THOUSANDS of new gas boilers are doomed to failure each year because they’re simply not being fitted properly, according to leading Merseyside experts
Steve Watson is a gas manager with national boiler installation firm STL Heating & Energy, headquartered on School Lane, Knowsley.
And he’s calling for new industry regulations to ensure that when all new boilers are fitted, the central heating system is also ‘flushed’ of impurities to stop it breaking within ‘weeks’.
Mr Watson, who has 38 years’ experience in the Industry, says countless consumers are getting a ‘raw deal’ from a situation he describes as ‘ruthless’.
He explains: “We see many instances where boilers have been installed with a ‘fit and forget’ attitude.
“The biggest concern for us is that we’re seeing more and more cases where heating systems haven’t been flushed before a new boiler is installed, or in hard water areas where descaling is common, a lime scale reducer is not fitted by default on the cold water supply.
“All the black sludge already in the system - iron oxide filings - just sit there waiting to cause damage to the next boiler.
“It’s like servicing your car without changing the oil - complete madness.
“The customer often doesn’t know what’s been done or what hasn’t - it’s not something you can visually see.
“A newly installed ‘A’-rated boiler only has a 7-15 year lifespan, but it can have a much shorter lifespan as the sludge ends up acting like concrete, blocking the heat exchanger.
“We’ve seen cases where a new boiler has suffered complete failure because of existing sludge within a matter of weeks.
“The energy savings a customer is looking to make through a new, more efficient boiler are rendered utterly redundant when they have to shell-out for replacements or repairs.
“It’s our view that a customer could be better protected.”
As it currently stands, anyone who installs a new gas boiler needs to be Gas Safe Registered in order that they can certify their own work and comply with Building Regulations.
But there are no mandatory, hard and fast rules even an approved Installer must follow - just ‘guidelines’ set out in an approved Government document.
That, says Mr Watson, is creating a ‘scary’ environment where dangerous and substandard work is thriving.
He states: “There are around 1.2 million boilers fitted each year in the UK to private homes and around 90 per cent of those are installed by your independent, sole-trader, man in a van.
“There’s nothing inherently wrong in that, except that there are no statutory rules governing installers, other than the Gas Safe Register.
“How they install a boiler is governed instead by a code of practice that the Government hopes installers will abide by.
“From some of the work we see, and then rectify, the system clearly isn’t working.
“At one end of the spectrum you see poorly-installed boilers doomed to a short lifespan, hitting the consumer in the wallet.
“At the other, scarier, end we see installations that are downright dangerous, with leaking flues or some that have not been fitted to manufacturers instructions
“We’re calling for tougher regulations to protect the industry as a whole.”
Mr Watson and STL Heating have looked to implement their own procedures when it comes to boiler installation.
Each employee or sub-contractor they use to carry out an installation must go on a detailed induction course, in which STL’s rules are laid down, and they also must have 10 years’ experience in order to be considered for the company position.
Building Regulations state that a gas boiler must be at least 86% efficient, and an oil boiler must be 85%.
That means any replacement boiler must typically be a condensing boiler with an A or B efficiency rating.
Oil and solid fuel boiler installers, meanwhile, must be registered with a Competent Person Scheme.
But Mr Watson says the current regulations don’t protect the consumer from being landed with a boiler that’s not suited to their very specific, individual needs.
He adds: “Will a customer’s new boiler work better than their old one, or will they end up getting handed a raw deal? That’s the question to ask.
“A customer will sometimes have selected a product based on what deals and offers are currently on display at the local trades depot.
“It’s sometimes about the lure of an incentive for the installer, not always about what’s best for the customer. In our eyes, that’s scandalous and we’d urge customers to become more educated about the potential pitfalls.
“A lack of annual servicing will cause any warranties to be nullified but the public are not often aware of this.
“We encourage our customers to do lots of research and to be informed before they make a decision but tougher regulations would definitely help.”
The Heating and Hot water Industry Council say they help to oversee the industry in general and run a ‘Benchmark’ scheme of approved installers.
Their website states: “Benchmark is the nationally-recognised Scheme that places responsibilities on both manufacturers and installers to ensure best practice in the installation, commissioning and servicing of domestic heating and hot water products in line with Building Regulations in England and Wales.
“It is managed and promoted by the Heating and Hot water Industry Council (HHIC)."
"Failing to remove black sludge from the central heating system is like servicing your car without changing the oil - complete madness"
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