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Why Your MCS-Certified Installer Might Not Be As Competent As You Think

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Noble Member Contributor
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Posts: 843

Follow up self with further thoughts;

During my working career, I saw a fair few failures of one sort or another whilst working in the DIY trade, the Glass Textile Industry, Precision Engineering and the World of Academia as a Technician and finally as a Facilities Manger of Technical Facilities with a team of Technicians under me.

Over that time, I observed that the vast majority of ‘Failures’ could be put down to ‘Failures in Communicating’ For a team to work well, there is a need for good communications. In my latter years, I was asked to stop doing what I had been doing for some 35 years as a technician and go into junior management at the University. One of the first things I instated was regular meetings of all technical staff to discuss any problems, review current workloads, plans for the immediate future and leave time for all technicians to speak their minds and lay out any problems they were having and listen to comments and suggestions etc. Other areas of Academia started making little rumblings about these meetings as I called them at lunchtimes and had food provided out of expenses. Some people could not see why Technicians should be given food on expenses! I retorted that it was all about communications and that successful accomplishment of the work would greatly benefit from the team effort. I stuck to my guns and the Head of Institute agreed with me and gave me all his support. Regards, Toodles.

Toodles, 76 years young and hoping to see 100 and make some ROI on my renewable energy investment!

Steve D and Derek M reacted
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I think you're on the right track @jamespa
The Competent Persons Scheme is already being promoted by MCS as a quick way to get more HP installers 'out there' and working.

... but because it's being formally organised, they haven't got the checks in place to ensure that the candidates already have the appropriate range of skills before they're accepted onto the 3-day course.

The provisions under the Building Act were originally intended to work the other way around, and could still do so.
The concept is based on providing a method of approval for those who are already demonstrating competence.



A farmer offers a tiny half-acre field to the Local Planning Authority under the Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA).

The LPA like the idea, and it's supported by the District Councillor for that ward.
But it's outside the areas identified for development under the Local Plan (the adopted Core Strategy).
The site doesn't get included.

The Councillor and the farmer decide to push forward the site anyway because they have a real need to house workers in their 20's who've grown up in the area.
They obtain a copy of the Self Build list from the Council. (All Councils are required to keep such a list of interested parties).

A meeting is held in the village hall.
This attracts a great deal of interest, and four possible self-builders are selected for the site, which actually has potential for 10 dwellings.

  • the herdsman for that farm, who operates the milking parlour
  • an apprentice electrician, currently having to travel 60+ miles/day to reach building sites for work
  • a newly-married couple; the wife is the daughter of the local GP, whilst the husband works in IT
  • another couple; the wife teaches in the local primary school and the husband is a mechanic in a garage


They form a Community Land Trust and apply for Outline Planning Permission.
This is granted unanimously as an 'exception site' due to the obvious housing need for genuinely local people.

The local news carries the story, and they are approached by two other people:

1: The British Legion have a member who is recently invalided out of the Royal Engineers.
He's lost a leg due to a land mine, and will need housing and work within about 3 months.
His parents live in the adjacent ward for the same District Council.
As part of his rehabilitation, he will come with a package that includes money towards housing and employment re-training.

2: Another local family have a daughter aged 28 who left home, but got caught up in a city-based drugs gang.
Following a court conviction she's been sent for detox at a clinic 250-miles away.
She's about to be released under licence. Neither the Probation Service nor the family want her to return to that city.

The Community Land Trust agrees to both new applicants joining them.

They are introduced to an architect who occasionally produces reports for the Council.
She designs them a site layout for ten dwellings to be built using Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) for rapid construction.

They obtain full planning consent for the first six of those houses.
Each is to be equipped with heat-pumps and UFH.


As construction starts, the ex-REME quickly becomes accepted as the group leader.
He pulls in knowledge from others still in the army, and they re-design the heat-pump systems to have integrated storage batteries.
These will be charged by rooftop solar-panels, and a 3kW hydro-electric generator in the stream two fields away (with the farmer's agreement).

The houses are built and the new residents move in within 6 months from starting.

The farmer immediately requests that similar heat-pumps with battery storage are installed at the main farmhouse and the cottage of his other farm worker.

The Councillor brings to site a representative of a Housing Association.
They ask the same group to build the remaining four houses on that plot, to be owned by the Association and rented out to people on the Council's housing list.


... and I guess you can see where this is heading!

Not only have those households got a steady stream of potential customers, but they've also acquired a particular skill-set based around their re-modelled heat pump.

That's the point at which they get granted Competent Persons Status within the scope of the Building Act.

It's miles different to the strategy being pursued by MCS and central government.
Instead of being general-purpose trained/qualified trades-people, they are the designers and installers of a particular type of heat-pump system for which there is growing demand.

This post was modified 2 months ago 4 times by Transparent

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Noble Member Contributor
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Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 843

@jamespa Yes, I agree, Teamwork! Regards, Toodles.

Toodles, 76 years young and hoping to see 100 and make some ROI on my renewable energy investment!


Honorable Member Member
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Posts: 290

I thought I'd chip in with some musings by Richard Erskine (of "Insulate Britain! Yes, but by how much?" fame/infamy) from 9th March 2022 where he believes that SMEs are the way ahead, breaking the job of heat pump installation into various roles. The ratios (1:2:10 of designer:electrician:plumber) seem to imply a fair number of people in the organisation (a couple of dozen).


Illustrious Member Admin
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Topic starter  

My favorite moment from when we spoke to the installer who had attended the BPEC course was when a fellow attendee asked, "Where do you put the anti-legionella fluid?" Rather alarming.

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