Light commercial businesses need to spend to save

Light commercial heating applications can be challenging when dealing with small business restraints and legislative requirements. In this article, Richard Harvey, Category Director for Heating at Plumb, Parts and Drain Center, highlights the most common issues in light commercial heating installations and how to overcome them. 

With further updates to energy efficient legislation pending, light commercial businesses will be looking to their installer to offer advice and guidance on their heating and hot water installations and maintenance strategies. This is a great area for installers to grow their business, being seen as a trusted partner ensuring your customer’s business is up to date with legal requirements and business best practice.

What you need to know about upcoming legislation?
In April next year energy efficiency regulations in buildings are going to change. As a result, there’s a huge number of boilers and hot water systems that won’t be allowed to be repaired on a like for like basis. This means longer installation times and longer downtime. It is therefore important for installers to be talking to their customers about these changes and how they might be affected.

Overcoming legislative changes
One of the key challenges for commercial heating installers will be explaining to those businesses that want to avoid spending on a new heating system that you have to spend to save. Many will want to sweat their asset into the ground, and this is particularly common for smaller businesses. However, they’re putting themselves at higher risk of costly breakdowns.

Boilers need to be maintained in line with manufacturer’s recommendations and if the installer knows that a product is coming to the end of its lifecycle, then components are going to become scarcer in future. This could mean they could end up in a situation where their boiler breaks down but the parts have been discontinued and an alternative needs to be sourced, further adding to business downtime.

The race against downtime
Having a fully functioning and serviceable heating system is often taken for granted but in the case of many other commercial premises it is absolutely essential to the smooth running the business, especially in the colder winter months.

For the installer working on commercial projects, unlike domestic installers there is the added pressure of avoiding business downtime. Stringent health & safety regulations and profitability sit at the centre of every commercial project and the supply chain needs to operate even more efficiently in order to a) protect people’s health, b) retain business, and c) protect reputation.

For example, there is a very short timeframe where a restaurant or pub can function without running hot water in its kitchen before violating health & safety regulations, and likewise for care homes with no heating to keep their elderly residents warm. And these are just a couple of examples; similar regulations apply to hotels, offices and any other workplaces.

But aside from the rules and regulations, the resulting effect of displeasing the end user can have the biggest impact on a business. The knock-on effects from websites like Trip Advisor and social media recommendations can result in instant loss of business. If you read that a restaurant has continued to operate with no heating or functioning kitchen, it instantly invokes a negative reaction, and with fierce competition across the commercial market it’s just as easy for a consumer to take their custom elsewhere.

Overcoming tight timeframes
In order to avoid the above, installers always need to be thinking ahead when installing or maintaining new boilers or hot water systems. Longevity of warranties, guarantees, product lifecycle and availability of spare parts are all critical components in keeping commercial premises all running.

Smaller businesses can learn from some of the bigger chains that are already acting more proactively. For example we work with a number of pub and hotel chains that are asset registering in order to determine what state their estate is in and which products are coming to the end of their lifecycles in order to avoid risk of equipment failure in future as well as improve efficiency levels.

Generally, we are seeing few smaller commercial businesses take a forward looking view of their heating systems and urge commercial heating contractors to help them understand the future implications if they don’t address any issues now.

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