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    A review of the boiler industry in 2014 & projections for 2015

    Tue 27th Jan 2015 - 2:21am Energy and Heating A review of the boiler industry in 2014 & projections for 2015


    Benjamin Clarke

    Looking back to this time last year, the boiler industry looked to be in a very strong position indeed. In 2013, the boiler market had grown around 15% on what it had been in 2012 and boiler sales were actually at a ten year high. This was excellent news for boiler manufacturers, merchants and installers, however, by the second quarter of 2014 sales began to level out.

    The effects of the economic crash in 2008 and subsequent recession is still being felt in the heating industry, although it’s definitely on the road to recovery. The Energy Companies Obligation, a government initiative introduced at the beginning of 2013, definitely helped with the increase in boiler sales during 2013, so it was somewhat inevitable that the figures would drop in 2014.

    The scenario described above highlights one of the main problems with government incentive programmes such as the ECO and the Green Deal. They can be very useful to certain consumers who are, firstly, aware that the schemes exist and, secondly, are eligible to receive assistance under these incentives. However, for the manufacturing and fitting industry, these short-lived schemes can provide a false sense of security; good for business while the programmes are running, but then dropping off sharply after they finish. In effect it can create a boom-bust situation, making long term planning very difficult for the heating industry as a whole.

    Another set of issues facing the heating industry is the inconsistencies in policies on how to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The Renewable Heat Incentive was another government initiative that didn’t really provide the boost to renewable energy take-up in the way that was hoped, and has proved how hard it is to implement consistent measures on our existing housing stock that will really have a positive impact on the environment.

    For the foreseeable future, it’s difficult to see how renewable energies such as heat pumps will overtake traditional gas-fired appliances. It’s now been a decade since it was made mandatory to install condensing boilers in UK homes, but the existing housing stock only has a maximum of 55% of boilers that are condensing installed, so there is still a lot of work to do to convert the other 45%.

    Although there’s still a lot of work to do in Britains existing housing stock, the new build sector is looking more positive, with as many as 130,000 new houses being constructed each year. This creates demand for new and efficient heating and plumbing products and bodes well for the heating industry.

    Additionally, the modern boiler is now so efficient that the industry is looking to other areas where heating performance can be enhanced. The main area of interest and development right now is in smart controls.

    Smart controls seek to make the boiler automatically adjust itself in line with the outside weather conditions or the individual circumstances of the homeowner. As this technology develops, it should hopefully improve the efficiency of heating systems even further and also make people more interested in an aspect of their home that was traditionally not given much attention to. Anything that can raise the profile of heating components and generate a public awareness is excellent for the heating industry and should prove beneficial for knowledge and growth.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    Why it's important to keep your central heating system clean

    Thu 22nd Jan 2015 - 2:36am DIY Troubleshooting Why it's important to keep your central heating system clean


    Benjamin Clarke

    The modern central heating boiler has made huge advancements over the last 50 years. They are now lighter, more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly than their counterparts from the 1960s, for example. However, just like it’s sixties ancestors, the modern boiler still functions in much the same way and has the same purpose, namely, to heat water and circulate it around a home.

    When water is circulated around components made of metal, a naturally occurring chemical reaction takes place which can cause corrosion. This corrosion can cause bits of metal to break off into the system, creating radiator ‘sludge.’ It is this sludge that can cause common problems like radiators not heating up properly or having hot and cold patches.

    Another issue can be the build up of limescale, which is a hard calcium carbonate deposit that is especially common in hard water areas. The limescale is very fond of clinging onto the inside of pipes, narrowing the area in which water can flow and reducing the pipe’s thermal efficiency, which basically means your radiators won’t get as hot as they should do.

    In addition to corrosion and limescale, over time, general household dirt can make it’s way into the heating system, which also reduces the performance of your boiler and radiators, so the importance of regularly cleaning your central heating system cannot be overstated.

    Some of the most common complaints customers have when they call out a heating engineer is that their radiators are taking a long time to heat up, a radiator is warm at the bottom and cold at the top or a radiator is very noisy. All of these are symptoms of a system that needs cleaning.

    If the heating engineer decides that the heating system is generally working well, then only a moderate clean may be necessary. In this instance, an engineer would normally isolate the radiators and circulate a cleaner through the rads for around 60 - 90 minutes. A common way of getting the cleaner into the system is to use an aerosol product, which can quickly add the cleaner via a filling loop adapter or straight into the radiator.

    When the cleaner has fully circulated around the system, the next step would be draining down all the radiators and adding fresh water into the system. This is usually done via the filling loop or using the feed and expansion tank, normally located in the loft. Once the water runs clear, all radiators should be isolated and purged and a chemical inhibitor introduced to the system. A chemical inhibitor is one of the most important factors in keeping a heating system free from corrosion and should always be added after a system clean.

    If a heating system is particularly dirty and has suffered from a lot of corrosion, it is likely that there is a vast amount of sludge sitting in the radiators. A very popular method of removing this sludge among heating engineers, is the use of powerflushing machines due to their effectiveness and the speed with which they can do the job.

    Since 2006, the Building Regulations have required that, whenever a new boiler is installed, the system must be fully cleaned and protected and powerflushing is the most effective way of ensuring this happens properly. Such is the importance of cleaning and protecting a heating system thoroughly, many boiler warranties are dependent on the system being flushed, cleaned and protected.

    A powerflusher operates at temperatures of up to 85°C and is a very effective way of getting virtually all debris and sludge from the system, particularly when used in conjunction with a cleaner. It is also common for a filter to be attached to the return of a powerflushing machine as the filter stops the dirty water from recirculating around the system. The machine should run for around 10 minutes and the flow reversed and checked very regularly. Clean water should be added to the reservoir tank until the water runs clear.

    The next step would be to add a cleaner via the chemical addition port on the powerflusher. This should be allowed to run for at least 60 minutes, again with the flow reversed and the filter checked and cleaned regularly. The cleaner assists the flushing process by lifting the contaminants into suspension, making it much easier to flush out.

    The final part of the process is to close all wheel head valves or thermostatic radiator valves except one, to stop the flow to the radiators. With the one radiator that has chosen to be left open, the powerflusher should pump through this rad and out to drain for around 5 minutes. The water level should be maintained by adding fresh water to the tank. The flow should be reversed and this process should be repeated until all the radiators have been flushed. The equipment should then be disconnected and an inhibitor introduced to the system via a radiator, towel rail, filling loop or filter.

    Keeping the system clean is incredibly important because it helps all the components to have a longer lifespan, meaning less money spent on repairs, it keeps the system running efficiently, leading to lower heating bills, and most importantly, your system will keep you warm when you most need it to!

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund reopens

    Tue 20th Jan 2015 - 3:58am Energy and Heating The Green Deal Home Improvement Fund reopens


    Benjamin Clarke

    The GDHIF, which was closed in July due to huge amounts of applications has been reopened to new applications. It originally provided over 20,000 households with vouchers until the government withdrew it once the budget had been used up.

    However the scheme was reopened last month and households in England and Wales now have access of up to £5,600 to offset some of the costs involved with having energy saving measures installed. These include things like boilers and solid wall, cavity wall and floor insulation.

    In total, up to £30 million in vouchers is available as part of an overall budget of £100 million that was announced in October 2014 to go towards energy efficiency measures in households. £450 million has been allocated by the Government towards household energy efficiency between 2014 - 2017.

    The £30 million in vouchers will be split in two main areas. The first is for solid wall insulation, which has been allotted up to £24 million. The second area is up to £6 million for two types of home improvements that will be available from a list under the scheme. Once funds have been used up in each category, no more funds will be allocated for that category and no further applications will be accepted.

    With this latest release of funding, domestic energy customers can now receive:

    - Up to £4000 for the installation of solid wall insulation.

    - Up to £1000 for implementing two measures from the aforementioned list. These measures include things like fan-assisted storage heaters, condenser boilers and replacement warm air units.

    - Up to £100 refunded for the cost of the customers Green Deal Assessment and up to an additional £500 more if they are have bought a new home and apply within 12 months of the purchase.

    To apply for Green Deal funding, there is a two-step application process and the applicant will need:

    - A Green Deal Advice Report or Energy Performance Certificate that s under 2 years old.

    - A registered GDHIF installer or provider to have provided a quote for the work specified on the Green Deal Advice Report or the Energy Performance Certificate. The specified work must also appear on the list of approved measures approved by the GDHIF.

    - Proof of property ownership if the applicant is a landlord.

    Over 750,000 households have benefited from funds released by the Green Deal to have energy saving improvements installed in their homes. It is hoped that reopening the GDHIF will encourage consumers to apply, creating cleaner, greener and more efficient homes and resulting in lower heating bills.

    More information on the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF) »»

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    The quest to stop illegal gas fitters with the Gas Safe Register

    Thu 15th Jan 2015 - 12:16am Energy and Heating The quest to stop illegal gas fitters with the Gas Safe Register


    Benjamin Clarke

    The Gas Safe Register was launched in 2009 and a lot of work has been done since in highlighting the need to use properly registered and accredited gas engineers across the UK, as well as promoting gas safety in general. Gas Safety Week 2014 ran from 15th - 21st September reached an audience of around 125 million with national advertising and headlines being made across all media platforms.

    Over the last 4 years, the Gas Safe Register’s team has worked hard on combatting illegal gas work which it then hands to the Health & Safety Executive for prosecutions. The team has looked at over 3,000 illegal cases and found almost half to be ‘unsafe’ with a fifth of those ‘immediately dangerous.’ This highlights just how many people are putting themselves and their families at risk by using illegal and unregistered gas workers.

    The GSR undertook a survey in 2014 that was completed by over 1,600 gas engineers that work across the UK. It showed some interesting and concerning results:

    57% of those surveyed had found either a gas boiler, cooker or fire in a customer’s home that needed to be turned off immediately. Not to have turned these off immediately would have very likely led to an explosion, a fire, a leak or carbon monoxide poisoning.

    40% had gone to a job and found work they suspected to have been carried out by an unregistered or illegal gas fitter.

    The importance of this issue cannot be overstated, as the consequences of using an illegal gas fitter can literally be a life or death situation for you and your family. The seriousness of these crimes have recently been shown by some prosecutions in court. Between January and October 2014, the Health & Safety Executive prosecuted almost 40 people for illegal gas work.

    Some recent high profile prosecutions include:

    An illegal gas worker from Suffolk who illegally removed a boiler and left a gas pipe open and uncapped. Classed as ‘immediately dangerous’ by the Gas Safe Register, he was given a prison sentence and community service.

    Another bogus gas worker from Somerset falsely claimed to be a Gas Safe Register engineer and provided false paperwork to back up his claim. He worked on a boiler and left it in a dangerous state. As a result, he was prosecuted and fined £2100, ordered to pay £2000 in costs and £125 compensation.

    A plumber from County Durham was prosecuted by the HSE after providing fraudulent gas safety records for three separate properties, which falsely claimed safety checks had been carried out. The plumber was found to have never been Gas Safe registered and was not qualified to carry out the work. He was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, given 200 hours community service and ordered to pay £500 in costs.

    These convictions show just how seriously the Gas Safe Register, The HSE and the courts take the illegal work done by individuals who are not qualified to conduct the work they are doing. Of the nearly 40 cases between January and October 2014, convictions resulted in approximately £220,000 in fines, over 100 days of community service and over 7 years of prison sentences.

    Whether you are a customer or a registered gas engineer, if you suspect someone of carrying out illegal work, it’s your duty to report them, as you may be helping to save lives. If you believe someone is working without a valid Gas Safe registration you can call 0800 408 5577 and leave details anonymously. Alternatively you can report an illegal gas fitter online.

    Your information will be looked at by the National Investigations Team and compiled into a report, with the Team looking at the suspicious gas work within 10 working days. If they can identify that the person who carried out the work is unregistered, the Team will report to the HSE within 10 working days and support any prosecutions it decides to proceed with.

    Hopefully 2015 will see an even greater amount of awareness of the importance of gas safety, with a greater clamp-down on those practising illegally. We support anything that improves the level of service the public receives and any measures to keep them as safe as possible from rogue traders and the adverse effects of poorly executed gas work.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke

    Positive outlook for the heating industry in 2015

    Tue 13th Jan 2015 - 9:15am Press Positive outlook for the heating industry in 2015


    Benjamin Clarke

    Business looks set to boom over the next twelve months in the heating industry according to a new survey by Screwfix.

    The survey was participated in by over 500 UK tradesmen, which includes heating engineers, qualified plumbers and the results showed that they felt 2015 was going to be a bumper year ahead.

    Some interesting figures were:

    61% of all plumbers and tradesmen who took part in the survey expected business to get even better in 2015.

    80% reported they had enough work to keep them busy in 2015. (Interestingly, only 73% felt this way about the year ahead when surveyed in 2012).

    39% said they are providing more quotes for potential jobs that at this time last year.

    10% felt that their current workload was more than they could handle.

    The majority of those survey felt the general economy would improve in 2015.

    This kind of positivity among those surveyed is fantastic news for business and we hope that this optimism translates into reality in the months to come. Having a healthy heating industry is vital for the UK because of the importance keeping warm plays in all of our lives. It also bodes well for creating new employment opportunities as well as providing the public with quality expertise, customer service and value for money.

    Article by Benjamin Clarke