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A decade on from the switch to condensing

When talks to make condensing boilers mandatory began in 2004, it was considered to be a step in the right direction – but at the same time, a daunting prospect.

It’s now clear that the 2005 decision was one of the industry’s most significant milestones and one that was embraced almost immediately despite the challenges it initially posed.

The sector’s ability to adapt to change demonstrates its dynamic nature, and is a credit to all the professionals who made it happen so smoothly. From installers to manufacturers, the changeover was a group effort. Never before had the way the country chose to heat its properties been given such a major ruling to adhere to, and changing the habits of more than 100,000 domestic heating engineers was something many had reservations over.

The legislation required collaboration between installers and manufacturers of gas- and oil-fired boilers through training schemes, such as the Energy Efficiency Installer Programme. This national scheme was further bolstered by manufacturers’ own training courses.

This played a huge part in equipping installers with the knowledge and skillsets required to bring condensing boilers into homes nationwide. As a result, it was particularly successful because every installer in the country was required to complete the programme.

Even with more dominant training schemes coming through today, the heating industry has not seen such a mandatory requirement for training since. The fact that such a large number of installers showed an impressive level of commitment over a decade ago is testament to their professionalism and willingness to adapt to new legislation and the challenges it presents.

The industry needs to learn from this example. Making condensing boilers mandatory was so successful because it was a firm decision unhampered by delay or confusion, unlike more recently introduced initiatives that have not been so successful.

As a result of installers’ commitment to adhere to the new protocol, they did a great job at also making UK homeowners aware of the changed requirements. This saw condensing boiler sales quickly rise to 90% of all boiler sales. This direct customer contact is extremely beneficial when new schemes are introduced such as the domestic RHI, which relies heavily on installers informing homeowners of the options available and making bespoke recommendations.

Today, there are as few as just a hundred non-condensing boilers sold annually out of a total that regularly exceeds 1.5 million units; this is an achievement that should be celebrated. This large-scale shift enabled the UK to focus on heating its homes more efficiently and taking greater responsibility for the vital role the HVAC industry plays in the UK’s environmental performance.

Martyn Bridges is director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group

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