46 HPM 0413

HPM April 2013

What is your reaction to the news that 17 solar companies are planning to sue the government for £140 million because of its handling of the photovoltaic (PV) Feed-in Tariff (FiT) cuts? JW: If PV worked as it is, then it wouldn’t need to be subsidised, it would pay for itself. Those companies who are going to sue are likely to have made their money already so in my view they’re just trying to get what they can out of it. PC: If there were contracts involved then fair enough – it’s their right to sue. ST: The government changed the deal without any consultation which is the first issue. The second thing is that we’re constantly pushing ‘green’ in the UK and other countries don’t seem to be, so even customers are getting annoyed with it. There’s no appetite for it. PC: I think things have to change as prices change, including things like the FIT - you have to reassess what you do otherwise you’re going to be massively out of pocket. Energy prices have shot up so the government is going to have to reassess things every few years. I don’t think it’s wrong to test and adjust its approach but it’s still got to be worthwhile and in the interest of the customer. ST: Customers think that regardless of whether they invest in new technology, the energy companies will just push energy prices up anyway. If they get told that this new renewables kit is going to save them a fortune but then energy prices go up, people will wonder why they should adopt renewables in the first place. The Green Deal is now live. How do you rate the government’s handling over the launch of the scheme and are you intending to get involved yourself? JW: No one knows what it really is. At least, customers haven’t got a clue - they may have heard the term Green Deal but they don’t know what it actually is or how it affects them. DW: None of it’s been communicated well so people don’t understand the Green Deal. There are other things that I need to concentrate on as an installer. Besides, you can’t trust that the government won’t change its mind and reinvent it all in a couple of years anyway. AH: I don’t know much about it and none of my customers know about it. ST: Any government that gets in will just change what the previous government did so there’s an element of why bother. MA: Who knows what’s going to happen a couple of years down the line. The government might pull out. There’s a lack of trust in the Green Deal from customers. That could change but not if people don’t know about the detail and what’s in it for them. SJ: One of my customers asked for a new flue under the Green Deal and thought they’d just be given money. People don’t understand how it works. JW: Most customers don’t understand that it’s a loan which is attached to their home. Others think it’s more beneficial to steer clear. Either Jamie Watts Phil Cooper Spencer James Stephen Lewis way, the fact is, if you don’t have the right levels of insulation then it’s unlikely to be worthwhile. DW: It might work for the eco-type new-build housing but there’s no way most of the homes in this country are going to get anywhere near as insulated as they need to be for the Green Deal. SL: It’s a long-term loan and the fact is 90% of homes won’t get anywhere near the savings required. The UK boiler market is still suffering – sales are down by 2.2% on the previous year. Is this affecting your work and if yes, in what way? All: Yes. SJ: Big yes. JW: The majority of people are choosing to fix their boilers rather than get a new one because even though it’s more economical in the long-term to get a new one, they can’t afford the £2-3k. Most people don’t care what happens to WWW.HPMMAG.COM their boiler in two or three years’ time because they haven’t got a choice – so they make do. It’s changing our work environment, certainly. Decreasing new-build sites means that installers from those developments are moving over to domestic installations. This has impacted on wages overall and the quality of work has gone down dramatically. The fact is, if most customers get a quote for £3k for a job that’s being done properly, compared with a quote for £2k, most will go for the cheapest option. The cheaper installer will do the minimum and walk away so there’s no accountability long-term and it’s hard to stop. Then you’ve costs for the customer further down the line when it all goes wrong. DW: It’s not necessarily that most installers will do a bad job but the site boys might go around trying to do the fault-finding. At that point it’s a much more competitive market and domestic installers will end up dropping their prices. Boys from site will go in and fix the boiler but you won’t see them again whereas people like us, will do a good job because we’re keen to go back to provide servicing year on year. SL: There’s no doubt that we’re spending more time repairing than on big jobs. JW: I think there’s a big difference between installing boilers in new-build and existing properties. If our company doesn’t do a good job, we’re still going to be around hopefully, four or five years down the line, so it’s in our interest to do a good job. Whereas for new-build installers there’s a question of volume and speed, that’s how they approach things. To them it’s better to return to do a powerflush for a couple of hours and fit two or three jobs a week, than to do the day’s-worth they’re supposed to and fit in one job per week. Particularly so if they aren’t planning to be in the domestic market for the foreseeable future they’ll try to get as much as they can from it. It’s a different mentality. As a customer you’re not going to know or care – as long as the price is right and it looks nice for now that’s all you’ll know. MA: It’s true. Many customers are only interested in the cheapest job and there are a few installers out there who will oblige but for a lot less reliability. DM: Ultimately though, you get what you pay for. How is 2013 shaping up for you? Are you confident that there will be plenty of work out there in the month’s ahead? JW: I’m fairly confident. PC, DW: I’m hopeful. JW: I think we’ve just started to turn a corner. Peoples’ mentality is that they perceive us to be getting out of the recession. That may not be the case but there are a handful of our customers who are still inclined to spend a bit more money. The warrantee is very attractive to a lot of customers because it’s a weight off their mind and they know it’s all taken care of. ST: Some manufacturers could offer a 40 year guarantee, it still wouldn’t make any difference. enquiry number 133 HEATING & PLUMBING MONTHLY APRIL 2013 45


HPM April 2013
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