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Quality issues within the Scottish / British wood heating industry

Quality issues within the Scottish / British wood heating industry
2
Jul

Quality issues within the Scottish wood heating industry, wood burning stoves and pellet , chip and log biomass boilers

As a business Gondwana has been in wood heating industry for over 12 years now, with in house experience of all wood fired heating systems from the humble cast iron or steel stoves to masonry heaters to pellet and chip boilers, not to mention pellet stoves and all those boiler stoves.

With the wood burning stove industry very much in vogue and with no major signs of a decline. We have seen a increase in show rooms and vans zooming around the county advertising there wood burning credentials, most with no or minimal qualifications or experience (we even have double glazing companies and cavity wall installers selling and installing stoves and biomass boilers) what went so wrong?

That’s not to say in Scotland at least that qualifications and experience are required, with no self certification schemes accepted or valued by the Scottish government this leaves a more amateur industry not really regulated which leave home owners open to potentially dangerous installations.

That’s not to say that the industry is completely ignored by the Scottish government, some councils are more interested in wood burning stoves and boilers than others, you will often get different information from persons in your local building control department, which we find very frustrating and disappointing. It’s also worth noting that a install overseen by a building control officer is not necessarily safe or meets building standards. A building control officer is more jack of all trades with no real experience out side the classroom, they often do not fully understanding sometimes the ins and outs of the industry.

How to improve the solid fuel industry

The only way to improve the solid fuel industry ( as we see it ) is through proper self certification either through the existing hetas scheme or another. Hetas works in a similar way in England as gas safe throughout the Uk, its the way you register new installations with the organisation who then notifies building control in your area, in reality what this does is give the local authority someone to blame should anything go wrong.

While there is no reason why a company can’t be hetas registered in Scotland it has no legal bearing and generally has no weight with building control.  But things are changing, as building control offices are become aware aware of the knowledge short falls, they are asking for hetas certificates and or spillage test certificates, this will negate blame away from themselves should there be a safety issue.  

It is worth noting that we are Hetas trained and registered and receive substantial business through membership as well as semi technical training and backup.  Thats not to say we are fans of Hetas as we have been let down and disappointed by hetas’s professionalism  continually over the years . 

The renewable heating industry has seen massive interest in the past 7 years with company’s popping up and disappearing just as quickly, the biomass industry ( pellet / chip and log boilers) have seen massive interest recently due to the RHI making biomass  potentially a very good financial deal for home owners, and for commercial installs a no brainer due to the financial incentives.

Along with the RHI came with it a scheme called MCS and RECC, MCS and RECC (Renewable Energy Consumer Code) is concerned with looking after the customers rights, sounds like a great idea ?

However somewhere along the road it simply got bogged down with paperwork rather than simply ensuring customers got good quality safe installs. Still to this day the worst and most dangerous installs you will see are by companies with MCS certification, because it is so paper obsessed instead of technical knowledge/experience led it allows company’s with no real experience to enter the industry, however they will be able to file awfully well.

Things to look for in a good wood heating company in Scotland
  1. Somebody’s recommends them.
  2. They don’t have sales staff, just engineers.
  3. Are they a large company , bigger the company the worse the service (generally).
  4. Hetas registered , while not mandatory in Scotland it shows commitment and understanding to wood fulled heating 5 MCS RECC, ensures a ability to file. If you are wanting a system fitted with the view to government funding or under RHI etc this is essential . If looking for MCS contractors try and find one who is also hetas registered too, this should ensure a practical understanding to biomass.
  5. The company has been around a wee while.
  6. The company has real installs for you too look at and more importantly talk with there old customers.
Companies to avoid for your wood heating project in Scotland
  1. Everybody says they are rubbish.
  2. They have sales staff who have no experience of the industry.
  3. They are a large company.
  4. They subcontract the physical part of the job out. This is becoming the next big thing, teams of office staff getting the work , processing the grant mcs etc , collecting the money, close the company down every few years to avoid warranty claims.
  5. They have a large fancy showroom with sales staff and a in house architect. Woooo fancy…
  6. There showroom sells double glazing, does flat roof coatings etc
  7. You had a phone call or a flyer through the door pushing there company.
  8. MCS certification without hetas certification.