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RHI-related heat meter issues double in 12 months

A survey published today shows that 72% of equipment installed under the Renewable Heat Incentive required engineers to return to address issues, more than double the previous figure of 29%.

The Understanding Renewable Heat Meter Installations study was undertaken by Dynamic Markets on behalf of Itron for the second consecutive year.

It found that 15% of installers surveyed had one of their heat meter installations fail an RHI inspection in the past 12 months and 44% had been called back to address heat meter issues.

Engineers had been called back to installations an average of four times over the course of the year, estimated by Itron to have cost the industry around £17m.

The worst case saw an engineer called back 20 times to the same household.

Speaking exclusively to H&V News, Itron water and heat manager Bernard McWeeney said it was “difficult to say” if the significant rise in callbacks was because of domestic RHI installations, as the survey did not distinguish between this and the commercial RHI.

“But it suggests that the rise in problems is most likely because of the domestic RHI [introduced in April 2014], although not all domestic RHI installations need a heat meter,” he added.

Heat meters accounted for a high percentage of issues following the launch of the commercial RHI at the end of 2011, prompting the B&ES to launch its Guide to Good Practice: Heat Metering to clarify the correct processes required.

Mr McWeeney said there had been “lots of work done on training”, including efforts by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) to educate MCS-registered installers.

“It may be the effects can’t be seen yet. DECC has sought to close the skills gap and there’s more focus on heat metering training, so we hope the results will be better next year,” Mr McWeeney said.

With 72% of engineers stating that they found the current RHI heat meter requirements confusing, it would seem that more effort is urgently required in this area as it was revealed that nearly 70% of engineers had not been trained to install heat meters.

Engineers also expressed concern over the use of inhibitors, which are typically used as anti-freeze agents when meters are positioned outside.

“Heat meters need to be calibrated to account for glycol and other inhibitors, but there is no standard currently in place for arriving at a constant,” said Mr McWeeney.

“Manufacturers can have different values, which can be quite confusing. We are talking to DECC about this issue as a solution needs to be agreed that is good for everyone.”

The survey was conducted by questioning 100 MCS-registered engineers between 9 and 26 September 2014.