Isaac Occhipinti, Head of External Affairs at the Hot Water Association (HWA), explains why the association is launching a new hot water cylinder servicing guide for consumers.

The HWA and its members have been considering what could be done to bring greater transparency, quality, and consistency to servicing in the UK. After some deliberation, the association has decided to publish a hot water servicing guide, incorporating customer information requirements.

As most cylinders have common component parts, a guide which outlines agreed industry standards, founded on technical competence, legislative compliance, and consumer protection seemed sensible. It would need to focus on compliance with legal requirements (e.g. Approved Document Part G) and ensuring essential appliance checks, tests, and servicing tasks are correctly carried out, and in a safe manner.

During 2018, in conjunction with the wider industry, HWA has worked on producing a first-of-its-kind consumer guide to hot water storage servicing, detailing what homeowners can expect when having their hot water cylinder serviced by a competent registered engineer.

The guide lays out the agreed industry best practice approach to hot water cylinder servicing, while noting the important role played by manufacturer’s instructions.

The guide also aims to educate consumers on the standards they should expect. It details a list of the steps engineers should take when they visit a customer’s home.

Industry has produced this consumer-facing guidance to support the professional, accredited engineer. We believe that outlining what homeowners can expect from their service will assist with the message that the cheapest quote isn’t always the best.

As a consumer, it is reasonable to assume that different providers will all offer a similar, standardised, thorough, and high-quality service when procuring a service of a heating and hot water system. But what constitutes a proper job? And how can consumers, especially those who might not have any knowledge of the industry, be sure they are receiving what they should?

The guide also provides engineers with something to show customers, conveying their professionalism and commitment to a safe and proper job.

Furthermore, it can be used as an education tool. Few car owners would expect their vehicle to perform reliably for years without ever checking the levels of oil and water, or servicing the vehicle. How many of us make sure our cars are running in top condition before the annual holiday? That reassurance goes a long way. And we accept the annual service charge and costs involved with care and maintenance.

The difference between the car industry and ours is that, in the car industry, there are minimum standards set and customers know about them. They expect the oil to be changed and tyre pressure checked, but how many homeowners expect you to carry out an expansion vessel recharge?

The car industry has done a great job in recent years of informing its customers on what a service entails and what you’re getting for your money. In fact, nowadays you can even get a video of the engineer actually undertaking the service and describing the car’s condition.

The HWA believes that this minimum service standard goes some way to improving industry standards and safety. It’s not a prescriptive list, but could that ever be achieved?

The consumer guide to hot water storage servicing is suitable for all unvented direct and indirect products. Registered, competent engineers are best placed to identify what each job requires, and it is important to recognise that the cylinder manufacturer will detail the specific procedures necessary for that particular model. The manufacturers’ instructions are an indispensable reference document whenever an unvented water heater service is undertaken.

At the heart of this work is the professional, accredited heating engineer that takes pride in their work and always delivers a safe, compliant, and professional service.

Engineers are key to communicating the importance of best practice to consumers, and we encourage them to download the guide and share it with their customers.

The ongoing maintenance of domestic hot water systems, and especially cylinders, goes a long way in keeping customers and their preferred installer in regular contact for future upgrading of systems as renewable technology increases.

We hope to launch the guide in late 2018, and we will keep you posted. You can follow us on Twitter @HotWaterAssoc for updates.