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It used to be the case that one shower was like any other, but technological advances have made this market sector a bit more challenging when it comes to specification and repair. Assistant editor Carol Hitchcock visited Triton’s installer training course to find out what it has to offer.
When you fit a shower, do you understand what is happening behind the casing to deliver an as-expected performance? Is it easy to diagnose problems when you’re called out to a customer’s home? Are you confident with electric showers? If you answered no to any of these questions, you might find it useful to sit in on one of Triton’s courses. Not many shower manufacturers offer training, but Triton recognises that there are some who would like to know more about their shower installations to build their confidence.
I recently joined a two-day course that covered electric showers on the first day and mixer and power showers on the second (you can take the one or the other, but it’s worth staying for both – either way, it’s free). The 13 installers in attendance were not there to learn how to fit a shower – they already know how to do that. Instead, their purpose was to get a greater understanding of the range of technologies so they can provide a better service to their customers and be able to quickly diagnose faults when they are called out to resolve an issue.
Steve Saunders, Senior Technical Manager, is responsible for leading Triton’s training. An experienced plumbing and heating engineer, Steve brings decades of experience that helps us easily understand both the workings of showers as well as the pitfalls to look out for and the professional tricks that will ensure a happy customer.
Steve runs his courses with a minimum of Power Point slides and plenty of example parts and products to get your hands on. The day includes both theory and practical, and throughout he encourages questions and lively discussion among the students.
Steve described the installers on the course I attended as having years of experience. He told me: “They may be fitting boilers and plumbing systems proficiently, but some will have learned shower installation by trial and error, learning on the job as they went along. There isn’t a great deal of knowledge provided at the college level, so this course will give them a better appreciation of the variety of showers on the market. Many are here because they have gone out to repair a shower and couldn’t find the problem. That can lead to replacing a shower that still has years of life left in it.”
Steve begins day one with an overview of how electric showers work – there’s more going on in them than you might think. We break down all the components inside and get an insight into the features of operation from a user’s point of view. In essence, we find out about the controls and what they are supposed to do from the front, and equally what’s going on inside the box.
“Once they understand how it works,” explains Steve, “we make sure they know how to get the pressure and flow rates right, and that is where most of them tend to be unfamiliar. They fit a lot of showers but many have never thought about pressure and flow, and how to test them. There are times a shower goes in and it doesn’t work from day one for these reasons. That’s why it’s important to be well versed in this area of knowledge.”
Steve also shows us how to diagnose an electric shower using a test meter. Many of the installers on the course were looking for a better understanding of this process in particular. Testing electrical components is a good way to know if you just need a new part or whether it’s a better idea (and cheaper) to replace it completely. Sometimes the problem may be as simple as a blocked filter, or absolutely nothing related to the shower itself, such as poor water pressure.
Steve covers the whole gamut of how electric showers work so we will know which ones to specify to meet customers’ expectations. Knowing what is required on the plumbing and electrics means the shower is more likely to work as it should, and if something does go wrong, installers will know to check the supplies as much as the product itself.
Pressure and flow rates are also important issues when it comes to mixer showers, and this is a recurring theme on day two. You’ve got to ask yourself what pressures are you working with and consider other factors such as the height of the cold water cistern above the showerhead and restrictions within the system, such as pipes, fittings and valves. There is more to installing mixer showers than connecting the hot and cold water services and slapping it on the wall.
Steve tells us: “You have to understand what is suitable for the plumbing of the house, whether it’s a low or high pressure system, whether it’s gravity or mains fed, and so on, to specify the right product to get the best effect. It’s also important to warn the client that simultaneous draw-offs of hot water may affect the temperature of the shower if it’s not thermostatic.”
He says that in his experience as an instructor, he finds that many of his students don’t understand the pressures within a system as a whole, which is why this is a big message of the day. “Some don’t give any thought as to what they are connecting on to. Take boilers for example. They provide the hot water, but do you know if it’s a combi on the system and what difference this can make? And if so, have you checked the kW output? These things should be accounted for.”
Over the course of the day, we look closely at the wide variety of mixers on the market, from manual valves through to digital showers to pumps. We get to take apart and handle the components, and when we go into the workshop we are able to conduct tests for temperature and pressure. We consider a wide range of installation issues as well as commissioning requirements and handing over to the end user.
During the breaks, I spoke with the students on the course about why they had chosen to attend Triton’s shower course. Virtually every one of them said their main aim was to get confidence with electric showers. One told me: “I don’t know much about electric showers, and it worries me, even though I have Part P. I fit a bunch of showers but I just wanted to know about the parts and how they work and why they might fail. It was really helpful when we broke down all the components and did fault finding. That was more of what I was interested in.”
One of the students had come over from Ireland for this course because he wanted to understand the fundamentals of the showers he was working on. “I do a bit of property service work, and one of the bigger brands they use is Triton, so this training will help me there. The other thing is, from a customer point of view, training looks good when you are trying to sell your service and they see you’ve done an installer course. It gives them a bit more confidence in you.”
Another installer, who has done gas work for years, said he signed up to Triton because he recently added bathrooms to his service offering. “I started doing bathrooms six months ago, relying on a bit of guess work with showers. This course was helpful because we could break down the equipment. I found out there was more to it than I thought.”
Learning to troubleshoot electric showers was the main point for another. He said to me: “It was an eye-opener to see the various tests I can do on showers. I feel much more confident in myself and feel that I can provide my customers with a better service. It was also good to hear other people’s experiences in fitting showers.”
One of the younger installers said: “You don’t want to go into someone’s house and be faced with something you’re not familiar with. If you take advantage of these courses, they make you better at what you do and you’re more marketable to customers.”
Concluding the day, Steve told me: “Showers are more complex than most people think they are. Years ago showers were all the same, but now we use all sorts of different devices to improve the performance. We are developing new technology all the time, and it’s important to stay on top of it. Hopefully they go away a bit more the wiser.”
Triton’s free shower training courses are held at its head office in Nuneaton throughout the year. The day starts at 10am and runs to 4pm, with coffee breaks and a free hot lunch in the Triton canteen included.
To sign up for an installer training course from Triton, visit www.tritonshowers.co.uk