Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Is the domestic heating market set to get hotter?

A survey of the domestic heating market by MBD (see H&V News October 20) showed a forecast of gradual growth accelerating in the future.

We asked the opinion of four industry experts for their views on where installers should concentrate their efforts.

Losing control

Salus Controls managing director Dean Jepson points to David Bowie’s Space Oddity to illustrate an important point about the heating controls industry.

While we’d all love to journey with the stars from time to time, losing contact with Ground Control would be catastrophic.

ranslated to heating controls, while manufacturers continue to invest millions in new technology to take controls to the next level, approximately 80 per cent of UK homes still don’t even meet the minimum standards (according to the Energy Saving Trust) and around eight million homes don’t even have a simple thermostat.

On the plus side, Mr Jepson continues, homeowners seem to be fully aware of the energy efficiency benefits of upgrading their boiler to a condensing model, but many remain unaware that this is only one step towards making energy savings. They are blissfully ignorant of the vital role that heating controls can play.

Heating controls are more sophisticated than ever before. Some not only work in harmony with multiple systems, such as renew-
able energy sources, but can even work in conjunction with the weather, says Mr Jepson.

Consider the difference it would make if the industry could communicate with all the Major Tom’s of this world to alert them to the fact that their current controls are inadequate. Even better, imagine RF programmable thermostats being marketed as the latest must-have devices? There would probably be a mass stampede to fit these products.

It’s time to get the basics right and educate the homeowner on the effective use of heating controls and installers have a vital role to play.

By developing close relationships with manufacturers investing in advanced heating control technologies, installers will not only unleash opportunities for themselves but will help keep homeowners in touch with Ground Control and drive the industry forward, Mr Jepson concludes.

Courting convectors

Smith’s Environmental Products sales and marketing director Jim Bennett highlights the adaptability and diversity of fan solutions to work with new or existing heating systems.

They can even be mixed on the same system as other natural convectors, such as underfloor heating, if required. Advanced fan technology has also significantly reduced any sound to a barely audible level, he states.

By using simple and proven technology, fan convectors have the ability to put heat where and when it is required. BSRIA research has also shown them to be 24 per cent more efficient than a standard panel radiator at bringing a room up to temperature - rising to 31 per cent when running at the lower water temperatures used by renewable technologies, he continues.

While radiators operate well at high central heating water temperatures, their performance reduces significantly as these temperatures fall. The only way a radiator can cope with the measured heat loss is by being increased in size. At below 55 deg C, the natural convection process used by a radiator will struggle to heat the room effectively, says Mr Bennett.

Furthermore, it is common knowledge that every 1 deg C increase in water temperature reduces a heat pump’s efficiency by 2.5 per cent. Therefore, by running radiators at 55 deg C, the efficiency of the heat pump is reduced by 50 per cent, Mr Bennett continues. Attempting to use radiators with a heat pump can actually make it more expensive to run than using an equivalent condensing boiler.

Comparisons have revealed that a 635 mm-wide fan convector running at a water temperature of 40 deg C produces the same amount of heat as a standard 1,000 mm-wide panel radiator. If you wanted to use radiators to replicate the output of a 1,385 mm fan convector at the same temperature, you would require two 600x2,200 mm radiators, says Mr Bennett.

It is important to maximise the space in a room. Fan convectors are energy-efficient, space-saving heat emitters, which need to be embraced as we move towards a more sustainable future, Mr Bennett states.

Read the small print

Glen Dimplex Boilers managing director Colin Gardner states that when it comes to advertising, we all know the score. Advertising is designed to persuade an audience to purchase or take action upon products or services. It’s a multi-billion pound industry with one main goal: persuading people to open their wallets.

So three cheers for the English poet and composer, W S Gilbert, who once famously declared: “Things are seldom what they seem.”

If it weren’t for his death in 1911, you would be tempted to think that he was referring specifically to the boiler industry and the five-year parts and labour guarantees currently being advertised by several manufacturers in order to lure installers and customers to buy their boilers, says Mr Gardner.

On the face of it, what a great incentive to purchase a boiler. On closer inspection, however, it seems that some of these guarantees fail to deliver on promise.

The sad reality is that they are sometimes actually only made up of a three-year guarantee on parts and two years on labour. Considering that the price of the boiler may have been over-inflated in the first place, it’s misleading and confusing, says Mr Gardner.

The other types of five-year guarantees that raise questions are those that come with terms and conditions attached. For example, some stipulate that installers may only qualify for the deal if they register and attend a training course; others demand a certain volume of boiler sales before the deal applies or even insist on membership of a loyalty scheme.

Of course, we all know that offering such compelling guarantees makes the manufacturer more attractive to do business with by decreasing the installer’s risk and increasing the customer’s trust and willingness to buy certain products.

But many of these guarantees are blighted by the numerous conditions attached. Surely the only condition worth stipulating is that a Gas Safe Registered engineer should carry out the annual service? Or better still, why not make it even simpler and offer what it says on the tin: a five-year guarantee on parts and labour with no strings attached, says Mr Gardner.

Training and technology

Calor consumer marketing manager Nikki McCluney cited the potential for domestic heating to reduce carbon emissions through liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), especially in off-gas areas. Switching from oil to LPG in these areas immediately reduces carbon emissions and can supplement renewable solutions.

She highlights the key development of domestic micro-CHP (combined heat and power) units by Baxi in the form of its Ecogen, the first UK domestic boiler to generate electricity. This provides a simple means of meeting building regulations as well as offering homeowners the benefit of feed-in tariffs (FiTs).

For installers, LPG and new technologies are great business opportunities. The capital investment required to gain qualifications to work with new technologies may seem prohibitive but the potential earnings are large, says Ms McCluney. Holders of Domestic Core Natural Gas Safety certificates need to enrol on a two-day course to upgrade to the equivalent LPG CONGLP1, which remains valid for five years.

For each new technology there will almost certainly be certifications to be achieved and training to be undertaken, she continues. For example, the LPG Baxi Ecogen is the first micro-CHP product to be certified under Microgeneration Certification Scheme, so installers need to have MCS certification to fit this.

To be kept aware of new technologies and opportunities, installers should contact leading manufacturers and suppliers, says Ms McCluney. Many run schemes that include cash incentives and marketing support.

Low-carbon opportunities

The potential for installers to take advantage of new business opportunities is elaborated on by A1 team leader Sarah Snell, who notes that the UK carbon reduction targets are ambitious and the UK is currently lagging behind the rest of Europe.

Energy secretary Chris Huhne claimed that the UK uses more energy to heat our homes than Sweden, despite it being seven degrees colder in January.

Replacing inefficient appliances is one way installers can play their part, Ms Snell continues. She uses the A1 LCS scheme as an example. This enables installers who are registered with the scheme to give their customers access to grant funding of up to £1,000, in the appropriate circumstances, if they replace their electric or coal-fired heating with a new gas, oil or LPG A-rated boiler.

While this grant funding is given in full to the customer, there are incentives for the installer. They can pick up business from a customer who might otherwise not have been able to afford the work. The customer will also potentially save up to £1,000 on a new heating system, so shrewd installers have the scope to reduce quotes in order to win new business, boosted by potential annual service contracts and possible referrals, Ms Snell concludes.

Band A potential

F & P Wholesale managing director Mark Earnshaw says that demand for Band A products was increasing following changes to the Building Regulations, though this was not at the same rate as the switch from Band D to Band B.

Although sales of Band B products were continuing, merchants had noted the opportunity to sell Band A and increased stock accordingly, with exclusive deals being arranged by independent merchants.

Mr Earnshaw states that 25 per cent of domestic heating boiler sales are expected to go through independent merchants, with installers benefiting from exclusive offers, complemented by add-on sales for items such as designer radiators, underfloor heating and unvented cylinders.

The move to Band A provides alternatives to increase business and installers can benefit through choice, service and competitive prices when working with independent merchants, Mr Earnshaw adds.