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Chris Jones looks at whether a new survey will help represent the views of the heating industry

With product reviews and brochures easily accessible via a few clicks of a keyboard, it’s not surprising that most consumers are prepared to undertake a bit of research before making any major purchase, whether it’s splashing out on a new television, shopping for kitchen appliances or deciding where to go on holiday.

When it comes to investing in a heating system upgrade perhaps there are not quite as many people who are willing to do their homework, but most installers would no doubt have come across the occasional customer who insists that a couple of hours on the internet has given them a better insight than the professional they’ve employed to carry out the proposed installation.

The survey will provide a better understanding of the views of the installers

Chris Jones PHAM News Chris Jones Editor of PHAM News

‘I wouldn’t do that’

However, a little knowledge can often be more dangerous than none.

While project discussions might well prove a test of the installer’s diplomacy skills, professional pride will probably limit his or her willingness to ultimately defer to the client’s views.

So even if the customer has settled on a particular brand, a few negative comments and a shake of the head from the installer can be enough to encourage an entirely different purchasing decision.

Talk to the front line

The influence of installers is widely acknowledged by manufacturers but has often been underestimated by policymakers in Westminster who have found it easier to seek the advice of utility companies and larger corporations when drawing up schemes for the domestic heating sector.

The Coalition Government’s much cherished Green Deal was never likely to gain much traction without the support of those who are interacting with households on a regular basis.

While some installers embraced the opportunity to promote themselves as experts in green technologies and more environmentally friendly solutions, there were many more who were not persuaded that re-training and a shift away from traditional forms of heating would prove a good return on investment for either them or their customers.

Differing opinions

To be fair, though, it has to be acknowledged that it’s not easy to open up a dialogue with a disparate group of installation businesses, many of which are sole traders with different skill levels, ambitions and opinions.

Various trade associations may lay claim to voicing the views of their members, but they represent just a sample of the industry – and a sizeable number of installers, whether because of time, money or lack of interest have chosen to remain outside and independent from such organisations.

In recent years we’ve also seen the rise of the ‘celebrity installer’, characters with an impressive following on social media who help to stimulate debate amongst their peers and provide another outlet for the views of those working on the front line.

The strength of their profiles and widening influence have meant that a growing number of companies have looked to cultivate them for promotional purposes, but whether their views and opinions can be said to accurately reflect those of their fellow professionals will always be open to question.

After all, ask 10 installers the same question and you’re likely to get 10 different answers.

Your views sought

Perhaps with this in mind and in recognition of previous oversights, the Department of Business, Energy and Industry Strategy (BEIS) is currently inviting heating engineers to take part in a survey with the goal of getting a better picture of how prepared installers are to help the government meet its commitment to reduce carbon emission levels.

Installers are being asked their views on various technologies, training, accreditation and industry standards, thereby highlighting some of the challenges they are likely to face in the transition to low carbon heating.

It is hoped that the survey will attract enough participants to provide our decision makers with a better understanding of the views of the installation community, but the conclusions drawn from the data gathered should make even more interesting reading.

Chris Jones is editor of PHAM News