A word to the wise… Don’t believe the happy British Gas adverts

Back in the first week in December, British Gas installed a new boiler into our place. The old boiler, which was in the kitchen and inside one of the new wall cabinets, was probably from the 1980s and, when considered with the original hot water tank insulated with one of those red jackets that cost £5 from B&Q and the odd pair of old lady’s knickers that had fallen down in the airing cupboard (don’t ask), it seemed to make a lot of sense to have a new one installed.

We were advised by the British Gas salesman that a combi- condensing boiler was the way to go. Much more efficient that the old one, we wouldn’t need to heat up a tank of hot water to allow it to go cold during the day, but we could have “instant” hot water by the bathful, whenever we wanted it. The boiler could be fitted in the old airing cupboard, which would be freed of the old water tank and the kitchen would benefit from the additional cupboard.

So, this is what they did.

It would, of course, take 14 lifetimes to save enough on the gas bill to actually pay for the new one, but what the hell? It would also mean that the installation of a new bathroom a few months later would be able to make use of a properly plumbed in combi shower fitting rather than an electric shower.

The quote was serious money, but given our recent experience of trying to get a plumber to do work and trusting that British Gas would do a first class job – after all, that’s what all their adverts say in between the house programmes on Channel 4 – on 5th December, they came and did the work. It took them the best part of two days.

Initially, it seemed that they had done a good job. OK, they left a dirty hand print on the newly painted kitchen wall. OK, they left a shedload of crap on top of the kitchen wall cupboards. OK, they couldn’t be bothered to put overshoes on or floor protector down, as the wood burning stove guys did. But they left the place with a working boiler and instructions as to how to top up the water when the pressure gauge got to below 1 bar.

I was surprised when I had to top up the water a couple of times in the first few days and eventually, fearing that something was wrong, Ann got their Homecare team out to have a look. It turned out that they hadn’t tightened up the new thermostatic radiator valves properly and the joints were leaking. The new engineer was also “surprised” at how they had left a radiator in the bathroom, so he replumbed that for us.

All was well.

Until this afternoon, when the ceiling light in the inner hall (between the bedrooms and the bathroom) started to flicker and flash, even when switched off.

Then, water could be seen running down the wall in the living room.

Homecare were called again and I came home from the office to work at home and to see what the chap had to say. It turned out to be the same man who had come to fix the problem last time.

I had assumed that the leak was a direct result of their new installation and while waiting for the guy to arrive, made a formal complaint to British  Gas over the phone. As it transpired, it wasn’t quite true, as the leak was coming from a joint on the original system that had been under tension as it was crossed by other pipes. The new system operates at a much higher pressure than the old one and a weak joint will be found out eventually. Fair enough but it would have nice to have told about this risk when we were thinking about having this work done.

But what isn’t fair enough is the absolute bomb-site state of the loft as left by the original plumbers back in December. Photos below show the standard of their plumbing but more particularly the condition of the insulation that they left. They had just lifted the glass fibre, thrown it to one side and left it there. Further, none of the new pipes were insulated, so a load of my new boiler’s heat is heading off into the loft.

So, there’s a job for a weekend in the Spring.

And be warned. British Gas fitters are just as much cowboys as the next cowboy. Apart from the chap who has now visited twice to sort things out for us, of course.

Three photos of the way the loft was left and one of a little river of water running down the beautifully painted wall behind the sofa…