• Energy Efficiency Schemes Across Wales

    Gas boiler connectionsIt’s important that your home is as energy efficient as possible, particularly as gas and electricity bills are continuing to go up. Across Wales there are a number of organisations that work to help home owners and tenants to improve the energy efficiency of homes; unfortunately there are also some organisations who are using the grants available to make a quick buck for themselves.
    So can you tell if an organisation offering energy efficiency improvements is genuine.

    In the first instance, businesses who work with Welsh Government approval do not carry out cold calling for their energy efficiency schemes. Some, less than honest businesses, claim that they are working under government schemes when in fact they are not; and they ask for an up-front payment to cover administrative costs. Authorised and approved organisations such as Warm Wales-Cymru Gynnes, who have access to Nest or Arbed funding, do not request pre-payment. So if you are told that an organisation is working under a Welsh Government scheme you should firstly ask which scheme. Then check that that the scheme does actually exist and that you are eligible for funding.

    As a guideline, the schemes that the Welsh Government word under are as foolows:


    Nest is a Welsh Government scheme that offers eligible householders a ‘complete house’ package of energy efficiency improvements free of charge. Each home is considered on an individual basis and usually covers offers ranging from a new gas boiler and central heating system through to loft and cavity wall insulation together with external wall insulation. Homes are surveyed by a Nest qualified energy assessor who provides a report on what works are required to achieve energy efficiencies in the property.

    To qualify for Nest funding, applicants must undergo a benefits means test; the property must be privately owned or rented from a private landlord; and it has an Energy Performance Certificate rating of F or G. If you do not meet these criteria, you may still be eligible for partial grant funding to insulate your home.

    What’s more, Nest offers householders across Wales advice and guidance on how to reduce their energy bills and can pass on details of other grants for home energy improvements.

    Nest also provides a range of advice and support services to help householders reduce their fuel bills. It can also refer eligible householders for free or subsidised home energy improvements.

    All documents relating to the Nest initiative will include Welsh Government logos on them. If you are presented documents from a possible supplier that does not have these endorsements, then they are not a genuine provider under the Nest scheme.


    Arbed is Welsh for ‘to save’ and is another Welsh Government initiative designed to improve energy efficiencies and reduce the cost of heating of homes within a specific area of Wales. Arbed funding is delivered through local authorities and other registered social landlords rather than to householders directly.

    The aim of Arbed funding is to provide financial support to homes in deprived areas where fuel poverty is at its highest. Some of the measures offered under Arbed include improvements to insulation, replacement of old and inefficient boilers, switching to affordable and renewable fuel, the installation of further energy efficient systems.

    If you are living in an area where there is an Arbed scheme, you will be contacted directly by the scheme manager or local authority in question.

    UK Government schemes

    Householders in Wales can also access free or subsidised energy improvement schemes under the UK Government. These include the ‘Green Deal’ and the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) schemes, both of which were launched in 2013.
    These initiatives help householders and businesses to increase their energy efficiencies by making improvements to the properties without having to pay all of the costs up front.
    For more information about Welsh and UK Government energy efficiency schemes and how to make sure they are genuine, visit www.wales.gov.uk


  • Guidance for SME’s planning to expand

    employee handbookThe CIPD has reported that more SME’s across the UK look set to increase the size of their workforce than larger organisations and corporates.

    With this in mind, these small and medium sized organisations need to ensure they have processes in place to make sure that this expansion does not impact negatively on the values and the culture of the organsiation.   This should be a key element in any recruitment drive and will be vital when it comes to successful growth.

    The culture within a company can impact directly on the retention of employees and job satisfaction.  It can also help to acheive all business targets.   The risk when a small organisation starts to expand is that it can lose sight of its core values and the targets become blurred and unclear.

    Vision & Values

    Most business owners believe that ensuring they continue to embrace their vision and values is paramount to their continued success.   This is why it is so important to remember this as an organisation expands.  It’s also vital to ensure that all employees understand  the company’s targets and objectives and the risk when expanding is that the new employees don’t have the same understanding.

    Growth & Expansion

    On a postive note, growth and expansion, if managed properly by a professional organisation such as hchr, can be used as an opportunity to recommunicate and underpin a company’s vision and values to existing and new employees.

    Maintaining the original values requires effort and purpose but is particularly important when it comes to customer service standards and employee retention rates.

  • Does Laser Hair Removal Treatment Work?

    Treatments for laser hair removalAlthough laser treatment is one of the most popular, modern solutions to hair removal.  Unfortunately, despite its effectiveness, this treatment is not getting the recognition it deserves as many potential patients are not getting the right information or advice.

    What’s more, the laser hair removal treatment industry is becoming tarred with the same brush as cheaper treatments (such as IPL) which are not as effective when it comes to permanent hair removal.   Clinics that offer these cheaper treatments are driven by making a sale rather than delivering an effective, professional treatment.  In some instances, practitioners will carry out laser hair removal without a proper consultation and will even treat people who do not need it.

    Trained Clinician

    The best laser hair removal treatments that deliver real results can only be carried out by a fully trained, clinician at certified Laser Hair Removal clinic. Laser hair removal is not effective on all skin or hair colours (such as grey, blond or red hair) so it’s important to have a full consultation prior to embarking on any form of treatment to ensure that it will work on you.

    A person’s hair has three growth cycles and of these is the ‘active’ cycle and this is the best time to carry out laser hair removal  (80% of hair should be in this cycle for treatment to be effective).   If your hair is in a ‘resting’ or ‘fall out’ cycle then laser hair removal won’t work.  In other words, if you have the treatmetn whilst your hair is in the inactive stage, then there will be no effect on the hair follicle.

    A fully trained clinician will understand these cycles and be in a position to advise when is the best time to have the treatment.   They will also ensure that the settings of the lasers are appropriate for your hair type and carry out treatments in properly spaced out sessions.

    Growth Cycles

    In general,  the first three hair removal treatments should be carried out every 4 weeks, the next two treatments should be 5 weeks apart and thereafter approximately 6 weeks apart.  This schedule applies to treatments being carried out on small areas; patients looking to have their hair removed from areas such as the back or legs will need further treatments from 8 to 12 weeks apart.

    As you can’t tell yourself what stage of the growth cycle you are in, a general guideline is that on average, the growth cycle of smaller areas is every 28 to 32 days.   To guarantee to catch the hair in its growth cycle, then approximately 6 treatments will be required so 80% of the hairs are in their active cycle.


    g12 empty for hols 1 215Sustainable energy is the provision or supply of energy in a sustainable way. In other words, today’s energy needs are met without constituting hindrance to the future generation in meeting their needs.

    The world population is increasing on daily basis so the demand for energy and fuel is also increasing. Most present sources of energy are not enough to meet the demands of the world populace.

    Besides, the activities involved in generating most of today’s energy sources are also questionable.  The generation of some sources of energy has been causing problems for human race. So, exploring alternative sources of energy has become highly imperative.

    There is advancement in technologies and these have been most helpful to the production and generation of energy. Technologies that promote and enhance sustainable energy include processes developed to increase energy sufficiency.  Technologies have also contributed to the discovery of alternative sources of energy known as renewable energy. These sources include hydro electricity, solar energy, wind energy, wave power, tidal power, geothermal energy and artificial photosynthesis.

    Many believed that the twin pillar of sustainable energy is renewable energy and energy efficiency. These two pillars have many benefits for UK Local Authorities who are looking for ways to improve the quality of their properties under the Government’s ECO scheme.

    Efficiency is about using the available sources of energy in the right and most effective way. Efficiency helps to avoid waste of energy and fuel. When this is achieved, local authorities will be able to channel the energy to people living in fuel poverty with the support of organisations such as Integrated Energy Services.

  • How can the mass retrofit of products such as loft and cavity insulation benefit communities in Wales

    Retrofitting of homesModern trends in construction are increasingly leaning toward sustainable building design. Inspired by news of global climate conditions, unstable oil prices, and the need for energy independence, architects are incorporating earth-friendly features in nearly every new building. But what does that leave for owners of existing structures? Concepts of sustainable development are often geared toward new construction. But retrofitting your building with sustainability in mind can start you on a path toward more responsible stewardship and greater financial benefits.

    Full Scale Retrofit

    Whether implementing a gradual green upgrade to an existing building or undertaking a massive, full scale retrofit, there are countless options on how to spare the environment and decrease your corporate impact on the earth. Many business owners are inspired by the potential savings afforded them through energy-efficiency measures and government incentives. However, a 2008 study showed that corporate environmental commitment topped the list of motivators for making green improvements.

    This increased corporate responsibility has increased demand and accessibility of sustainable construction as delivered by organisations such as Warm Wales. Sustainable architecture has become the standard by which all design is measured. Green materials, such as bamboo floorboards and cork cubicle dividers, are readily available to the wider market. Water conscious low-flow plumbing has become common, and climate-based landscaping is extending its reach beyond drought-plagued regions.

    Sustainable Development

    The definition of sustainable development is simple. It is the use of available materials to serve existing human needs while ensuring that those needs will still be met in years, decades, and centuries to come. Broken down, this means that clear cutting forests for timber, harvesting fossil fuels from the earth, and producing mass amounts of waste lead to a depleted earth, perishing resources, and a damaged environment. By choosing recycled materials, and utilizing products which are derived from renewable resources, we limit our effect on the earth and ensure there will be ample resources for future generations.

    When a business owner makes the decision to update their building with sustainability in mind, it can be a mind-boggling prospect. Where does one begin? Start small. Begin by replacing damaged or non-working materials with greener options. When the exit signs burn out, replace them with recyclable, zero-energy photo luminescent emergency exit signs. When the lunchroom refrigerator breaks down, purchase a modern, energy rated appliance. Install timers on existing lights to cut power use by up to 50%. Step by step, the older building can be upgraded to an environmentally friendly structure.

    Financial Incentives

    While ethical motives lead to increased interest in sustainable building design, cash savings cannot be ignored. Often, eco-minded updates to a structure translate into immediate financial incentives and long-term cost reduction in areas such as power, water, and waste. Whatever your reasons, exploring the benefits of sustainable design is the way of the future. It is the means to a cleaner environment, increased property values, and a commendable legacy for the generations.

  • What is the UK government’s ECO programme and how has it helped local communities?

    Government's Eco ProgrammeIn January 2013, the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (CERT) and the Community Energy Saving Programme (CESP) were replaced by a new government energy efficiency programme called the Energies Company Obligation (ECO).

    Alongside the Green Deal, which helps people make energy saving improvements to their homes while finding the best way to pay for them, the ECO programme places legal obligations on large energy suppliers to deliver more energy efficient solutions to domestic energy users. Together the two programmes provide additional support in the domestic sector, with particular focus on vulnerable consumer groups that are in fuel poverty.

    How is the ECO programme structured?

    The ECO programme is made up of three different parts; the community obligation, the home heating cost reduction obligation and the carbon emissions reduction obligation. The community obligation provides insulation to households in specific areas of low income, and it states that each energy company must use 15% of this obligation to provide upgraded insulation to low-income, hard to reach rural areas. The home heating cost reduction, or ‘affordable warmth’, obligation means that energy suppliers must provide better measures by which households in receipt of benefits can heat their homes, for example, the replacement or repair of boilers through a means-tested eligibility scheme. The carbon emissions reduction obligation covers the installation of internal and external wall insulation to solid wall properties or ‘hard to treat’ cavity walls.

    What effect has the ECO programme had?

    Through funding from the ECO programme it has been able to provide much needed relief for fuel poor and low-income homes. Not only will the programme help low-income communities to save a significant amount of money on their heating bills, but it will also aid vulnerable people, such as the elderly, disabled, or children, who might be at risk by living in cold homes. The extra energy saving measures make homes safer by not only providing extra warmth, but also by driving out possible damp and mould infestations that can occur in cold homes, causing extra problems for vulnerable individuals.

    The ECO programme contributes around £1.3 billion every year towards energy efficiency improvements in the UK through energy suppliers, or parent organisations working together through pre-approved arrangements. The programme will run until March 2015 and it is helping the UK stay on track to reach the domestic carbon emission reduction targets by 2050.


    Risks of social media in the workplaceThe use of social media has increased phenomenally in recent times and the workplace is no exception, with more and more organisations using this viral tool to market their business.

    Unfortunately, some employees consistently abuse the opportunities given by their employers when it comes to using social media at work.

    Some employers stipulate that their employees can only use social media outside of workplace because of the risks associated with its use during working hours, for example:

    Reduction in Efficiency

    Excessive use of social media by employees in workplace can reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce. A lot of productive time is wasted by chatting and updating social media profiles. This will lead to decrease in productivity of the workforce and will affect the overall performance of an organization.

    However, social media can have both positive and negative applications. Because some employers allow the use of the social media in the workplace, some employees have been known to  use it in bullying and threatening other employees. This in turn can sow seeds of discord in the workforce and when there is conflict between  employees, the overall performance of the workforce suffers.

    Business Reputation

    Apart from using it to harass other employees, it is also possible for members of the workforce to use it to post damaging posts which may tarnish the image of the organization. This may have negative impact on the reputation of the company. It may also drive away potential clients from the company because these days potential customers are increasingly using social media to assess the reputation of a company

    Another risk associated with the use of social media by employees in workplace is that, in extreme cases, it can become a tool to organize themselves for protests. There are many protests and rally against the employers that have its root in social media dialogue. For instance, Facebook is a popular social media network. Damaging posts against employers can sensitize the employees to take radical steps against the management. Social media is now also used by some employees to raise grudges or to press home their demand.


    Due to the level of popularity that social media has attracted in recent years, it has become a viable tool in the hands of employees to reveal confidential information that are accessible to them as an employees of a company. This can be extremely detrimental to the development of a company.

    It is evident that social media is growing in popularity day by day. While it is not possible for employers to ban its use totally, its use in workplace should be reduced to the barest minimum. The activities of the employees on social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google plus etc should be curtailed by limiting the level of accessibility through the company server. It is true that many people now connect to social media platforms through mobile devices like iphones, smartphones, tablets etc but the policies of the organization should spell out what is allowed as far as the use of social is concerned.


    Where there is access to the company server, employees may take the chance to use social media during working hours. Excessive use by workforce will result in less efficiency which in turn may have adverse effect on the expenditure of the organization.

    These are just some of the risks associated with the use of social media in workplace. There are many other risks which cannot be covered in this article but may have serious impact on a business that is still growing.  Check out this e-book from HR Specialists hchr in Swansea, South Wales for further guidelines.

  • Beware of businesses offering cheap hair removal laser treatments

    Treatments for laser hair removal Laser treatments can be considered as one of the most popular options among people who experience frustrating excess body or facial hair. Due to their effectiveness, the demand for laser hair removal treatments are increasing, which in turn has given rise to a growing number of cheap laser treatment service providers.

    However, you need to be careful when going for these cheap laser treatments because they can have a wide range of harmful effects.  Here are some of the issues you need to take into account before going ahead with any form of laser hair removal treatment on your face or body.

    Professional Clinics

    First of all you need to consider where the laser treatment centre is based, who it is run by and how many different lasers they are operating.   If they have invested in several lasers, the chances are that this is a highly professional laser clinic and that the hair removal treatments are safe and effective.  This is important because different types of lasers work better on different skin types.  A clinic with just one laser for all hair removal treatments is probably just out to make a fast buck and doesn’t understand the complexities of hair growth and different skin types.

    During laser treatments for hair removal, different types of laser beams are used to treat  people, depending on their skin type. The technician or the doctor at the clinic should be able to determine the most suitable laser type after analyzing your skin. Usually, the clinics which own several  laser machines re the best because they have the ability to provide the most effective treatment.

    Rented or Owned?

    You also may wish to find out if the lasers are owned or rented. It is not recommended to go for treatments at a cllnic where the r laser machines are rented since they might not have the certificates of conformity required by local health authorities

    Even though there’s no standard laser hair removal certification, it is always better to go for the most experienced clinic out there, preferably run by medical professionals rather than beauty practitioners.

    The most experienced clinics out there won’t offer the cheapest service. However, the amount of money you spend on an experienced service provider is worthwhile when compared to the results that you get in return.


    Depending on the extent of hair removal, you will have to go for several hair removal sessions. You can do a simple research on the Internet about the practitioners make your judgement based on their locaton (ie are they in a hospital or in a beauty salon), are the practitioners medically qualified and do they offer a range of laser treatments with different lasers.  It’s also worth checking if they have any reviews from satisfied customers as an endorsement of their service and success rates.


    Acne laser treatments before and after 1Today laser treatments for acne is a very lucrative business.  Why?  Because laser treatments are generally less painful and far more effective than the alternative that are available on the market.  When we say effective, we mean that laser treatment, particularly for acne scarring is permanent.

    Safe Treatments

    Another reason by laser acne treatment is so popular is because it is completely safe, provided the treatment is delivered by a qualified pracitioner with the proper equipment.   Sadly, as this business grows, there are many practices such as beauty salons who claim to be able to treat acne and acne scarring effectively with lasers.

    In some instances, the machines that they use are not up the regulation standards, haven’t been checked or maintained properly and the actual lasers are not controlled. These types of lasers are not recommended for any treatments.  So prior to starting a treatment, people should check first that the practitioner has the correct certificates for the laser machines and that he or she is qualified to deliver the treatments (and is preferably a doctor).

    An example of a doctor in this video explaining acne laser treatments:


    Investing in laser equipment is the biggest expense when it comes to setting up your business.  And although the temptation may be to go for the cheapest price, this may not be so good in the long run.   There is an increasing number of cheap imports coming into the UK from overseas and these lasers do not conform to UK regulations.   So to avoid any possible court cases due to damage caused to patients from lasers, it is best to invest in the proper lasers to put your mind at rest.

    Do your research and only purchase brands that are well established such as the Regenlite lasers from  UK manufacturers such as Chromogenex.

    There are also different types of lasers available: the Nd-Yag lasers and ruby lasers.   They are generally comparative in terms of price with the ruby lasers being slightly more expensive but they do achieve the best results.

    Operating Lasers

    Lasers are not automatic and they have to be operated by someone who is fully trained, aware of the dangers of making a mistake and who also understands the medical condition of acne and the different treatment options.  An experienced practitioner, will always advise patients to try other treatments first, using laser acne treatment as a last resort.  This may not seem like good business but it will build up trust with patients who are then more likely to use your services in the future.

    Lasers can be dangerous if not used correctly so having a qualified person to operat the equipment is vital to the success of any laser acne treatment business.  People have been known to suffer injuries when undergoing different types of laser treatments, caused the operator not using the equipment in the way it was intended.

  • Fitted Kitchens Become More Competitive

    Swansea Home Improvements Fitted KitchensWhilst as business owners we all believe we are in very competitive markets the true facts of the matter are that some business niches are more competitive than others and this can be said of the fitted kitchen industry.

    First of all there is such a wide range of kitchens available and with the advent of flat-packed furniture a new fitted kitchen is well within the budget range of most consumers.

    However, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for.

    For instance, if you choose to buy and assemble your own kitchen from B&Q, IKEA, and other suppliers, the standard of workmanship and fit of your kitchen will be influenced by the actual kitchen units you purchased, your ability to assemble them, and perhaps more importantly, how well you ‘fit’ them into your kitchen and fix them in position.

    When I say you get what you pay for then the above is a prime example. Compare that to choosing unique and bespoke designs that are then manufactured and fitted by professional people who do all of the electrical fittings, tiling, decorating, etc.

    In that scenario you end up with a solid kitchen that has been fitted professionally and looks as though it has been fitted professionally.

    Then midway between these extremes you have fitted kitchen companies such as Swansea Home Improvements. This company has been in the kitchen business for decades and they have succeeded because they found their niche.

    In their particular case they have discovered the ideal business model for them. Quality mid-range kitchens that are fitted professionally and a no nonsense pricing structure.

    Anyone who has ever been subject to a ‘sales pitch’ will recognise the usual closing pitch of  …

    ‘Mr Jones, this kitchen actually costs £xxx’s but if you sign tonight, for tonight only you can buy it for £yyy’s!’

    Now what Swansea Home Improvements have done which works well with their target market is that they declare their offer upfront so that the customer knows upfront what they are getting and the genuine reason why they are getting their kitchen at that price.

    So even in this simple niche of fitted kitchens it is easy to say how different companies can target different niches within the kitchen niche and each market delivers within different price ranges and standards of finish.

    As stated before, you get what you pay for but even within each niche there are companies that are successful because they price and sell correctly to their market and those that fail because they totally misunderstand their market and what the customer really expects for their money and budget.

    Author Bio: Steve has been working in the home improvement industry and in particular, the fitted kitchen industry for over 25 years and has extensive experience in both the selling and supplying of fitted kitchens.

    If you want to know more about Steve or the fitted kitchens supplied by Swansea Home Improvements you can find out more here … www.swanseahomeimprovements.co.uk