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Pipes and Fittings: Survey finds copper is installers' choice

DESPITE copper almost doubling in price during the last six months, independent research has revealed installers in the heating and plumbing sector still prefer working with copper tubing.

Wednesbury-based Mueller Europe, a leading manufacturer of copper tubes in the UK, distributed market research via independent consultants to 2,000 members of the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering.

The objective was to identify the trade's perceptions, attitudes and knowledge of plumbing and heating products.

'The survey has allowed us to understand exactly what knowledge the professional installer has when it comes to the positive characteristics of copper tubing,' explains Peter Marsh, managing director of Mueller Europe.

'It also gives us an indication of what they require in order to educate the end user about the overall, long terms benefits.

We provide a strong support service to our customers so they are kept up to date with developments. They are one of our lifelines and vice versa,' he adds.

Overall, the survey found copper was preferred by a massive 78% of respondents and for new-build by 57%. Key driving forces include:

· long lasting quality;

· produces a permanent fit:

· consumers prefer it to plastic; and

· it can only be fitted by experts.

'The research has produced a wealth of information, but I think one of the big concerns it has highlighted is the underlying issue that plastic is so easy to use it, de-skills the installers' expertise,' continues Peter.

'It is available over-the-counter in all DIY outlets and can be clipped together by almost anyone. But it is not, necessarily, the best solution. Clearly, there is a role for plastic tube but copper remains the number one choice by a massive margin for both new-build and refurbishment work.'

The concern about de-skilling is clearly highlighted by two features in the survey. Ease of use for plastic was identified as the number one product attribute but 30% of installers added the 'anyone-can-fit' attribute was its worst feature.

Mueller Europe also points out enormous environmental differences between plastic and copper. Unlike plastic, which suffers serious degradation if recycled, the purity of previously used copper material is indistinguishable from virgin product.

More than half of the copper that goes into manufacturing at the Wednesbury plant is recycled and, consequently, there is virtually no waste from manufacturing.

Other results show 60% of installers prefer to buy British-made plumbing and heating products from their local builders merchant rather than imported alternatives.

'It is vitally important that our merchant customers and installers understand that Mueller Europe is, and always has been, a UK-based manufacturer of copper tubes,' Peter continues.

'We are extremely proud of our British heritage and West Midlands roots.'

Finally, 90% of the IPHE members surveyed use copper tubing in their own domestic plumbing and heating systems.

'Copper tube has no rivals when it comes to proven
performance.

'It is strong, adaptable and tough, giving consistently good results which homeowners and installers alike know they can trust,' Peter adds.

'As the leading producer of copper tubes in the UK, we are constantly looking to improve the service we provide.

'This survey has shown us that copper is the professional's choice and it is our job now to make sure we continue to provide a quality product at a competitive price.'

Mueller Europe has invested more than £33.5million during the last four years to create the most sophisticated copper tube facility in Europe and on modernising its plant operations.

The investment programme has been designed to meet substantial upturns in sales.

The company has been able to increase its production capacity by 20%, take on an extra 30 workers and install a new coiled pipeline.

The company manufactures copper tube to the European Norm 1057:1996 for water, gas, sanitation and heating in the range 6mm to 159mm diameter, sold to builders merchants for plumbing, heating and sanitary applications.

Under the brand name Streamline, these ranges are colour coded Blue, Black, White and Red Labels (formerly W, X, Y and Z of BS 2871 Part 1.)

The company also produces a range of chrome-plated Protec and Protec 2000 plastic-coated tube and ARC tube for refrigeration and engineering applications.
1 January 2007

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