Taking the time to provide a thorough quote can go a long way towards maintaining a strong customer relationship, explains Neil Macdonald, Technical Manager at the HHIC.

Spending time identifying every technical issue prior to giving a quotation is vital. Ensuring your quote gives a true reflection of the work involved avoids unexpected extras that can cost you time and money, and also goes a long way to managing customer expectations when it comes to covering the cost. 

Following the release of the HHIC’s updated industry guidance on the best practice installation of boiler condensate pipework, it is imperative that an assessment of the feasibility of routing, or re-routing, the property’s condensate pipe to an internal connection point is made. 

If disposal via gravity is not an option, then an internal pumped solution should be considered, such as to an internal soil stack. Where internal connection is impractical, and external placement is the only option, then it is important that the customer is made aware of the risk of freezing associated with external routing, and at least one effective method of protection against freezing should be specified and quoted for. 

The free to download HHIC guide, Customer information: frozen boiler condensate discharge, may prove useful when informing customers of the potential hazards, and help explain why you may be quoting for a longer, more convoluted internal pipe run, as opposed to simply drilling the pipe through the external wall and routing to an external foul drain. 

Mentioning system balancing to the customer at the initial quotation stage is also advisable, as there is no guarantee that the existing system will be correctly adjusted.

The HHIC’s consumer guide, Balancing the central heating system, can help reinforce the necessity of this with the consumer, and extoll the virtues of improved efficiency and performance it will provide to the entire heating system.

Another important technical issue that installers should investigate prior to quotation is to test the property’s working gas pressure adequately, particularly if the existing boiler output is being increased, for example, from a 15kw heat-only boiler to a 40kW combi. 

A 40kW combi will require 3.7m3 of gas to deliver its rated performance alone so, if the customer also has a gas fire or cooker, this supply has to be taken into consideration to ensure that the correct product is specified and sold to the customer as fit-for-purpose. 

The required gas supply pipework to the candidate boiler itself should be established (based on the manufacturer’s instructions), and the existing pipework checked to ensure that the sizing will be correct for the new boiler, with any additional work required included on the quote.

It is also best practice to check whether the customer’s property has a water meter, especially if a combi boiler is to be fitted. Many UK water authorities are metering household supplies, which will typically see a non-return valve provided. 

Installers must consider the need for expansion relief where a combi boiler is being installed (again, check the manufacturer’s instructions) as, without suitable protection, such as a ‘mini’ expansion vessel on the cold supply to the boiler, high pressures could arise and potentially damage hydraulic boiler seals and components – with possible implications to the boiler’s warranty. 

Installers understand the reasoning behind the need to include what could be seen as ‘optional extras’, such as controls or system filters, so always take the time to explain why these are necessary. The HHIC’s consumer guides, Protecting your boiler and heating system, and New rules for boiler installations in England 2018, should be useful tools. 

Longer warranties may require the installation of a system filter to activate, so what a customer may have thought was a ‘nice to have’ piece of equipment, is now a necessity. Again, it is important to make sure the customer understands why it is needed.  

With the advent of Boiler Plus, there needs to be greater clarity on the need for time and temperature control, plus boiler interlock, to be present in a system. It is important that you give your customers an understanding of why the latest rules have been put in place and the legal requirement to follow them, so you know you have their buy in. 

Finally, remember to itemise your quote – this helps the consumer to see the various elements that form the aggregate cost, and helps them to compare quotes. We know consumers are very price-aware, they are becoming increasingly savvy and know what to expect as part of a quality heating installation.