Failings of the Heliotherm business model and its competent partners
We are relative newcomers to the ASHP community so please excuse the following with respect to inaccurate use of technical terms or ignorance of the overall industry. The problem for us and others taking the step into the unknown of ASHP is in being able to know that what they are buying is a ‘good’ product, that the people they are buying from will still be there in x years’ time, and that there will be ready access to people and parts for the maintenance of their system. We had to make a ‘best judgement’ on these matters for our ASHP purchase 4 years ago but we do not think the situation is much improved with energy companies now jumping in on the ASHP bandwagon.
We thought we had done everything right. We did a rebuild on our house and the ASHP, underfloor heating and extensive insulation was integral to our new ‘green’ home. We also spent time finding a company that was technically knowledgeable and offered what we thought was the ideal product for our needs. The same manufacturer’s products – Heliotherm - were being installed in a few new-builds nearby, and was on display at the NHBRC, so we felt validated in our choice. MCS certification and qualifying for RHI gave us further confidence in it, and our supplier did seem to be responsive when questions arose. After our purchase and
in the underfloor stage of the install however there were rumours of an ‘upheaval’ in the company. By the time our heat pump was commissioned the knowledgeable people we had dealt with were all gone. The unit we had installed was an 8kW Comfort Compact (chosen in part for its quietness), the installation was carried out by Earth Save Products (ESP) of Wallingford. This company has recently appeared in several entries in the forums on the hub to which we will not add, except to say that our installation and commissioning appeared to go well, it worked as advertised and the paperwork was completed to enable us to obtain a RHI rebate.
We were very happy with our system but perhaps, with hindsight, we should have been alerted when:
- the 'maintenance instructions' within the 'handover pack' consisted of 11 lines of generalities;
- the 'maintenance instructions' referred to 'manuals' that we have no sight of;
- when asking what we should ‘look out for' the response was 'no need, we will monitor it over the web and take any action required'; and
- when asked to enter into a maintenance/service agreement ESP declined saying it preferred more ad-hoc arrangements.
Following a largely incident free warranty period the catastrophe arrived and we found the full extent of our exposure to the nature and failings of the Heliotherm business model and its 'competent partners'. Suffice to say that following a double power outage (which did not trip our 'surge protection' device) it took ESP 5+ weeks and at least 13 interventions to restore our ASHP to working order. We were also in contact with other Heliotherm 'competent partners' throughout, receiving little in the way of re-assurance or support whilst Heliotherm itself was completely non-communicant. The cost of this little exercise is still to be determined and allocated.
The reasons for relating this story are several fold:
1) We do understand the principles of the ASHP and the basics of how it works. We believe that ASHPs are the way forward for home heating but we are not interested in becoming technical geeks;
2) We simply want to know the basics that will enable us to use, operate and maintain our installation in the best way (not unlike using and maintaining a car or domestic appliances). This would include knowing which 'error codes' are important, what they mean and what needs to be done.
3) We want to engage with an organisation to service and maintain our installation and act as a point of reference in the event of 'breakdowns' or concerns. We would like an audit of what we have and an explanation of how to get the best from our installation.
4) None of Heliotherm’s 'competent partners' we have been in contact with has expressed (or
demonstrated) confidence in its ability to competently deliver the sort of service we want - mainly quoting inadequate training, non-engagement by Heliotherm and unavailability of spare parts.
Should we suffer another failure, we are now even more uncertain as to how to deal with it. What we are looking for is advice on where we should go from here.
Sorry, from my two year experience with Heat Pump installers , the workforce consists of competent Plumbers and Electricians with no Low Temperature experience, often arriving on site with neither manuals nor Spare parts.
Sorry, but you WILL have to become a Heat Geek knowing far more than any installer.!
You will need:
1) Temperature Data logger to record the Outages that will occur during Winter nights.!
2) Set of manuals for your Heat Pump.
3) A Temperature meter with a set of K Type pipe clamps.
Good luck. Welcome to reality
@heliohelp I think you've been very unlucky there, both in choice of installer, and choice of heat pump OEM. The Heliotherm looks a quality product, especially the controls, but if their UK customer support is lacking or non-existent, that's of little comfort. It's not a common product in the UK, so persons with product competency and knowledge will be few and far between. UK installers and service engineers need good support from the OEMs as well, or they will vote with their feet and work for or represent other OEMs.
You'll have probably come across this post thread about issues with EPS and how MJS seem to have stepped up to the plate and helped someone else out? https://renewableheatinghub.co.uk/forums/postid/20853
Some of the big names in the UK energy industry are now offering heat pump installation, or packages including ASHPs and bespoke tariffs. I think their reputations are on the line if they don't honour their part of the deal with reputable products backed by prompt, timely and affordable post-installation support. All A2W ASHPs do the same thing - heat water using energy from ambient air using a simple process of refrigerant evaporation, but the system design and install quality can vary hugely - that's usually where the problems arise.
@allyfish Thanks for the commiserations. Yes we became aware of the troubles with ESP that were sorted by MJS but by then our installation had been completed and commissioned. We have been in touch with MJS but to date they have been shy of offering advice. We also have contact with another 'competent' person but he is not in a position to help without access to spare parts!
@heliohelp in light of this topic, I’ve just received an email from MJS asking you to contact them. I’ve sent you the email address.
@heliohelp great. Let me know if anything useful transpires.
I started, with the best of intentions, trying to " save the environment" on Valentines day 2022.
My "Installer" has been STUCK-OFF three times during the last two years, with the NIC saying that my "installer" has been subjected to severe extra unspecified 'Sanctions' to no effect, and that , consequently " nothing can now be done".
I Do not want to become a "crabbit Auld Man" but have lost all confidence in the competence of the "Charities the NIC and MCS.
My former "Green Energy supplier", Shell, has also shown it's true colours when abandoning it's Home Energy outlet.
Many thanks for your Well written ,excellent, script, telling my story over the last Two years.
ian ( A founding member of the Crabbit Auld man club)
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