Back to the future: Top tips for future proofing older plumbing and heating systems

A man holding a Reliance Valve Tee.

survey of more than 3,000 UK respondents* found that the amount spent on renovations increased by 36% during the last year to a median of £15,000. With UK regulations focused on safety and energy efficiency, installers are faced with retrofitting dated heating and plumbing systems to the latest standards. We explore the futureproofing considerations that should be taken into account before installation.

Safety first

When taking on a retrofit project, it’s likely that guidelines and regulations have evolved since the first fit. For that reason, safety should always come first.

Water Regulation Schedule 2.7 must be considered when working on any plumbing and heating system. In a nutshell, this regulation covers where and how you should run pipes in any building with a mains water supply. It states that there should be no inaccessible fittings within the concealed floor, and that the entire length of pipe carrying the water should be within a conduit (a protective sleeve for the pipe), making it easily removable.

The Building Regulations 2000, Approved Document G – Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency came into effect in 2010. The guidelines mandated that all new-build homes would have thermostatic mixing valves (TMVs) fitted to tackle scalding in domestic settings and to help fight off harmful Legionella bacteria. To make a retrofit system more efficient and safer for the end-user a TMV should be installed, ensuring the desired water temperature is maintained, even if the incoming water pressure or flow rates change.

Pair of JG UFH Controls thermostats

Getting smart with digital solutions

When upgrading a system for the future, many homeowners may want to take advantage of the latest technologies. While investment in greywater and rainwater systems, biomass boilers, solar thermal panels and heat pumps is all on the up, the first and most simple step is to connect plumbing and heating systems to smart home technology.

Around 60% of a home’s energy costs are spent on heating. Smart controls provide greater visibility and the opportunity to optimise heating for energy efficiency. Installing smart controls also allows easy future maintenance, with a wealth of data available to check and adjust settings or to troubleshoot when issues arise.

With underfloor heating known to reduce energy usage, as well as offering style, space-saving and efficiency benefits, many homeowners may be looking to change their heating systems. Our JG Underfloor Heating Controls can be programmed to deliver desired temperatures, in individual rooms, at specific times throughout the day, helping cut fuel bills by up to 30%.

Plumbing for compact spaces

A large part of futureproofing your retrofit project is space-saving. With people keen to maximise space in their homes to make way for home offices, or to increase the footprint of their living space, installers may find themselves needing to reduce the size of existing plumbing and heating systems.

The best place to start is by assessing the current pipework system. Depending on the age of the system, switching to new pipes, valves and fittings (PVF) could improve its efficiency.

Opting for flexible solutions can help to overcome space constraints, allowing installers to bend the pipes in any direction without affecting the water flow. RWC’s JG Speedfit offers a wide range of flexi hoses suitable for cold and hot water applications, with both push-fit and hand-tighten connectivity.

For drinking water applications, RWC’s Reliance Valves offer a high-quality range of stainless steel hoses with an EPDM liner. And using such products designed for compact spaces can save room while providing the same level of quality and efficiency.

Somebody's hands adding insulation to copper pipes.

Weatherproofing plumbing and heating

Weatherproofing pipes is a crucial part of futureproofing plumbing and heating systems. It’s best to avoid putting pipes in rooms that are prone to cold, such as lofts or basements. However, if pipework needs to be placed in or outside these areas, it should be properly protected and insulated. Without lagging, the water in the pipes can freeze, creating internal pressure that can cause them to burst.

If in doubt, seek help!

From space, safety and smarter solutions, transforming a home’s plumbing and heating system in line with the latest trends and legislative requirements needs due care and diligence.

RWC’s technical team is always on hand to discuss best practice techniques or innovative product solutions. Get in touch for friendly advice and support from the experts.

Andy Lea Headshot

Andy Lea

Technical Sales Engineer

About the author

My journey in the construction industry began when I trained as a plumber.

Fuelled by ambition, I took the leap and became self-employed, running a successful business for eight years. Seeking to expand my knowledge and enhance my skills, I pursued a Higher National Diploma, which provided me with a broader perspective on the industry.

Today, I proudly celebrate 22 years with RWC, a company I've called home. As a spokesperson, I have the privilege of sharing my extensive expertise and insights, connecting with audiences and conveying RWC's vision and innovative solutions.