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The ErP Directive, through its various iterations since 2009, not only places high demands on the efficiency levels of a wide range of heating products, and especially hot water storage in our homes, but also on installers to communicate the benefits of greater energy efficiency to their customers. If the target to reduce energy use by 20% by 2020 is remotely realistic, not only has product design got to be improved in such areas as switching, power consumption and motor technology, but consumer behaviour has got to change in terms of everyday usage. The role of the installer in educating customers on the latest technology, appropriate system specification and affordability has never been more important.
In reality, fuel cost is only part of a wider conversation about energy management, comfort control and technology awareness. The ongoing professional relationship between installer and consumer is critical to winning the battle for energy efficiency, if we see the task of reducing energy consumption as purely a conversation based on cost, we are missing a trick. Money is, of course, a key motivator but people are more likely to change long-standing habits, if they better understand better how energy is used and what options exist to reduce this. In this context, energy labelling is not an end in itself, but a means to move the conversation to address the more significant issues such as hot water use and homeowners understanding of their heating controls.
It boils down to an evolving role of the installer into an energy management consultant rather than just a heating engineer. Areas such as compliance, eco-design, life cycle analysis and efficiency paybacks now need to be part of the installer’s armoury in order to gain customers’ trust.
With 60% of consumers expected to plan their next heating and hot water upgrade the market is changing and no longer a case of waiting for the existing system to break down (source: Delta Energy). The mounting evidence that boilers, hot water cylinders and controls are becoming a planned purchase rather than distress purchase has huge implications for the installer community.
This puts technical support and sales tools into much sharper focus. As both re-seller and brand ambassador, the modern installer requires absolute confidence not only in the product he or she recommends but also the service support and marketing materials at his or her disposal. The old chestnut of learning at the expense of earning no longer applies. With online training, social media, video and webinar formats all emerging as time efficient, commonly used and effective communication channels for the trade. From product installation tips and service reminders to warranty registration and ErP label generation, a raft of online tools is transforming the working lives of installers who are instinctively gravitating towards digital solutions for instant problem solving and upskilling.
In the ‘connected’ world of Google, Youtube, Facebook and FaceTime it has never been more important for manufacturers and installers to develop an online partnerships, helping them to educate and advise UK homeowners on how to manage their energy use that not only keeps costs down but also raises up standards of comfort, not to mention fulfilling an environmental responsibility as well.
So, a big responsibility sits with manufacturers and industry bodies to do all they can to make installers’ jobs as easy as possible. Equally, installers have to move forward and embrace change themselves. There will be winners and losers as legislation and product development take the industry into unchartered waters. A different customer is emerging who requires much more than the traditional ‘fit and forget’ mentality when it comes to home heating solutions, particularly with regard to pre-sales advice, and a longer term customer relationships is required.