According to research, cold weather heralds an exceptionally worrying time for homeowners who are concerned about the unexpected costs it might bring such as boiler breakdowns, frozen or burst pipes and high energy bills.

Yet while many homeowners may feel unprepared to deal with these issues, advances in technology and innovations in product design are ensuring installers are better equipped to respond to and repair inevitable emergency call-outs more quickly and effectively than ever before, explains James Bell.

Rise in risk

A recent survey revealed 30% of UK homeowners fear their boiler will fail this winter but further research shows that when temperatures tumble, the biggest and most expensive household issue to fix is ‘escape of water’, mainly as a result of burst water pipes.

In fact, during the ‘big chill’ of 2010/ 2011 burst pipes caused damage to as many as three million homes, bringing an increase of 45% in subsequent insurance claims compared to the previous year. Worryingly, if the predicted Super El Nino brings the freezing temperatures experts expect, the risk of ‘escape of water’ damage caused by household plumbing problems is likely to increase once again.

However, although cold temperatures can spell pipework trouble, data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the likelihood of household flooding from burst water pipes has increased significantly simply as a result of modern life and appliances. For example, in 1970 only 30% of UK homes were fitted with central heating; today this figure is closer to 95%. Similarly, just 65% of households had a washing machine in 1970; today 95% of all homes have one.

This naturally growing risk means our modern homes require more sophisticated and robust plumbing pipework and fittings solutions that can cope with the ever-increasing demands placed upon them.

Solid solution

The forces driving advances in plumbing solutions are therefore two-fold; installers need tools that can ensure a permanent, reliable and good quality first time fix for their customers, and they want solutions that also help them to do their job more quickly and more easily.

These specific requirements have therefore shaped one of the latest developments in metal push-fit fittings. SharkBite is the industry’s only range of ultra-low lead, brass push-fit fittings that can be used to join five different types of pipe – copper, chromed copper, carbon steel, PEX or polybutylene – in any combination. This provides a hugely practical benefit for installers responding to emergency call-outs. They can now rely on one single system solution and be confident that they have the tools to deliver a high-quality repair no matter what configuration, type of pipework or situation they face when they arrive.

The versatility and robust nature of metal push-fit valves and fittings can also reduce the need for repeat visits to make repairs.

SharkBite fittings are designed to be incredibly secure and watertight and most critically at this time of year, the ranges’ Slip Couplings enable quick, permanent repairs to burst and split pipes, even in wet conditions, so there’s no time wasted in draining down a whole system. The Slip Couplings’ slim-line body design means they’re also an ideal solution for repairs in confined spaces such as ceiling voids or behind walls.

Extending existing pipe systems is quick and easy too, with SharkBite Slip Tees. These fittings incorporate an extended run (slip end) that enables a retrospective line extension to be installed in just minutes.

All fittings in the range are fully demountable and can instantly be re-used, further reducing time, cost and waste. In addition, installers require no extra tooling as they would with press-fit solutions and no solder, flux or heat to create joints, negating the need for a hot works permit and providing a major advantage from a health and safety and insurance perspective.

Ongoing business benefits

Generally, the colder months mean that installers get busier. In fact, in previous years one Central London plumbing business has seen an increase in weekly call outs during winter of more than 10 per cent, bringing them an average of 2,000 jobs per week.

With this in mind, successful product innovations should absolutely be designed to provide tangible benefits to installers when they’re at their busiest. Yet those that can add value to an installer’s business all year round are the ones that pay real dividends.

A recent industry survey revealed 39% of installers are keen to grow their business and get more work. A third of the 500 installers surveyed also wanted to make more effort to upsell on installations.

At Reliance Worldwide Corporation (UK) Ltd, we strongly believe that the tools installers choose to use can underpin and enhance a reputation that helps them to win more work. To stay ahead of the pack, building a good reputation for credibility and reliability is crucial to inviting repeat recommendations from happy customers.

Those who are truly savvy are switching on to the reputation-enhancing benefits of keeping up with the industry’s latest innovations. Investing in quality products can help to complete work more quickly, efficiently and confidently, reducing the need for return visits and enabling them to carry out more jobs in a day.

So although many plumbing and heating installers continue to use the traditional methods of soldering or compressing pipes and fittings, many are now embracing the modern method of installation that SharkBite offers.

For those willing to try something new, this growing trend is proving to pay dividends for installers and their customers.