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Heating industry failing to upskill workforce

The UK’s heating industry has failed to train and upskill boiler installers to the standards required to fit modern condensing boilers, and 86% of installers feel “let down” by the sector, according to research from consumer advice specialists at The Heating Hub. 

The Heating Hub's founders Jo Alsop and Caroline Williams

Modern high efficiency boilers became mandatory in 2005 and since then around 20 million boilers have been sold. However, there has been no corresponding investment made to upskill the workforce in heating system design (‘hydronics’) in order to fit them correctly.  

As a result, The Heating Hub claims the vast majority of installers are not adequately trained to fit modern condensing boilers to run at their A-rated label efficiencies.  

Jo Alsop, founder of The Heating Hub, said: “In the vast majority of UK homes we find an oversized boiler, incorrect boiler setup and ineffective controls, including many smart controls.  

“So little is understood about the damage this causes that consumers, and indeed boiler engineers, have come to believe a boiler will last on average between seven and 12 years, when it should last 22 years. As a result, we have one of the highest boiler replacement rates in Europe, with 1.7 million boilers replaced each year.” 

Knowledge of hydronics is essential to ensuring that new boilers are set up correctly and operate at peak efficiency. However, just 1% of registered domestic gas engineers (less than 1,000 out of the 108,000 in the UK) have completed training in heating system design, as shockingly there is only one course on hydronics currently available in the UK. 

Even fewer engineers have undertaken advanced modulation control training to understand this fully, and yet a compatible modulation control is vital to getting our modulating boilers running as efficiently as they were designed to. 

Jo continued: “Such is the complete absence of formal training for hydronic system design, that installers have had to rely on their own learning and peer support via WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups to progress. This lack of investment is failing installers and their customers, not to mention causing the unnecessary premature replacement of hundreds of thousands of boilers every year.” 

The Heating Hub has launched an impartial, paid-for Hero Support service that prioritises correct heating system design and a high level of installer competency. The service takes the worry out of choosing the right boiler and installer. 

The company’s Expert Panel, made up of five specialists in their field who have individually worked to improve standards across the heating sector, has independently assessed all boilers and heating controls on the UK market and shortlisted the best boilers and products on their technical merits. The panel has helped to recruit the top installers in the UK who are capable of working at the level necessary to fit modern boilers correctly. 

Jo said: “We are providing an alternative to one-size-fits-all, unspecified and poorly setup boiler installations by championing engineer skill and knowledge and setting the bar for the rest of the industry to meet. 

“Our Expert Panel has spent years advising and training the handful of engineers that have progressed to the competence level needed to fit condensing gas boilers correctly, in order to realise the maximum efficiency ratings of these products. Realistically we are talking about a few hundred installers nationwide who are already actively working at this level.  

“Whilst there are not as many competent installers in the industry as we’d like, we have enough signed up already to provide national coverage. Moreover, we are actively recruiting new Elite Installers and getting them the training they need to reach our standards, ensuring we can expand our provision in the near future.” 

 

 

20 November 2020

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