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QVS Blog

  • 24+ Loans, A Helping Hand for Apprenticeships

    Recently, TradeSkills4U contributed evidence to The House of Commons' Select Committee Department for Business, Innovation and Skills Debate on Apprenticeship Funding. With this evidence, TradeSkills4U suggested that those over 24 and on "Apprenticeship Vocational Courses" should be able to secure student loans just as much as those who go to university.

    As a result of the debate and TradeSkills4U's contribution, apprentices can now look forward to having the cost of their courses covered by a loan. The 24+ loans will become available next month (August 2013) and those who are on or looking to start their Level 3 2365 Diploma in Electrical Installations can expect the loans to help them towards paying all or some of their course fees. Students will only start to repay the loan after they are earning more than £21,000 or above for themselves out in the workplace. The repayments are worked out at a percentage of the earnings that a person makes above £21,000, so for example, if you earn £22,000, you will pay back £7 per month.

    This option has not only been welcomed by students, but also by potential employers, as Managing Director, Carl Bennett points out, "Apprenticeships are a great way to learn, however, the reality is that too few employers are able to take on an apprentice. Our experience of training mature students shows those who can self fund their education can then enter the electrical workforce as a trainee, work their way up and complete their NVQ at a later stage. These students are much more attractive to employers as they arrive armed with a set of skills that makes them far more useful than someone with no training whatsoever".

    If you are 24 or older when your chosen course starts, you can apply for loans to help with your vocational course as long as it starts between the 1st August 2013 and 31st July 2014. If you would like any further information on the 24+ Loans or TradeSkills4U, follow the links at the bottom of the article.

     

    http://skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/providers/programmes/24AdvancedLearningLoans/

    https://www.gov.uk/advanced-learning-loans/overview

    http://www.tradeskills4u.co.uk/

  • It's Time to Stock Up

    QVS is predicting a busy spell ahead as electricians are rushing to stock up on garden lighting and accessories for the summer season, with energy efficient options set to be a huge trend for 2013.

    So far the weather this year has been very typically British, but with less people being able to afford a holiday for the fourth year in a row due to the recession, homeowners are beginning to funnel more time and money into making their home their ideal escape and their garden their paradise.

    Outdoor spotlights are becoming increasingly popular with homeowners to use as features in decking and other outdoor fixtures such as steps and pathways, to give a sense of modern luxury that they may have experienced if staying away in a hotel. They are also popular due to the extensive range of colours and finishes that are available and the hidden wiring which has brought about the end of ugly armoured cables.

    Decorative lighting installed at the front of properties continues to be popular with homeowners as they search for aesthetically pleasing ways to both welcome visitors and improve the security of their property. QVS offers a range of decorative lighting sets for modern and traditional tastes, including lamp posts, wall lights and post lights.

    We have an extensive range of outdoor lighting available to meet all of your customer’s lighting needs and we advise electricians that many people will wait for the longer days to tackle their outdoor improvement projects and such days are now upon us. Also, where installing security and safety lighting has been the standard for outdoor lighting, the installation of ambience lighting is growing fast and tradesmen would do well to stock up on ranges of such lighting and the tools needed to carry out the job as soon as possible.

  • Emergency Lighting: Don't Be Left in the Dark

    Determining the order of priority for the most important fire safety measures in a building is not an easy task. Some, when asked, may identify the alarm systems as the most important, others, the fire exit signs; however, all safety measures identified during a fire risk assessment should be given equal presidency, such measures include:

    • A means of detecting a fire, such as automatic detectors
    • A fire alarm to alert anyone within the vicinity of the outbreak
    • A fire action plan of which everyone is aware
    • Clear, unobstructed escape routes with correct signage
    • Doors and partitioning which are capable of keeping escape routes clear from smoke and fire before the premises can be evacuated
    • A roll call and emergency services summoning procedure

    However, often over-looked in fire safety planning is the use of emergency lighting. This may be because it cannot be included in the above list as it is a “facilitator”, meaning it underpins all other measures and procedures and so can’t be listed in an order of importance.

    When a fire risk assessment is carried out, the qualified assessor will take into account all aspects of fire safety within the premises which includes, how and between what hours the building is used, the construction of the building, the amount of people within the building at any one time, the likelihood of ignition and the amount of vulnerable occupants of the premises.

    New buildings will need to have a fire risk assessment carried out as soon as possible after they become occupied and the emergency lighting of the premises should be planned at design stage. Alongside this, emergency escape routes should be plotted, fire safety equipment sites should be planned and emergency lighting placement should be considered.

    On existing premises, a fire risk assessment will generally involve an inspection of any existing emergency lighting and could include recommendations for improvements and a plan for installation of extra luminaires. If there is a high level of concern around the performance or absence of emergency lighting around a premises then it may be recommended that an emergency lighting survey be carried out by a qualified individual. Also within existing buildings, any changes in layout or hours of use will call for an additional assessment as a new layout may, for example, bring about a loss of natural light within the building and extending occupation hours into the night will obviously mean that the building is in use during hours of darkness.

    Currently, UK recommendations for emergency lighting are modelled primarily on National Building Regulations and fire safety legislation. Guidance stemming from these regulations and legislations also extends to include a number of British and European standards. However, it is the British Standard 5266-1: 2011 “Code of Practice for the Emergency Escape Lighting of Premises” which offers the most appropriate guidance for most emergency lighting systems and as such, this code is generally quoted as the benchmark standard for emergency escape lighting for both new builds and existing premises.

    Emergency lighting is provided for use when the power supply to a building’s normal lighting fails; this means that any emergency luminaires must have their own, secondary power supply. This may be a central supply from a generator or batteries but will commonly come in the form of self-contained units where batteries and charging units are contained within the light itself.

    Emergency luminaires will often be non-maintained, meaning that they will only come into operation once the electricity supply to individual units fails. This arrangement is generally suitable for most buildings, except when lighting is likely to be dimmed or turned off completely, such as in cinemas. In these cases, maintained lighting should be installed, within which emergency lamps are constantly energised.

    The positioning of emergency lighting is vital in ensuring all occupants are able to navigate their way to and out of emergency exits, as well as being able to locate emergency equipment, such as extinguishers, when necessary. Generally speaking, emergency lighting should cover the following locations:

    Staircases, high risk and extensive open areas such as sports halls, where individuals may have to cross the space to reach a safe exit point

    • Corridors, intersections and changes in the direction of travel within corridors
    • Changes in flooring level such as ramps and steps
    • Doors that are intended for use on or as an evacuation route
    • Access rooms which serve inner rooms
    • The area outside final exits, including assembly points
    • Signage that identifies exit routes and other mandatory information
    • Any toilet facility exceeding 8m2, although closeted installations of a smaller area should also be lit
    • Any facilities for use by disabled persons, including refuge points and toilets. Any communication devices installed at refuge points should also be well lit
    • Plant and switch rooms
    • Fire safety equipment such as extinguishers, alarm call points and emergency shut off control locations
    • First aid equipment areas

    The luminance of emergency lighting required will largely depend on its location within the premises. For example, as little as 0.5lx may be sufficient enough when placed at floor level of a room exceeding 60m2, whereas a corridor of just 2m in width requires a minimum of 1.0lx. Panic bars refuges and signage indicating exit routes should reach a minimum of 0.5lx. Much higher levels of luminance are required for areas such as, first aid rooms, kitchens, locations of fire indicating equipment and fire alarm control; in these areas, a minimum of 15lx is suggested. However, the installation of these should be more carefully considered to avoid disabling glares and thus, it is recommended that the lights are mounted at least 30° out of the line of sight of escape routes.

    Emergency lighting should stay on for a minimum duration of one hour where premises will be immediately evacuated following power failure and will not be re-occupied until full power capacity has been restored. Where sleeping accommodation is provided, a minimum of three hours of operational use is required.

    There are a number of situations that may arise causing emergency lighting tests and functions to fail. Firstly, emergency lighting is often installed before fire alarms and extinguishers have been installed or placed, often leading to inadequate illumination of vital equipment. Secondly, low-output ceiling luminaires may be ineffective when the illumination reaches floor level and finally, the most common issue found with the installation of emergency lighting is that non-maintained luminaires are found to be installed completely independently of normal lighting. Unless the power supply to the emergency lighting is taken from the circuit supplying the normal lighting, then a failure in the normal supply circuit won’t be detected by the emergency lighting and thus, it won’t function.

    The importance of emergency lighting in creating satisfactory fire safety practices should not be underestimated and careful planning and skilled installation should always be carried out.

  • A Guide to LED Colour Temperatures

    Knowing what lighting effect different temperature LED lights will bring to a room can be confusing and puts many off in their quests to achieve a greener, more Eco-friendly lighting system for their homes; so, we've put together a quick and simple guide to help you to check if you're buying an LED fitting that will provide you with the ambiance or effect you desire.

    Colour Temperature

    Colour Code

    Name

    Lighting Effect

    2700

    827

    Very Warm White

    Akin to average incandescent bulbs, creates a warm “cosy” feel

    3000

    830

    Warm White

    Akin to the colour of most halogen lamps. Appears slightly whiter than normal incandescent lamps

    3500

    835

    White

    The standard colour for fluorescent bulbs and tubes

    4000

    840

    Cool White

    Provides a clinical or technical feel

    6000

    860

    Daylight

    Provides a feeling of being in natural daylight. Useful for installation in salons etc.

    6500

    865

    Cool Daylight

    Extremely white, used in hospitals or other areas where accuracy is of vital importance

    
    

    The colour temperature of LEDs is measure in "Kelvin" and it is perhaps easier to get a rough guide of the effect of each colour temperature through looking at a Kelvin chart, as below:kelvin-chart

                          Image courtesy of stanprokopenko.com
  • A Quick Guide to IP Ratings

    IP ("international protection" or sometimes "ingress protection") ratings are an essential part of electrical safety. As described in BS EN 60529, IP ratings are part of a system used to classify the degree of protection offered by enclosures of electrical equipment. They serve to help protect people from coming into contact with hazardous parts of an electrical fitting and also, to protect equipment inside the enclosure from being damaged by foreign objects and dust, as well as helping to keep water and moisture out of a fixture.

    As a rule, the base digits to begin an IP rating with are; IPXX, the X's are replaced appropriately, corresponding with the numbers in this guide.

    First Number of IP Code:

    Number

    Protection against dust and solid, foreign objects

    Protection of persons against access to hazardous parts

    0

    No protection

    No protection

    1

    50mm diameter solid foreign object

    Back of hand

    2

    12.5mm diameter solid foreign object

    Finger

    Standard jointed test (12mm diameter, 80mm length)

    3

    2.5mm diameter solid foreign object

    Tool

    4

    1mm diameter solid foreign object

    Wire

    5

    Dust protected (ingress of dust not totally prevented but must not interfere with operation of equipment or reduce safety)

    Wire

    6

    Dust tight (no ingress of dust)

    Wire

    Second Number of IP Code: 

    Number

    Protection of equipment inside the enclosure against ingress of water

    0

    No protection

    1

    Vertically falling water drops, i.e. From condensation above the enclosure

    2

    Vertically falling water drops when the enclosure is tilted at any angle up to 15° from the vertical

    3

    Water sprayed at any angle up to 60° on either side of the vertical

    4

    Water splashed against the enclosure from any direction

    5

    Water jets sprayed against the enclosure from any direction

    6

    Powerful water jets sprayed against the enclosure from any direction

    7

    Temporary immersion of enclosure in water under specified conditions

    8

    Continuous immersion of enclosure under specified conditions

    In some cases there may be a 3rd, additional letter at the end of the code which specifies the protection of persons against moving or live parts inside the enclosure, they are as follows:

    Letter

    Protection of persons against moving or live parts within the enclosure

    A

    Back of hand (50mm diameter)

    B

    Standard jointed test finger (12mm diameter, 80mm depth)

    C

    Tool 2.5mm diameter, 100mm length

    D

    Wire 1mm diameter, 100mm length

  • A Google Glass Review

    gg3

    Image courtesy of www.avitable.com

     

    Google Glass- some are skeptical, some are paranoid, some are excited and some can already feel their pockets getting lighter in anticipation for the £1000, wearable computer which doubles as the perfect Geordi La Forge fancy dress costume for those impromptu, Star Trek themed fancy dress parties. So, is it actually any good? Is it really recording everybody’s every move? And more importantly for most cynics; is it going to sell our souls to Google?

    Glass consists of a small screen, situated above the wearer’s right eye, that, to them looks like a 25” display, a battery, and a panel that allows users to swipe through what is displayed on the screen. BUT! It also utilises voice control! Apparently, this is what makes Glass so user friendly and supports Google's claims that this is a piece of technology that will become so integrated into daily life that it will be barely noticeable. Personally, we still don't feel comfortable walking down the street and demanding that our phone carry out a certain task…let alone doing it whilst looking like a Cyborg. However, similar to recent smart phones with integrated voice control, it is simple to use this feature with Glass; simply wake up Glass by tapping the side panel and saying “OK Glass - take a picture of Spok and Picard”, or “record a video of 7 of 9 dancing like a Borg Drone” or “tell me how to say ‘I have the best costume here’, in French.”

    For those who are worried about the infringement of privacy that Glass may present with its recording and image capturing features, we really don’t think there’s much need to panic, at least not with this version. Firstly, you have to talk to Glass in order for it to record or snap a photo and having to say “OK Glass, take a picture” isn’t really that covert; although, one developer has created an app that will command Glass to take a picture in another way… with once an overly pronounced wink from the user! Secondly, mobile phones have been commonplace for around a decade now and the paranoia over being secretly recorded with voice recording capabilities and camera phones has now, pretty much subsided and in any case, it’s easier to be discreet with recording on a mobile device than it is with Glass, as you’ll definitely be grabbing attention with that computer on your face. Glass also sets its video defaults to 10 second films, which is about enough time for the subject being “spied” on to have taken about six breaths and done nothing more exciting than that. If you do want to stress over covert surveillance, however, perhaps consider CCTV more than Google Glass- we are filmed in the UK almost all of the time by CCTV- this should increase your paranoia levels sufficiently enough to enable the effects of stress to become more threatening than covert surveillance and then you've defeated those spying cameras, you are no longer worried by them, instead just worried about the effects of stress on your health.

    However, the main issue with Glass right now, really should be the realisation that it’s not yet got many uses. A battery life of three hours active use should be the first point to improve before Glass is developed any further; nobody wants to get half way through that ten second recording of that girl sat in front of them and then have their visor die! The current features are akin to an over bearing mother; integrating with Google Now, Glass provides suggestions on, say, when you need to leave to make it to your next appointment. Annoyingly, Glass also transmits prompts through your skull to augment a conversation. How has our species survived for so long without this incredibly helpful detachable brain that sits scarily on your face? Some who have used Glass say that they could not now live without it; this prompts us to ask where the location of their brain was before Glass rescued them.

    We do believe however, that Google’s creation is obviously looking towards the future optimistically - the web should be more of a part of all our lives. But, as it stands, the current design is not small, or discreet enough for mass market consumption.

    So, we only have one more question now…why didn't they call it Google Goggles?

  • How to Calculate the Energy Savings Between Using Incandescent and LED Bulbs

    1. Estimate the average number of hours per day you have any particular bulb on.

     2. Work how many incandescent bulbs you want to replace with LED lights and note the wattages    of the incandescent bulbs.

     3. Find out your cost per kilowatt-hour from your electric company. You can normally find this on your electricity bill, or you can call your energy company.

    4. Calculate the daily cost of the use of incandescent bulbs using this formula: Cost(incandescent) = [(hours per bulb x number of bulbs x wattage per bulb) / 1,000] x Cost per kilowatt-hour. To calculate the expense on a yearly basis, multiply that figure by 365.

    5. Perform the same calculation as in Step 4, but use the LED’s equivalent wattage. For a 60 watt incandescent bulb, the LED wattage equivalent would be six watts: Cost(LED) = [(hours per bulb x number of bulbs x wattage per bulb) / 1,000] x Cost per kilowatt-hour Cost(LED). To calculate the expense on a yearly basis, multiply that figure by 365.

    6. Subtract the annual cost of each bulb to calculate the total annual energy savings: Yearly Savings = Yearly Cost(incandescent) - Yearly Cost(LED)

  • What's The Best Oven For Me?

    When it comes to choosing the right oven for your home there are so many factors to consider that it may become tempting to live off microwavable ready meals from here until eternity. However, once you’ve confirmed your own personal needs and design taste, it needn’t be so difficult, as the only thing left to decide is: do you want gas, or do you want electric?

    Most homes will have a gas supply direct to their kitchens, but that doesn’t mean that you’re tied to gas cooking forever. It is simple to seal of a gas pipe and connect an electrical source instead, but both tasks need to be carried out by professionals for safety and legality reasons. When fitting an electrical oven, make sure that your electrician is fitting it onto its own individual circuit to avoid overloading and overheating. Electrical ovens are generally hotter at the top but fan assisted electrical ovens can provide a more even heat distribution so cooking several items at the same time is easier. It is also 10% quicker to cook food in an electrical oven than it is in a gas oven, saving you time, money and energy!

    Gas cookers generally heat from the bottom and the hot air circulates itself so in the end, the top half of the oven is the hottest. A gas oven is the kindest to the environment out of the two choices, emitting less CO2 and it also produces a moist atmosphere whilst cooking so these types of oven are the best for keen bakers.

    QVS have a range of multifunction cookers, both gas and electric; take a look here.

  • The Myths About Home Improvement

    When it comes to home improvement there are many myths which you may be forgiven for believing; with the rise in TV home improvement shows, especially since the start of the recession, and DIY stores advertising more often and with more intelligent campaigns, some myths are easy to believe, especially if you rely on the fact that Advertising Standards won’t lead you wrong.

    One such myth is that the UK is teeming with rogue builders who can’t wait to grab their cash, ruin your property and run away. This is not really the case and by following some simple steps, you can ensure that you are highly unlikely to become the victim of a rogue trader:

    Imagine you are the head of a department within a highly successful company, looking to employ someone new to carry out some vital jobs, you’d want to know all you could before employing them so as not to jeopardise the company’s future or your job. Well, your house is the highly important company and the tradesman is carrying out the vital jobs and if it goes wrong, you could face some serious consequences.

    Do not employ cold callers, they are often not legit, however, if you are tempted, ask for a business card and do your own investigations (to follow in the next steps). Simply explain that you would like to discuss this with your partner, housemate etc and that you’ll get back to them. If they are genuine then they will normally be okay with this and have a business card with them, however, you do need more extensive proof than this.

    See if any of your friends, family or people you trust have used the tradesman you are considering, direct recommendations are often helpful in making an informed decision. Also find trusted review sites such as www.trustpilot.co.uk and search the company or tradesman on there.

    When contacting a tradesman for a quote, ask for references from previous customers and talk to them; bear in mind they could just be using friends or family if they are not genuine but it helps you to make a decision if other investigations have run smoothly

    The tradesman should have a business address with a landline and mobile although if only a residential address is available this doesn’t always mean that the tradesman isn’t genuine. Tradesmen with only a mobile as a form of contact should be thoroughly investigated as it is easy to disappear after shoddy work becomes apparent if a mobile number is the only source of contact.

    Three is the magic number when it comes to quotes, however, the cheapest isn’t always best. If you are feeling the pinch and decide to go with the cheapest quote, consider how much difference there is between the cheapest and the middle quote. If it is drastically different there is usually a catch so make sure you go through plans and paperwork thoroughly to make sure you are not caught out by a surprise or additional charge at the end of the work. Also source several of your own recommendations for this tradesmen and make sure your sources can also be trusted. In this instance though, it is generally better not to cut out the middle man, but to stick with him instead.

    Be aware, that although rogue traders are not rife, there are areas of work where you should be most careful. Last year in the UK 7,500 “gas fitters” were found to be illegally trading; considering that any work involving gas should always be carried out by a professional due to the high danger risks, this is worrying. Happily though, new regulations have been put in place to help tackle this. All people who are qualified to work on gas will now be placed on the Gas Safe Register which has replaced Corgi everywhere except Northern Ireland and the Channel Islands. Before letting a gas workman enter your home, check their ID and make sure that they are part of the Gas Safe Register, call the company if you are not sure.

    Mechanics are another problem are with around 15,000 complaints made last year about unsatisfactory or dangerous work being carried out. Follow the above steps to keep yourself, your car and your passengers safe.

    Another myth is that a kitchen or bathroom can be renovated or fitted within a week. You may have been led to believe this through television programmes which make it seem excessively easy to fit your new bathroom. However, these programmes generally put the people living in the house up to stay somewhere else for the week so the house isn’t needed for normal day to day life, have a team of people who work literally day and night and all are trained professionals, and then of course there are the tricks of post-capture editing to make the process look even more simple! You may even have been led to believe this by a showroom consultant who doesn’t point out that you will still be living in your house and needing to use it, despite the fact that you will have a fitter, a tiller, an electrician and a plumber all jostling for space whilst being overly loud and getting in your way. The best option is to make some detailed plans and time schedules, sit down with a professional tradesman and discuss what needs to be done, whilst accepting that this route may take a little longer but shouldn’t be so stressful or include any surprises.

  • The Green Deal

    The Green Deal is a flagship government initiative to increase energy efficiency and help to achieve the goal of reducing the UK’s carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Both the public and private sectors are encouraged to take part in this deal, with the only main rule being that work can only be carried out if the energy bill savings are equal to, or exceed the value of the work needing to be carried out on a premises.

    To date, it is estimated that the UK wastes up to £3 billion worth of energy annually; The Green Deal aims to rectify this by providing participators with energy saving installations that can save you up to £400 annually and eventually even earn you money!

    From Autumn 2012, participating companies can start providing UK customers with work to their home or business premises to improve its energy efficiency at no upfront cost. The cost is recouped over a number of years by installations added to the energy bill. These are calculated after an initial assessment of your home, carried out by an accredited advisor, during which your eligibility for the scheme is decided. You will then receive a detailed quote which will break down the total cost of installation, the repayment sizes and the repayment period into easily understandable sections. There is no need to worry if you don’t see yourself staying in the building you’re in for an extensive amount of years as, if you choose to move, you stop paying the instalments and the value of your property will have increased after the work is completed.

    By participating in The Green Deal, you and your property can benefit from a range of installations such as wall and loft insulation which could potentially knock around £400 annually off of your energy bill if you live in a pre-1930’s building with solid walls and save post-1930’s buildings up to £115 annually if you have cavity walls. Cavity wall insulation is a simple job for contractors and can often be done from the outside of a building so the work will be of minimal intrusion whilst being carried out.

    Up to a quarter of a building’s heat is lost through its roof and if this thought really does send you through the roof then The Green Deal can provide your home with loft insulation to reduce your energy bill dramatically.

    If The Green Deal is successful over the following years, the outlook is that the government will begin to add renewable energy sources and extra installations into the deal such as Band A boilers which are 20% more efficient than standard Band G’s with an efficiency rating of up to 90%. Solar panels may also be added to the scheme, which can last up to twenty years and if excess energy is produced, you can sell this back to energy companies, it may even be likely that the excess energy could be used to reduce your monthly instalments. Ground Source Heating Pumps are perhaps among the most exciting of potential installations to be added. Using dormant heat from the ground these pumps can heat a building for up to 40% less than gas heating and 56% less than oil heating, saving up to 500kg annually, per household in carbon emissions.

    The success of The Green Deal could also create up to 65,000 jobs and lead to a further £14b in private sector investment, thus boosting the economy. 

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