Thu 26th Nov 2015 - 11:26am Energy and Heating Where can heating installers get the best information?

    Where can heating installers get the best information?


    Benjamin Clarke

    Being able to provide customers with up to date and accurate information regarding their heating systems is one of the most important factors in being a heating installer. Change happens often within the heating industry, whether it be with new products and technologies or the introduction of new EU legislation, and it’s up to plumbers and heating installers to be aware of these changes for the benefit of their customers.

    However, time is tight, particularly for those who are self employed. Any time spent learning and researching means the installer is not earning money, so it’s very important that time is not wasted on unimportant or inaccurate information. So with the vast array of sources of information to be consumed, where should the average heating engineer go to ensure they’re getting the best?

    An excellent place to start is with the Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC) as they have a huge amount of statistics about carbon emissions, renewable heating technologies, energy consumption, fuel poverty figures and much more. For any installer wanting additional information, going straight to a Government department makes complete sense.

    Another source of incredibly useful information is the Health & safety Executive (HSE). For any information on dealing with health and safety issues, such as dangerous substances, risk assessments or reporting shoddy workmanship, the HSE is an organisation any plumber or installer must familiarise themselves with. It also produces a range of publications that offers a huge wealth of information across the whole construction industry.

    Building a good relationship with product suppliers will always be beneficial, not only for sourcing parts and components, but also for the fantastic insights to be gained from people who spend all day, everyday with the products you will be installing. Having good dialogue and communications with suppliers will provide any installer with invaluable knowledge that just can’t be found anywhere else.

    It’s also a good idea to network with others who are in the same industry. This can be online, by reading blogs by manufacturers, social media accounts of other plumbers and installers or by signing up to industry newsletters and magazines. Chatting face to face with others in the know is also a great way of getting word of mouth information from people who have gained vital hands on experience with many of the same products, problems and solutions.

    Another good idea is to go to carefully selected trade shows and events. Of course, taking time off to go to lots of different events is probably not practical or affordable, but choosing ones that feature products by manufacturers that you use a lot can be a superb source of information. Many will feature new products that you will be working with, so hearing manufacturers talk and perhaps give hands on demonstrations will often give you a headstart before the products come to market.

    Getting good information from a range of quality sources is an important feature of any heating installers business. Ultimately, the better your knowledge and experience, the better the service you can provide, which will lead to increase in business and profit.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke


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    Tue 24th Nov 2015 - 2:12pm Energy and Heating Why a boiler scrappage scheme would be a popular low carbon policy

    Why a boiler scrappage scheme would be a popular low carbon policy


    Benjamin Clarke

    In recent months, the renewable energy sector has taken a couple of large blows that have set back the industry quite a bit.

    First the Government announced the scrappage of the Green Deal Scheme, which, although it wasn’t the most well-thought through of policies, was finished without anything concrete ready to replace it.

    Secondly, the European Court of Justice stated that the UK had not complied with a particular piece of VAT legislation. This means that important energy saving components like solar thermal panels, biomass boilers and heat pumps must be subject to the usual 20% rate of VAT, whereas they previously enjoyed the low rate of just 5%.

    One of the main problems with recent renewable energy incentives is that people simply can’t afford an upfront cost to replace their inefficient heating system, even with subsidies from government. Not enough has been done to justify why people should replace their systems and how it can benefit them in the long term.

    Hopefully the Department of Energy and Climate Change realises that much more effort needs to be made to connect with the British public on this issue and some heating industry insiders have come up with some suggestions that they think will help.

    One of the most important suggestions has been the idea of introducing a boiler scrappage scheme. This has worked in the past with cars are it should be a serious consideration that would help get rid of a lot of old, inefficient and potentially dangerous boilers and replace them with new, reduced energy ones.

    Northern Ireland has been operating something similar and it has seen almost 14,000 new energy-efficient boilers in the last 3.5 years. Those in the heating industry argue that this never would have happened without assistance from government and they hope it can be rolled out to the rest of the UK.

    Surveys and research have shown that a majority of people are in favour of renewable technologies yet a tiny percentage of these have gone ahead with installing them in their own homes. The discrepancy between the two figures shows that the step from thinking about renewable energy to actually implementing it is too great for most people to go ahead with.

    It’s been argued that asking people to take small steps, such as taking part in a boiler scrappage scheme, would be more successful rather than the giant leaps that people have been asked to make in recent years.

    Encouraging people to make the first step to low carbon heating by incentivising them to change boilers will open the door to further steps. People will see the benefits of low energy boilers in their resulting heating bills and, thus, it will be much easier to persuade them to do more to bring down their carbon footprint in the future.

    As it stands, the changes required are too great, the cost too much and the steps too complicated for people to take action. When faced with complicated decisions, people are more likely to do nothing at all, so the Government needs to bear this in mind when announcing their next round of low energy policies.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke


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    Thu 19th Nov 2015 - 11:30am Energy and Heating How modern circulating pumps have improved energy efficiency

    How modern circulating pumps have improved energy efficiency


    Benjamin Clarke

    Circulating pumps are an incredibly important of any wet central heating system, however, in days gone by, they received a rather bad reputation for being for using disproportionately high amounts of energy. In fact, they were so inefficient, that in many cases they used more electricity than appliances such as fridge-freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, so clearly this couldn’t go on.

    Prior to EU legislation coming into force in January 2013, there were not very many high efficiency pumps on the market, and the few that were available were very expensive and therefore provided a homeowner or installer with very little incentive to avoid the cheaper low-efficiency alternatives.

    Since the legislation was introduced, only high efficiency pumps are available to buy and they have slowly been embraced by the heating industry and account for the vast majority of the new circulating pumps being installed across the UK today.

    When compared to the old pre-legislation pumps, the new pumps are saving bill payers as much as £137 per year on electricity bills. Savings like this should really be promoted as much as possible because it will hopefully encourage homeowners of systems still using the old pumps to upgrade and reduce their energy consumption.

    Because of the previous lack of emphasis on poorly performing pumps, it means there are still millions of homes using these old and inefficient pumps still in operation today. Installers need to be proactive in explaining just how much extra money could be saved if higher quality pumps are fitted and it should be demonstrated to customers that the initial outlay will be covered many times over in the following 5 year period.

    Helping to make people aware that any old pump will do will assist the UK in bringing down its energy costs, reducing its carbon footprint and making energy efficiency targets that much more achievable.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke


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    Tue 17th Nov 2015 - 2:38pm Energy and Heating Why free or paid for training is beneficial to heating engineers

    Why free or paid for training is beneficial to heating engineers


    Benjamin Clarke

    Be able to motivate yourself to continue training even though you may be experienced is an important attribute for any heating installer to have. New technology, products, regulations and legislation are coming out all the time, so keeping ahead of the game allows installers to provide homeowners with the best possible customer service.

    That being said, time spent training means not earning so it’s vital that the training is worthwhile and will really add value to the service the installer can provide.

    A ‘no brainer’ piece of training that every installer should take is boiler training, which most manufacturers offer for free. Installing or maintaining a boiler is an absolutely fundamental piece of equipment that plumbers and engineers will encounter on a daily basis, so being aware of the unique quirks of the main boiler brands should be considered a must.

    When it comes to paid for training, clearly it’s important to do a little research to ensure the course will be worth the outlay and will add tangible new skills or knowledge to an installer’s arsenal. Consulting a training school to find out which courses are best suited is advisable, as is finding out whether the courses are theoretical or practical, with it being preferable for it to be more hands on than not.

    A very popular course at the moment is known as the Combi Training Course, whereby installers are given the complete rundown of how a combi boiler works, how it differs and interacts with other appliances, a breakdown of it’s internal components and and installation and maintenance instruction. After this, many installers choose to do the multi meter and boiler diagnostics courses, which follow on naturally and further enhance important knowledge.

    Provided you select the correct courses, further training should really be seen as a long term investment, rather than a short term day of lost earnings. Training should also not be viewed as something just inexperienced or newly qualified installers should undergo. Many more canny experienced installers are signing up for training and are often very pleasantly surprised but what they didn’t know.

    Ultimately additional training should be good for the bottom line, improve the reputation of the heating industry and provide maximum quality service to homeowners across the UK.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke


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    Thu 12th Nov 2015 - 10:20am Energy and Heating Why using Water Regulations Advisory Scheme approved products makes sense

    Why using Water Regulations Advisory Scheme approved products makes sense


    Benjamin Clarke

    Once water from the public mains leaves the pipe of the water company and goes into a private home, all heating systems, taps, valves, toilets, pipes and other water-using components must comply with the Water Supply Regulations. In order to ensure that there is no wasting of water or contamination of drinking water, the regulations say that all water components must be “of an appropriate quality and standard.”

    As the installer of the products has the ultimate responsibility of making sure that the components comply with the regulations, it’s best if they use Water Regulations Advisory Scheme (WRAS) approved products. To be approved by the WRAS, all products are tested by independent labs and given the seal of approval by water suppliers, who are responsible for ensuring the regulations are adhered to.

    The tests involve:

    - Taps are turned on and off 200,000 times to check they don’t leak
    - Pipes are tested with pressurised hot and cold water
    - Materials that come into contact with water are tested to make sure there are no toxic substances or bad tastes
    - Air gaps are tested for backflow protection
    - Check valves are tested
    - Toilets are filled with fake poo to ensure the flush gets rid of the contents in full

    WRAS approved products always display their specific logo, though for extra certainty, it’s possible to check the WRAS Product & Materials Directory. The installer also needs to let the water supplier know what work they are carrying out, as installers are legally obliged to get consent for what they are doing.

    Suffice to say, if installers are using WRAS approved products, getting the correct permissions from the water companies and following the installation instructions, then everyone involved can be happy that the completed work will meet the Water Supply Regulations requirements. Installers are encouraged to become members of the WaterSafe Installers Scheme and gain a Water Supply Regulations qualification, which will give customers extra confidence and peace of mind regarding the work that is being done.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke


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