Are you having problems with your heating?
Posted by: Vincent Wilkins: 10/04/2013
Cowboys and Heating Engineers
It can be a bit like the Wild West in the construction and heating industry. It never ceases to amaze me the standards of work I come across on an almost daily basis, it really is truly shocking.
Only this week I visited a couple who had spent in the region of £30,000 on various heating and plumbing works only to be left with numerous problems and basically standards of workmanship that have to been seen to be believed. I was called in to help after a local Architect called me as the planning department would not pass the work off which was no surprise from what I saw.
What’s more the Heating Engineer, though I use this this term loosely, had also lied about his credentials assuring the couple he was HETAS registered when in fact he wasn't. I'm gutted when I come across cases like this, so I can only imagine how this couple must feel now they have to dip further into their pocket to put their heating system right.
So a lesson to be learnt here for anyone reading this, insist on seeing those all important ID cards. Check the companies or individuals out on the relevant organisations web sites like Gas safe, HETAS, Oftec and MCS. It could cost you dearly if you don’t so do your home work before spending your hard earned cash.
Engineer v's Plumber
Another example where another Derby couple had to call me in to rectify the many problems they were left with when another rogue trader who simply wasn't up to the job took their cash and stopped answering their calls.
Clearly from the abomination he left behind he should have stuck to the basics like fitting toilets and taps and left the more complex stuff up to the experts. No doubt he’s still out there lurking on the internet or yellow pages, so be aware.
Here is what Mr & Mrs Richardson had to say:
We had a solar system fitted incorrectly by a rogue trader. Our solar panel and storage tank didn't work properly. Had the wrong advice regarding boiler stove link up. Vincent immediately identified the problem and re-installed the appliances so that they worked perfectly. Attention to detail, knowledge of renewable energy products and how they work, outstanding workmanship and after sales care.
We are over the moon, our stove heats our whole home and is easy to operate. Our bills have reduced dramatically. Our system operates like a dream. No other company had the knowledge to bring together Gas, Solar and wood burning stove in one system.
Trouble shooting for the big boys
Even the big companies are getting fleeced. I was recently called in to rectify problems on a commercial solar heating company at a major rail company in Derby. The system had been in for a number of years. I know because I was asked to quote for the job and lost out to another, no doubt, bigger company.
Consequently they have gone bust which is hardly surprising judging on what I saw. The system had been oversized and badly designed considering the amount of water it was heating. Nine square metres of solar panel were installed which was three times the amount of collector than was necessary for the amount of water it was heating.
The heat transfer medium (antifreeze) had changed state from fluid to solid in the collector and pipe work. Initially I did not think it was salvageable, but as I'm not the type to give up without a fight, I set about it. It took an aggressive solvent based cleaner but after many hours on the job, the pipe work was eventually cleaned. The 9m of collector was replaced with 3m and they now have a solar system that finally works like a dream.
How to find a great heating engineer
So what can you do to ensure you don’t end up in the same situation as these unfortunate home and business owners?
Ensure that the Heating Engineer you choose has plenty of experience, relevant qualifications and accreditations as you'll want to be totally sure your heating engineer is up to the job and has more than a vague idea especially with a more complex multi source heating system. You'll also want a written quote, T&C's and workmanship warranties.
Not every heating engineer is out to fleece you but its wise to do your homework before hand as nobody wants to have to pay to have a job done twice. If ultimately you are simply looking for the very cheapest then don't expect the best. Generally a good engineer who has been working in the industry for years knows his worth and probably wont be nailed down on price in order to compete with someone fresh out of college.
The fact is most would rather walk away than compromise on quality and standards. My blog post on How to find a great Heating Engineer offers many useful tips or you can download or request a copy of our heating guide which contains some useful information about choosing an installer.