Sunday, 30 July 2017

Heating System Water & Corrosion Prevention

All I see these days in trade magazine and merchants is magnetic filters, chemicals, chemicals and some more chemicals, every page you turn in a trade magazine has either an advert for magnetic filters or chemicals, or an article telling you how important inhibitors are to the system, well I say "utter nonsense" 

Lets set some facts, todays heating systems are sealed, this means they are sealed from outside influences, including oxygen, now for corrosion to occur oxygen must be present, No oxygen = No Corrosion, so why do we need inhibitors, well in my opinion, we don't, inhibitors create a false layer on the metal components, well in the presence of water metals will create their own natural layer to protect themselves, this is called passivation of the metal,The passivation of metals is the process, when metals protect themselves against further corrosion with a thin oxide layer. The metal becomes passive and is not oxidised any further.

The problems occur with poor design and the use of poor quality materials, inhibitors and magnetic filters are in my opinion there to cover for poor quality installations, whereas we should be looking to increase knowledge and standards, also I have been to many systems that have inhibitor that are still corroding.

Lets look at other points that need to be monitored in a heating system, but are generally ignored, The pH of the heating water should be in a range of 8.2 to 10, but only 8.2 to 8.5 in presence of aluminium alloys. The function of the pH in heating systems is one of the most important factors for means of corrosion protection. with the recommended pH range the metals in the system can basically build up their natural oxide layers and keep them stable to be protected against further corrosion. As long as this mechanism is not disturbed for example incorrect pH, a high electrical conductivity, a high oxygen concentration or erosion, the formation of natural oxide layers provides a safe protection of the metals against further corrosion

Electrical conductivity, the acceptable electrical conductivity in heating systems water has to be seen in conjunction with the amount of dissolved oxygen. If there are only traces of oxygen (y0,02 mg/l) dissolved in the heating water, then the system can tolerates an electrical conductivity up to 1.500 µS/cm. But at higher concentrations of dissolved oxygen the electrical conductivity should be limited to <100 µS/cm.

In the UK the British Standard BS 7593:2006i which deals with water treatment, is very very basic and my German Colleagues actually find it laughable, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland they deal with the subject in a much more in depth manner, the German method, which I follow, in respect to heating water treatment with chemical agents the statement of the VDI 2035 is in contrast to the British Standard that such agents should only be used in limited cases by professionals with the necessary chemical education. According to VDI 2035 there is no need for chemical agents as in a well-planned operated and maintained system, with a favourable water quality, no damages caused by lime-scale and corrosion are to be expected.
I could go on, this is a big subject and it is a big passion of mine, there is a lot to cover, so I won't go on, as people lose interest quite quickly when reading blogs, but I do find it encouraging to see many installers are starting to realise there is more to controlling corrosion and I have seen a lot more installers using quality de-aeration devices, which is great, but for those who may not fully understand a de-aeration device is NOT an automatic air vent, they are very different things, an AAV should only be used for filling and venting, after these uses they should be closed, as they can and do ingress oxygen, a de-aeration device which should be fitted on the hottest part of a system, these are microbubble separators. With de-aeration of the system, the remaining carbon dioxide can be vented and thus the pH can rise to a preferable level during normal operation
I am looking at running seminars and trade breakfast mornings at Trade Merchants that may be interested
Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions that need answering
This blog is mainly to let you know there are other methods to system corrosion control in heating systems, there are lots of solutions out there, but I can supply products from Germany from Elector, a company I work very closely with 

Friday, 12 May 2017

Skill Shortage??

We keep hearing there is a skill shortage, well in my opinion there is a lack of skill in a lot of installers out there, but are we short of installers in the UK

Usually when demand outstrips supply then the cost for said item tends to rise, but in my opinion wages, salaries, whatever you want to call them have remained very low in this industry, who is keeping our money low, why are we not paid more, who is controlling what plumbing & heating installers get paid, I see plenty of adverts for plumbing and heating installers for annual salaries of £25,000 - £30,000 hardly big money for a highly skilled trade, I hear lots of companies saying they struggle to get high calibre installers, well if you are not paying high calibre money, then you wont get high calibre installers, it's as simple as that.

In the USA plumbers are very well paid, they are also highly respected, what is the difference from there to here, thats simple, you have to be licensed to be a plumber in the USA, you can't simply call yourself a plumber out there and start working, whereas in the UK any Tom Dick or Harry can call themselves a plumber, our industry is a joke, instead of trade bodies fighting for all installers to be licensed, to cut out the cowboys, they actively work with the companies who I see as one of the problems within our industry, people seem to think you can push some pipes together and then call yourself a plumber.

When it comes to attracting new blood to this industry I think it should always be an apprenticeship, 3 years minimum, but as a young person looking for a career for the rest of their life, our industry hardly is a big draw when it comes to the financial reward, until money is better across our industry, it will always struggle to attract new young apprentices.

I want to know why earning potential for plumbing & heating installers has not really gone up in over 20 years, I want to know where the public perception came that plumbers are two a penny and why they seem to think we should charge nearly minimum wage for our skill and knowledge. I try and work in high class properties, believe me it's not as profitable as you would imagine and its quite hard to deal with when I have 35 years experience in this industry, I have worked around the world, I have trained installers in the UK and abroad in thermal solar, my industry knowledge is quite high in my opinion, only to be told by a multi millionaire that I am too expensive.

I fear for this industry, I don't think the future looks good, all these quick training courses, allowing inexperienced people loose on the public damages this industry, low money means it will always be hard to attract new people to the industry and often means very good installers leave the industry to pursue better paying careers

Saturday, 4 February 2017

CGCS A New Gas Safety Scheme, What is Going ON!!!!

Some of you may be aware of the launch of a new gas safety scheme, some of you may not, its called CGCS Certification, which is Capita Gas Compliance Services, so straight away we see an issue, this scheme is been set up by CAPITA, who already run the Gas Safe Register.

Now do they give a reason why such a scheme is needed, do they show where the Gas Safe Register is failing and that they are there to pick up the slack, do they say that the Public are demanding such a scheme, are they saying that the industry is demanding such a scheme, in a word NO, there is absolutely no reason this accreditation is needed, or wanted, by either the industry or the public.

Lets look at some of the phrases they use as to the benefits to this accreditation, firstly I should point out that this scheme is "Currently" voluntary I give the old " " as I think that may change in the future should this scheme get off the ground, but you will have to pay to join the scheme, not much info yet on the costs,.

So some of the so called benefits "The new gas safety scheme is aimed at organisations that meet the legal requirement for gas safety, and want to demonstrate that they exceed it. We want to help those people get the recognition they deserve" Right, so they are implying that those of us who choose to just remain on the Gas Safe Register do not exceed gas safety requirements, really, so we all just bumble along just doing the bare minimum do we, I find that an insult, why do these people think we have to pay and belong to yet another scheme, to go beyond the bare minimum, well here is a fact for you, WE DON'T, most of us take our responsibility to gas safety very seriously and we do not need to pay someone for another sticker for the van to prove it. 

They say it will not undermine the Gas Safe Register, er Yes it will, if you have some on this new scheme and some not this will cause confusion to the public, they will not understand why there are two schemes.

Another so called benefit "The scheme is NOT mandatory, but there are lots of benefits for installers who want to get involved such as the UKAS accreditation being recognised by both public and private organisations" HaHaHaHaHa, sorry let me pick myself off the floor, the public are aware of UKAS, are they for real, let me let them into a little secret, NO THEY ARE NOT, you ask anyone when you visit their house to carry out gas work if they are aware of UKAS, I am very confident the majority of answers will be "No" the public  barely recognise Gas Safe, some still think its CORGI for crying out loud, so please, can they drop this nonsense that the public are aware of UKAS.

"The scheme is a benchmark for best practice. We can assess an installer’s business and help them find the most efficient way of working.
This can help cut their their costs, improve their gas risk rating, and lead to more work.It’s proof of quality, and can help installers protect their reputation". Reduce their gas risk rating?? what does that mean, what rating is this then, is there something else we are not been told, also what do you mean proof of quality, what makes you think belonging to your scheme proves anyone quality, it does not, we do that ourselves, also I don't need CGCS to protect my reputation, I built my reputation over 34 years in the industry and I protect it by carrying out high quality installations, I don't need CGCS to continue to do this.
"CGCS will reassure customers. As we’re UKAS accredited, it gives them even more peace of mind that their installer works to the highest standards". You really believe this do you, this just proves you do not understand how this industry works, as a sole trader, I and I know many others build a reputation, we get our work through word of mouth, we get recommended by previous customers, we do not get the job based on what accreditation scheme we belong to, the public do not care and are not even aware of accreditations, nor are they likely to ever care, they want an installer who when he visits there home is respectful, gives them all the information they need, instills confidence in their abilities to the customer through how they come across and how they understand the customers particular problem and the solution they present, this is what gets us work, not the fact that I have a certain accreditation or not, they simply do not care about such things.
In summary a reputation is built over many years, through hard work, quality customer relations and keeping up to date with changes in our industry and new technology, but it seems to me that these schemes think you can buy a reputation by paying to be part of their accreditation schemes, well I'm sorry that simply is not how the real world works
I think this scheme is pointless, it is not needed and I fear it is the start of many more pointless schemes, none of which will benefit the public, but they will line someones pockets which in my opinion is what it is all about

Sunday, 4 December 2016

It's Time For Change, Installers Need to Stand Up

I do enjoy my discussions with fellow installers on Twitter, a conversation we had this morning was the rise in popularity of a boiler brand that has been in the UK for many years, but was not widely known, it is a brand I picked up on when the first came to the UK, I went to their manufacturing facility in Holland to receive training, which I was very impressed with as it was far more in depth technically than training I had received in the UK on boilers, I started installing them and was impressed, I also fitted one in my own home.

But what this conversation made me realise is the boiler choice for installers has been manipulated by the manufacturers with the deepest pockets for advertising, the problem I see is customers can now via the internet look for information on boilers themselves, but they will tend to want the one brand that looks the most familiar, one they have seen or heard advertised, the choice is purely brand awareness, now this is exactly what advertisements are meant to do, but for a boiler this is not the best way to choose, also a lot of the people who have joined this industry over the past 10-15 years, have also been drawn into this false sense of security from familiarity of a product, it was the boilers that were given free to the training centres they trained in, the boiler they saw splashed all over the trade magazine they picked up at the merchants, they are not choosing a boiler based on quality and longevity.

This does raise the age old question of what is the best boiler, well there is no definitive answer, each installer will have their own preference, based on their own experience of the boiler, their knowledge of the boiler and the best support they feel they get from the manufacturer/local sales rep, most installers agree on a few brands that are classed as poor, but when it comes to the boiler they prefer to install in a specific property then they tend to have 2 maybe 3 preferred brands, and each application will require the installer to survey and assess the property requirements in conjunction with the customers needs, they will then decide on which boiler best suits the requirements based on sound engineering judgement and calculations, it is not however chosen based on the boiler you saw advertised during the commercial break of Coronation Street, installers are the ones who should specify the brand and type of boiler based on the fact they have the knowledge to make that decision, as they are the skilled tradesperson, not the customer, but installers too must free themselves from been manipulated by marketing and choose boilers based on quality, they need to look further than the main brands that are out there, as I believe some of the best boilers on the market are NOT the big brands everyone knows.

In my opinion it is time installers took back control of OUR industry, for me all these so called trade bodies that we can pay into to be part of them do not really represent installers, they do not share our concerns, they do not listen to our views, they listen to the money, they have become Yes Men, they also just jump on board with the manufacturers who have deep pockets who pay for pages in their trade magazines, write articles based on their own opinions of their products, so the trade bodies then just feed us the crap the  manufacturers want them to feed us.

I really feel it is time for change, I would really like to start up a trade body that truly represents the voice of installers, one that will not be afraid to criticise when it is needed and one that does not simply agree with every silly new or even some of the old outdated regulations that are imposed on this industry, the current trade bodies never seem to challenge regulations, they just go along with everything, well we need a trade body that questions and challenges everything in our industry, but unfortunately these things take money, so if anyone out there would be interested in helping fund a real free trade body, that I know installers would embrace, please get in touch with me, we are the true industry and it is about time we were heard. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Does Our Industry Lack Morals

I am returning to the subject of the Retro Boiler Labels.

We see the term Energy Efficiency used a lot these days, but I think the term is been misused, or misunderstood, it is not been looked at from the most important point, the energy costs to the members of the public, Energy Efficiency seems to be more focused on the Governments unachievable targets on reducing emissions.

The latest Retro Boiler Label is yet another gimmick in my opinion just to increase boiler sales, using the "Energy Efficiency" phrase to try and fool the public, this will be driven by manufacturers and Merchants alike, the latest figures show a drop in boiler sales, so a new tactic had to be found to try and boost sales and its pushed onto installers to acheive it.

The public are not interested in so called Energy Efficiency unless it saves them money on their fuel costs, just having an A Rated boiler fitted does not automatically mean your Gas costs will be reduced, and I think it is very misleading to suggest this to the public, there is more to a heating system than the boiler, there are also other factors that should be looked at first before suggesting changing the boiler to save customers money on their energy bills, instead of pushing the Retro Boiler Label nonsense the HHIC should be promoting good and honest advice, in my opinion the following is what should be promoted to the public before pushing to have a new boiler

1. Get the public more aware about looking at changing their energy suppliers, simply changing your supplier and getting on a better tariff can save quite a large amount of money annually.

2. Raise awareness of insulation, "Keep The Heat In", increasing loft insulation and getting cavity walls insulated is a very cost effective way to reduce on energy consumption.

3. Windows, if a property has single glazed windows, or old poorly installed double glazing this will lead to increased energy costs, I always believe that working to improve the thermal envelope of a building is far more important than having an A Rated boiler, you could fit what you consider the best energy efficient boiler in the world and connect it to the best heating system in the world, but if the thermal envelope of the building is poor and heat loss is high, then running costs of the heating system will be much higher than they should be and make the installation of an A Rated boiler pointless.

4. Upgrading heating controls, simply fitting new heating controls that are more accurate and more user friendly will help reduce running costs, I go to quite a few properties where the time clock no longer works and so the user has the heating on constant just using the old room thermostat to control the system, a room stat that probably is quite out of calibration on its room temperature reading capability

5. Make the public more aware of the importance of having their boiler serviced annually and as an industry we need to encompass the whole system as part of annual servicing, check water quality, expansion vessel pre-charge pressure, on systems that you are servicing for the first time check that the expansion vessel is sized sufficiently for the system, bleed radiators, checking for possible causes of any suspected oxygen ingress, check that the radiators are balanced and that any TRV's are functioning correctly

Personally I would never replace a working boiler in the name of "Energy Efficiency" because I do not believe it is an efficient use of the homeowners money, simply saying that an old but working boiler is costing them money in energy use and then saying they should pay out in the region of £2,000.00 and upwards as a means to save money makes no sense to me.

So to me this Retro Boiler Label is a pointless gimmick and one I will ignore, I think Paul Ferguson on Twitter summed it up very well when he Tweeted "Good engineers will advise when a boiler has reached the end of its working life, Cowboys find opportunities" well in my opinion the Retro Boiler Label been promoted by HHIC is an opportunity for the cowboys to replace boilers unnecessarily, but will the manufacturers and merchants care, I doubt it, as they will be selling boilers

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Introducing the Retro Boiler Label, More nonsense

I am seeing the hashtag #RetroBoilerLabel been thrown around on Social Media, the likes of HHIC supporting it, I'm sorry in my opinion this is just more poorly thought out nonsense and who exactly is this aimed at helping, no one as far as I can see apart from the boiler manufacturers who would be looking at selling more boilers.

If someone can't afford to heat their home then they are in fuel poverty and should get assistance to make their bills more affordable, there are some schemes around that are supposed to do this, but from what I hear these schemes don't always get the target fuel poverty people.

This latest nonsense, Retro Boiler label, is expecting service engineers to label old boilers they service or attend to fix a breakdown with the A-G label, classifying the boiler, E,F or G.WHY? if the boiler is working and the customer can afford the bills whats the problem..... I will tell you the problem, there has been a drop in boiler sales, so what do they do, they come up with stupid schemes like this to try and increase boiler sales, they want us as service engineers to try and shame people into having a new boiler, by labelling their boilers as old and out of date, what next, are we going to start putting a big red X on their front doors like they did during the black plague.

I have an idea for you, if you want to increase your boiler sales, how about you as manufacturers put your hands in YOUR pockets and stop trying to use installers and making us look the bad guys, why don't you start cutting the price of your boilers instead of always putting them up, how about taking a little less profit, what about offering a discount to the homeowner for using your boiler rather then a rivals, boiler manufacturers should compete more with each other, there are many better ways to increase your sales rather than trying to shame people to buy a new boiler.

I am personally of the opinion if a boiler is working no matter how old then its efficient, yes if its constantly breaking down and costing money to keep repairing it, then yes, probably cheaper to replace in the long run, but simply telling people they should replace a working boiler just because its old and is maybe a G rated appliance, so what, its still efficient as its working, bought and paid for and you only pay for the gas, but we are supposed to fool people into thinking they are better off spending in excess of £2,000.00 to have a new boiler fitted, to maybe save £100 a year in gas and this is just an estimate, well now they have to repay or re-save £2k and whereas before they were only paying for gas, so if you take this figure of £100 saving on gas a year it will take 10 years just to be back to square 1 and by then going by modern boiler standards they may require a new boiler, I have come across boilers still working well after 40 years, why would I tell them to replace it just because it may now be classified as G rated.

If we truly want to reduce peoples running costs then we need some real honest schemes out there, we need peoples properties surveyed and honest advice given, not lets just get the best commission from this property, as far as I see it, the MOST important factor in any property to saving energy is insulation, KEEP THE HEAT IN, this should always be the starting point, there is absolutely no point in fitting a new boiler in the name of increasing efficiency if the property has a high heat loss, the same can be said for the heat emitters, if these are blocked or just poor performing sticking a new boiler on the end will not do much for the efficiency, we need to stop this nonsense of always targeting the boiler first as the cause of high fuel costs, there are many more things that should be addressed first, including checking what tariff people are on, adding insulation and changing energy supplier could be more than enough to reduce their bills significantly, so lets stop with the nonsense to generate more boiler sales for the manufacturers and merchants.

I think this Retro Boiler Label will go the same way as the Zombie Boiler nonsense and the ErP label, it will be ignored by most good quality installers who see it for what it is, a promotion to increase boiler sales

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Merchants Are They a Thing of the Past

In the last few weeks I have seen lots of mentions about merchants closing down branches, Plumb Center, Plumbase and Travis Perkins Group, are they a thing of the past.

I personally now mostly buy materials online, I can have them delivered direct to site, I can sit at my computer and go through and pick the items I need, choose delivery address and options for early delivery time (at a premium) I make payment job done, I usually do this once at home, compare this to queuing in a merchant, not enough staff, even when you eventually get served its by someone who does not have a clue what you are asking for and has to go to someone else in the merchant to ask and often after a long wait they do not have what you need, many hours a week could be lost in a merchants. The downside to online suppliers is the public can buy the goods at the same price we can, so we have lost the ability to make a profit on materials.

I think merchants starting going downhill a quite few years ago, staff became very poor at their job and were poorly trained, what caused this decline. I think merchants were slow to adapt to a changing world, the likes of Screwfix took the right option, early opening, usually before any merchants, they are open until 8pm, much later than most merchants and you can order online and you get a text when your items are ready, you can simply walk in and collect your goods and just have a PIN verification, some Screwfix branches are now open 24hrs, something merchants seemed reluctant to do, I know some of the online merchants are owned by the big merchants.

but are we going to see the end of local walk in branches and the question is do we think this is a good or a bad thing and would it bother you either way.