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Monthly Archives: July 2017

  • Surviving and thriving in the coldest places on the planet

    I’m sure you would be inclined to argue otherwise, but, despite what you’ve probably been led to believe by sensationalist headlines, the UK isn’t actually the coldest place on earth. In an average year, the temperature doesn’t even drop below zero. The inhabitants of Oymyakon and Verkhoyansk meanwhile, have the unique pleasure of living in the two places considered the coldest in the world. But the cold isn’t even the most interesting thing about these places, it is how the people that live there have adapted their lifestyle to not only survive, but thrive.

    Oymyakon, Russia

    central heating pumps

    You can understand why just 500 people are brave enough to make Oymyakon, the coldest inhabited place on Earth, their home. During the winter months, the temperature hovers around the -50°C mark and a measly four hours of sunlight puncture the semi-constant cloak of darkness each day. With such an inhospitable climate, how do residents possibly cope?

    The icy conditions prevent the growth of produce, and for that reason, the local diet is overwhelmingly reliant on meat. An average day can consist of raw fish, horse liver and rabbit soup. In keeping with the mantra that alcohol can warm you up; there is regular consumption of vodka, or as the locals call it Russki chai, which translates as the more docile-sounding Russian tea.

    Layers upon layers of animal fur are considered the only worthwhile defence against the biting cold. And this even extends to footwear - the most popular of which are constructed from reindeer leg fur. So adapted and used to the freezing conditions are the people of Oymyakon, that the only time schools are forced to close, is when the temperature dips below -55°C.

    Verkhoyansk, Russia

    central heating pumps

    Oymyakon’s closest rival for the king of cold is also close by geographically - relatively speaking anyway. At less than 1 person per square mile, the Sakha Republic has an extremely low population density, making the 400 miles that separate Oymyakon and Verkhoyansk seem reasonably  tame. Even though Verkhoyansk has close to three times as many inhabitants as Oymyakon, it is far from an indication that their climate is three times as accommodating.

    Verkhoyansk describes itself as the Pole of Cold and claims it has recorded the lowest ever temperature in an inhabited place. Do the daily lives of Verkhoyansk’s residents differ much from their neighbours in Oymyakon? In short, no. Pony innards are considered a delicacy and copious layers of fur clothing are an absolute prerequisite for braving the elements. They even share their neighbours’ penchant for vodka.

    Both are decidedly isolated but Verkhoyansk even more so - there are strictly-speaking, no roads leading to the town, and it is only accessible in the colder months when all of the lakes that surround it are frozen over - making for a treacherous trip. For this reason, heating is that bit more difficult. As is the case in Oymyakon, the residents of Verkhoyansk rely on wood burners, and some coal, to provide them with warmth. But because of their severity of their isolation, over a third of their income is spent purely on heating, with approximately seven truckloads of wood needed to keep a single home warm over the winter months.

    King of Cold? Oymyakon or Verkhoyansk?

    central heating pumps

    You would think their shared way of life would give them a certain sense of kinship and put them on the same page. But when it comes to the contentious issue of whose home is coldest, Verkhoyansk and Oymyakon couldn’t be more divided. Both have monuments proclaiming their status as the pole of cold. As well as the faux-mammoth head declaring just that, Verkhoyansk has a commemorative black marble plaque marking a record reading of -67.6°C, whilst Oymyakon has a distinctly Communist-style monument stating a record temperature of -67.7°C. The miniscule 0.1°C difference leaves just enough doubt to render the result inconclusive and the debate unwinnable.

    Regardless, just reading about temperatures that cold should send a shiver down your spine. Central heating pumps can ensure that your own home is warm whenever you need it to be.

  • Is infrared heating here to stay?

    Infrared heating has struggled to find its market - that is, until late last year. Having been all but dismissed as a viable alternative to LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) infrared heating has since pivoted to great success. Infrared saunas are the latest craze gripping the famously fickle attention of the health industry - but is it just another fad that will stick around for a matter of months before exiting as unceremoniously as it entered, or is it built to last long-term?

    The history of infrared heaters  

    It wasn’t for another 150 years after the discovery of infra-red radiation that it was properly adapted for the purpose of heating. During World War Two, infrared heating started to prosper more. Banks and banks of infrared lamps were constructed to dry paints and lacquers on military equipment. After the war ended, infrared heating failed to go from strength-to-strength, with its use floundering rather than flourishing.

    Fit for use in the home?

    grundfos alpha

    Infra-red heating models itself as an alternative to the gas heaters that have a stranglehold on the heating market. Better for the environment and better for your bank balance apparently. Whilst the former can be true (if the source of electricity is renewable in origin) the latter certainly isn’t. At 14p per kWh (kilowatt hour) infrared heating is the most expensive heating fuel available. And it is perhaps for this reason that infrared heating has failed to cut into LPG’s sizeable market share in domestic heating - especially as LPG costs a meagre 6p per kWh. With tech like the Grundfos selectric ensuring maximum efficiency, the price battle between LPG and infrared becomes a complete mismatch.

    The revival of infrared heating?

    Infrared heating has experienced a resurgence as of late, mostly thanks to the infrared sauna and the growing roster of famous clientele that swear by its effects. Unlike many other health fads that fail to expand beyond the trend-setting hub of Los Angeles, infrared saunas have successfully breached the proverbial ceiling - and for that reason, they look set to stay -at least for a while anyway.

    What are infrared saunas?

    grundfos alpha

    As you can probably guess from the name, an infrared sauna replaces the heat that is typically generated through traditional means (hot rocks and water or something of that ilk) with radiant heat from infrared light. Because the infrared rays heat the body directly, rather than the surrounding air, a lower temperature of around 70°C (normal sauna temperature is around 90°C) is required to achieve the same cardiovascular exertion.

    Does the science back up the reported effects?

    What infrared saunas haven’t escaped is the absolute scarcity of scientific evidence backing their extensive list of miraculous effects. Improvements in cardiovascular health, weight loss, detoxification, and even euphoria are just a few of many supposed benefits.  The cardiovascular benefits are well-documented, but the rest, not so much. The weight loss claim is dubious at best - water weight is lost through sweat but is quickly replaced when rehydration takes place. As for the detoxifying effect, there is no evidence that any heavy metals or radiation are wiped from your body as many ‘experts’ have claimed. The purpose of sweat is to cool your body, not to expel toxins.

    In spite of the controversy, infrared saunas are enjoying a period of popularity at the moment and the future of infrared heating seems to rest firmly in the niche of saunas, rather than central heating.

  • How to adapt a bathroom for an elderly relative

    As much as they wouldn’t like to admit it themselves, the elderly are some of the most vulnerable people in society. Stairs can rapidly transform from a cruise to the first floor, to an everyday obstacle. The same can be said for bathrooms.  And that is why it is so important to know how to adapt bathrooms in the most effective way to eliminate daily hazards. The measures taken, of course, depend on the state of the person’s mobility and health. With that in mind, here is a range of options for adapting a bathroom for an elderly person.

    Walk in bath/ shower

    twin impeller shower pump

    Walk-in options are a minimalist yet effective way to make baths and showers more easily accessible. They don’t carry the same stigma (and association with assisted living) as bath seats, boards and joists do, yet they make the transition into the bath equally as easy. Walk-in baths remove the hurdling of the bath walls that can become so imposing as agility deteriorates with age. Simply walk straight in and take a seat and wait for the warm, bubbling water to rise.

    Bath lifts and hoists

    Naturally though, there are circumstances where more drastic changes are required. Bath lifts and hoists can be a saviour for those with very limited mobility, providing them with the ability to wash unaided. Lifts and hoists vary from metal and motorised to inflatable cushions.

    Grab rails

    grab rails

    For those who are slightly unsteady on their feet, grab rails are straightforward additions to shore up a bathroom. Grab rails with suction pads are ideal for re-positioning and when you are on the move, but they don’t quite offer the solidity and stability of fixed rails. Stuck for where exactly to put them? If you have any doubts or concerns, it is always worth enlisting the help of an occupational therapist to ensure everything is up to scratch. Where the welfare of your relative is concerned, you can't afford to be unsure.

    Extractor fan

    An extractor fan is an unobtrusive and inexpensive way to dramatically reduce the risk of slipping. It is a nightmarish thought to think of someone we care about being rooted to the floor after a fall. The installation of an extractor fan goes a long in allaying these fears. By removing the steam generated by a hot bath or shower quickly, the moisture that would otherwise accumulate on bathroom surfaces is eliminated, dramatically reducing the chance of slipping.

    Non-slip flooring

    non-slip

    The extractor fan on its own will not completely remove slipping as a hazard, and further precautions like non-slip flooring are a sensible way to go. Non-slip flooring can be relatively cheap, but if you insist on cutting costs, you can cover the most at-risk areas with strategically placed mats. Another alternative is non-slip tape, which is equally effective. There does come a point where you don’t want to compromise on the look of the bathroom however, and there are a range of sleek non-slip tiles available to buy.

    Regardless of how you elect to customise your bathroom, it is pointless without having a powerful source of steaming hot water you can rely on.  A twin impeller shower pump can provide you with reliable sources of both hot and cold water, all but eliminating disappointing lukewarm baths and showers.

  • Shower or Bath? The Debate That Just Won’t Go Away

    The shower versus bath debate has raged on relentlessly over the past few decades - with no clear winner in sight. It is a divisive issue, splitting friends and families alike. In an attempt to clear up some of the myths and misconceptions plaguing both sides, we have endeavoured to present only the facts - with the environment, health and happiness all in mind. Whilst we may get one step closer to resolving the debate, let’s face it, it probably won’t be resolved in our lifetime, never mind by the end of this article.

    Which will help save the planet?

    Water - save the planet

    Showers are the clear winner here - and by some margin too. A typical bath uses up 80 litres of water while, comparatively, a shower of average duration with a standard mixer showerhead, uses just 60 litres. Any shower that takes ten minutes or less is pretty much guaranteed to use less water than an equivalent bath then. And considering the average shower in the UK lasts just 7-and-a-half minutes and 87% of people do not exceed ten minutes in the shower, showers are running away with the eco-crown.

    Which will leave you cleanest?

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    For most of us, the idea of an hour long bath conjures up images of soaking in a swamp of our own making for exactly 60 minutes too long. Is this a fair stereotype though? Will jumping in the shower actually make us any cleaner than lounging in the bath? Research suggests so, just about anyway. Showers are more hygienic, as all of the day’s accumulation of sweat and dirt are swept away down the drain, rather than lingering in the bathwater. The majority of particles in the tub however, settle away from the skin, where they dissolve into the bathwater itself. Having a bath isn’t quite as unhygienic as you probably assumed then, but if you’ve just completed Tough Mudder for example, it is definitely best to go for a shower instead.

    Which is best for your skin?

    Best for skin

     

    Being clean, and your skin being healthy aren’t one and the same. When it comes to shampooing and rinsing your hair, showers are your best bet, as the chemicals are washed away as soon as you have rinsed. In the bath, the shampoo remains in the water and can strip away natural oils from the skin. Whilst baths can create perils that simply don’t exist in the shower, they can also be used to treat your skin in a way that a shower simply can’t compete with. Add epsom salts to your bath to ease aches and add an amalgamation of oatmeal, whole milk and honey to heal dry or irritated skin. Dermatologists also suspect that baths have anti-ageing properties.

    What unites both showers and baths is the temperature of the water. Because extended contact with hot water can dehydrate skin, leaving it undesirably dry, dermatologists recommend using lukewarm water in the shower and the soak-and-smear technique for bathing. For the unfamiliar, pop out the bath every ten minutes to apply moisturiser to prevent your skin from drying out in the water.

    Which is the most enjoyable?

    Stuart Turner shower pumps

    We’ve talked about health, but what about happiness? Baths are always going to be associated with relaxation and they have been proven to be an effective stress reliever. Don't get me wrong, belting out your favourite song in the shower can be a lot of fun, but I don’t think it quite tops the therapeutic properties of the bath.

    Crowning a winner

    crown

    When it comes to deciding between a shower and a bath, factors like space and lifestyle are just as likely to be determining factors. A hectic work life and a shared flat is likely to be better suited to quick showers, whilst a retiree’s more spacious detached house is likely to lend itself more to a long, soothing bath. It is all a matter of circumstance.  Alongside these issues, environmental, health and dermatological considerations make finding a definitive answer even more difficult.

    For me personally, you just can’t beat the convenience of a shower - especially if it is going to leave you cleaner than a bath. And if you have Stuart Turner shower pumps, the decision is an easy one. With an eco-option to conserve water, and an instant and powerful stream of water you can rely on, it really is a no-brainer to opt for a shower over a bath.

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