works by turning waste gases like carbon dioxide into water rather than

The way to fix it is to gently unfreeze the pipe. You can do this by using a hot water bottle or the heat pads you can get for sorting out muscle pain. A watering can of warm water can also work. Whatever you do don’t use boiling water because you can ruin the pipe. The key thing is to be patient and if you are in any doubt then call a central heating engineer or plumber.

do. It can be cheaper and more environmentally friendly when it works because it reclaims 20 per cent of the heat energy, rather than just wasting it as steam getting rid of the gases. Unfrozen But this means that the water has to be taken away by a pipe. Do not do anything more than these It is here that the problem often starts. very simple measures for yourself because The plastic condensate pipe can freeze you can do more damage. when temperatures fall and this shuts the Once the pipe is unfrozen hold down the boiler down. boiler’s reset button and it should spark

back into life. Before you try this you need to be sure that this is the cause of the problem. There should be a fault code on the boiler but if this is not clear then you can find out another way. A gurgling noise when you try to reset the boiler is a good indication. To prevent the problem in future invest in some lagging for the external pipe, which will stop it from freezing. We cannot stress enough that we are definitely not the experts when it comes to boilers and you should seek the advice of a Gas Safe registered professional. You can find a qualified central heating engineer by entering your postcode at or by calling 0800 408 5500.

Thousands of ‘green’ boilers freezing up in cold weather

Frosty reception for condensing boilers 1

Condensing boilers which are required by law are breaking down at an alarming rate. ALEX CAMPBELL investigates



ondensing boilers were trumpeted by the last government as the ‘green’ future of home heating. They cost up to £2,500 to fit and are compulsory by law in almost all new installations.


But there is a fundamental design flaw which has become increasingly obvious during the big freeze – they are prone to breaking down in the cold.


Plumbers and heating engineers have been responding to dozens of calls every day from homeowners left to brave the temperatures without heating or hot water. British Gas is drafting in extra staff to cope with the number of broken boilers, with engineers fixing around 20,000 a day.

1. A regular boiler vents out of the exhaust pipe about 25% of the heat in the form of steam and CO2. 2. A condensing boiler turns the hot exhaust gases into water in a heat exchanger. This reclaims 20% of the heat energy. 3. This water is taken out of the property through a plastic condensate pipe which can be prone to freezing. The boiler senses the blockage and shuts down. 4. Using a wider, lagged pipe stops it freezing.


New and nearly new condensing boilers are proving the biggest problems. The vast majority of all gas-fired boilers installed after April 2005 and oil-fired boilers installed after April 2007 have been ‘high efficiency’ condensing boilers, as required by law. The boilers were rolled out on the grounds of cost and to comply with climate change agreements signed by the

Plumber Paul Greenway is dealing with a surge in the number of frozen pipes

Labour government. They are up to 16 per cent more efficient, lose less heat through the flue and produce less carbon dioxide. But the majority are fitted with an outdoor outlet pipe to drain condensation produced by the boiler, and this has caused winter chaos for thousands. Problems arise when the acidic water trickling slowly through the outdoor condensate pipe freezes, causing the boiler to fill up and shut down – cutting off hot water and heating. Engineers recommend thawing out the pipe by pouring on hot water, but if the pipe is too thick it has to be cut in half to allow the water to drain straight into a bucket – and this is only a temporary solution. The only long-term answer is to re-route the pipe indoors at significant expense or

clad it to reduce the risk of further freezes. British Gas is advising customers to install the pipes indoors wherever possible, but for millions it is too late – or was simply not possible in the first place. Heating engineer Paul Greenway, of Teddersley Road, Penkridge, has 46 years of experience in the trade. The 61-year-old has been called out to 20 cases of condensing boilers failing in a matter of weeks. “I haven’t had a single call this winter from anyone with an old boiler failing” he added. “They may be less energy efficient, but they keep going. The condensing boilers will break down every single year – there are elderly people who will not be able to afford to pay for constant repair work and I don’t know what will happen. Imagine what it will be like when everybody has a condens-

Man arrested as murder suspect

A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a man was found dead in Birmingham. Police were called by the ambulance service to Ellen Street, Spring Hill just after 7.15am on Monday. The 20-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene and his death is being treated as suspicious. Next of kin have been informed and a family liaison officer is working with relatives while detectives try to establish the exact circumSuicide bombers attacked a police stances of his death. headquarters in the northern city of A post mortem has proved inconMosul, killing the commander, Iraqi clusive and further tests are expected. officials said today. The man has not been named. Police officials said three men with On Monday an 18-year-old man explosive vests attempted to blow up from Ladywood was arrested on a police compound housing Iraq’s suspicion of murder and is currently helping police with their inquiries. First Police Battalion.

Suicide bombers in attack on police HQ

The process that causes the boiler to freeze

ing boiler. They need to rethink the decision on making them compulsory.” Retired grandfather-of-one Ken Chambers, aged 76, of Hampton Court, West Bromwich, worked as a plumber and later a central heating engineer.

Fortune His sister-in-law Doreen Timmins, 71, of neighbouring Moorlands Road, was left without heating and hot water for a week after her condensing boiler failed. Mr Chambers said workers have cut open the external pipe to allow water to drip into a bucket – which she is forced to empty manually whenever it fills. “It feels as though we’ve gone back to the dark ages” he said. “At the moment her boiler is under guarantee. But what will happen next year or

Roadshow for college

Roadshows have been lined up to offer information on the forthcoming university technical college set to open in Walsall. The specialist technical college is being created at the site of Sneyd Community School, in Bloxwich. The first event will be at Sneyd School, Vernon Way, on January 17 at 6.30pm.

Watch meeting

The new neighbourhood watch for Caldmore, Walsall, will meet on January 5 at the Small Street Centre. The meeting will start at 1pm.

the year after? It will freeze again and the boiler will fail. It could cost a fortune. “She can’t be expected to keep going out to empty the bucket.” Heating engineer Tony Davies of Itec Industrial Services, Halesowen, said lagging pipes is the best precautionary measure. “They can stand below freezing temperatures for a while but not for days on end. In normal winter conditions the temperature will rise above freezing during the day long enough for water in the outlet pipe to thaw.” British Gas insists the condensing boilers are worth the risk. A spokeswoman said: “Fitting an A-rated condensing boiler can make a huge difference to heating bills, saving up to £225 a year according to the Energy Saving Trust, so there’s a clear benefit.”

Mental health risk for jobless

Unemployment is causing increased levels of mental health problems among young people, according to a report today. The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index survey of 2,170 people aged 16 to 25 showed that almost half suffered from problems such as self harm and insomnia. Young people were twice as likely to self harm or suffer panic attacks if they had been jobless for a year, the study found. Martina Milburn, chief executive of The Prince’s Trust, said: “Unemployment presents a very real and frightening mental health problem for young people, and the longer they are out of work, the greater the risk.” Half of young people seeking work admitted that visiting the job centre made them feel ashamed. And more than half said job searching had left them feeling disillusioned or desperate. The number of 16 to 24year-olds out of work has increased by 28,000 to 943,000 in the quarter to October, one of the highest figures since records began in 1992. A spokesperson for the Work and Pensions Department said: “The Government is focused on restoring the economy and supporting private sector jobs growth. “From next year our new Work Programme will give people the tailored support they need to move them into these jobs and stay there.”

Police in murder inquiry

Police investigating the murder of a man found stabbed to death on Boxing Day have been granted a second time extension to question a suspect. The victim, a 45-year-old Romanian, was discovered at a plant nursery in Second Avenue, off Almodington Lane, between Chichester and Bracklesham, West Sussex, at about 12.20am on Boxing Day. He had suffered several stab wounds. A 53-year-old man, also from Romania, was arrested on suspicion of murder and remains in custody after Chichester magistrates last night granted officers more time to question him. Detectives now have until midnight tonight to charge or release the suspect. It is believed the dead man, who has not been named, had been staying at the site and died shortly before the alarm was raised.

Warning on packaging

Residents getting rid of packaging after Christmas are being warned to be wise to would-be burglars. West Midlands Police says leaving packaging from expensive electrical goods such as widescreen TV sets, DVD players and games consoles in view could encourage burglars to target homes. Ch Insp Matt Markham said: “Help yourself by making it harder for thieves by breaking down boxes and wrapping them up in plastic bags, or take them direct to The UK Border Agency has apologised after an email was mistakenly a recycling centre.” sent to Customs officers at the UK’s busiest airport advising them not to search potential drug smugglers. According to reports, the message was sent due to a lack of staff at Heathrow Airport for three days during the Christmas period. The email issued by the UKBA Firefighters went to the reads: “We would seek your co-oprescue of a horse which was eration in managing this situation by asking that you do not actively An Asian dance will be performed stuck in a wire fence in seek to identify any passenger with at an arts centre in the Black Coun- Staffordshire. They were called to a field internal concealments for three try next month. days up to and including Christmas The Bhangra dance event, with at Straight Mile, Calf Heath, Day.” live musical accompaniment, will be near Cannock yesterday. The UKBA has insisted the email at the Forest Arts Centre, in Haw- The horse had its leg caught should never have been sent and bush Road, Walsall, at 7.30pm on up in the wire and it took about 20 minutes to free it. January 19. are expected to launch a review.

Agency apologises for email blunder Bhangra dance event lined up for centre

Horse rescued by firefighters

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Express & Star Cuttings  

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