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Daniel Cheung, UK Trade Marketing Manager at Sentinel, discusses the dangers of skipping system cleaning and explains how installers can promote the benefits of powerflushing to more customers – protecting both themselves and the homeowner’s interests.
For even the most experienced heating installers, power-flushing can be a hard sell. After all, it not only costs the customer money but the process also takes hours. Furthermore, the homeowner might have heard that powerflushes cause leaks. However, as any professional installer will know, system cleaning is a critical part of the water treatment process, and skipping it can be detrimental for the heating system, homeowner and installer. More importantly, system cleaning offers excellent immediate and long term benefits that far outweigh any initial cost, time or inconvenience to the homeowner, and is well worth the investment.
While it makes sense to include powerflushing as part of a new boiler installation package, the reality of a highly competitive market means that many installers offer the service as an optional extra. After all, there are many unscrupulous installers willing to forgo good water treatment practice in order to provide the cheapest quote – perhaps even telling the customer that it is unnecessary to try and discredit professional installers. Of course, if powerflushing is optional, there is always a risk that the customer won’t take it – and that can be very bad news for the installer.
How so? Well, if a heating system isn’t cleaned before a new boiler is fitted, the circulating water will contain harmful contaminants. In older systems, the circulating water (unless properly cleaned, protected and regularly maintained with boiler manufacturer approved chemicals) will contain iron oxide sludge, installation residues and other debris. Even brand new heating systems must be cleaned before fitting a new boiler in order to remove installation debris, greases and flux residues.
Needless to say, all such contaminants are harmful to the boiler and heating system components, such as pumps and seals, causing corrosion, system blockages, cold spots in radiators, noise (‘kettling’ from limescale accumulation), leaks, and wear and tear on parts – for example, pumps will have to work harder in order to circulate dirty water. In addition, contaminated system water means that any subsequently dosed inhibitor may be prevented from working properly, so protection is greatly weakened. As a result, the heating system will experience reduced energy efficiency, poor performance, and most likely, premature repairs and breakdown.
In short, failure to perform system cleaning as part of a new boiler installation can lead to higher than expected heating bills, excessive system noise, or a refusal from the boiler manufacturer to honour the warranty in cases of breakdown or repair. What’s more, it is likely that the installer will be held accountable, or at the very least find themselves dealing with unnecessary call backs, angry customers, fewer referrals and a tarnished reputation.
On the other hand, carrying out a thorough system clean benefits both the homeowner and the installer. For instance, cleaning a dirty heating system is estimated to save a homeowner up to £124 annually. Assuming that a powerflush costs roughly the same price, this means that the service will pay for itself within just one year, after which the homeowner continues to save money.
In addition, a system clean will help to optimise the energy efficiency of the new boiler (Gastec says that the absence of correct water treatment can reduce system effectiveness by typically 15%), so household heating bills should be lower – another money-saving tick in the homeowner’s box.
System cleaning is clearly advantageous all round, but how can this be communicated to homeowners, most of whom know so little, if anything, about system protection? By focusing on a few simple points around the importance and benefits of powerflushing, and talking to customers in a clear and professional way, any installer can successfully promote powerflushing. This may sound obvious, but few installers take the time to do it, meaning those who do are likely to stand out head and shoulders above less astute competitors.
To help homeowners understand the importance of powerflushing, it is necessary to explain about contaminants, limescale deposits, corrosion, and debris in system water, but it is a good idea to keep this brief. Instead, focus on the symptoms of poor water treatment practice, since most homeowners, if not all, will have experienced radiator cold spots, banging or hissing noises, and poor system performance at one time or another.
If the customer is concerned about the powerflush causing leaks, be sure to explain that leaks are usually caused by corrosion, which is a symptom of dirty system water, so failure to clean the system will only delay, rather than prevent, a leak. Of course, if the system is very old and appears to be in poor condition, it is wise to inform the customer and perhaps provide an estimate for replacing radiators. After all, even if the customer does not opt for a system clean, blame cannot be apportioned to the installer should a leak occur, and most homeowners will appreciate such an honest approach.
Remember to point out the aforementioned cost, efficiency and warranty benefits of powerflushing. If remembering such points is likely to prove difficult, prepare a document to give to the homeowner – this could even include the paragraph in the UK Building Services Compliance Guide to Part L on the requirement for system cleaning – or better yet, our own ‘Homeowner’s guide to a healthy heating system’.