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Installing a heat pump in a Grade II listed property

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(@harriup)
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Heat loss surveys are always going to be guesswork – even more so when you don't have evaluated materials and construction methods. Heat loss via air loss is even more of a guess with people just using recommended values based on who knows what, and air changes can affect the heat requirements quite dramatically. I wonder if you ought to investigate having a blower test done to find out how leaky the fabric is - that blockwork looks like you are relying on how well the outside is pointed!

In the short term if you are able to keep a note of daily electric usage and make an allowance for general house use you could build up a picture (though limited now winter is past) of how much energy you actually need to put into the house to keep it at a desired temperature. If you use a site like degreedays.net you can produce an approx daily value for the difference between the outside temperature and the inside temperature you need the heating to work to. Correlating these might help give a picture of the real heat requirements of the building. Obviously if you are under-heating in order to keep costs down now then that would have to be borne in mind.

Mitsubishi EcoDan 8.5 kW ASHP - radiators on a single loop
210l Mitsubishi solar tank
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(@damon)
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Thankyou for the kind words Mars.

I have done a couple of jobs that way, for the right job and customer I travel without a problem.

The first stage in anything like this would be a full heat loss survey, to determine your heat loss requirement. From here we can see if any cost effective insulation upgrades could be done, we can size out heatpump, we can size our emitters and see what flow temp we can realistically achieve. From that point we can design the system.. anything before this is just a stab in the dark and I seriously question how people can quote and design a system effectively without doing the above.

 

the heatloss survey is chargeable work, prices start at £350 plus vat but this is redeemable against the quote if you were to go ahead. 

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

Professional heat pump installer


   
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cathodeRay
(@cathoderay)
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Posted by: @damon

the heatloss survey is chargeable work, prices start at £350 plus vat but this is redeemable against the quote if you were to go ahead. 

This is a difficult one, and I don't know the answer. Some thoughts:

Arguments for and against 'free' surveys: they allow a customer to get more quotes without being seriously out of pocket. If I get say four proper quotes ie a heat survey (and the rest) were part of the quote then I don't spend over a grand to find out which installer I will chose. The arguments against are they do take up installers time/money (but that can be got back in other ways, eg adding a bit to each quote - so maybe we are still paying) and because of that shoddy quotes are more likely.

Arguments for and against chargeable surveys: you should get a better heat loss survey...but will you? One of the installers I contacted was a charger, and it was very obvious from early on he was a tw&t. He never got instructed to do a thing, and he then spent the next 18 months cold calling me, even after I had told him I now had a heat pump. The argument against is that chargeable heat loss surveys will actively discourage getting a number of quotes. Given the current state of the heat pump industry, I think for me that is the deciding factor: you need to contact and get something from a number of potential installers to get a feel for their competence or otherwise. Another potential installer I had, the local authority administrator's preferred installer, were utterly hopeless, their (non-chargeable) heat loss survey was little more than a collection of random numbers, despite taking  three or so hours (and a lot of travel - for some reason, the local authority administrators preferred a non local installer) to do the survey.

Another way of looking at this might be to ask who should bear the risk (ie cost) of the surveys, given that by definition any survey in excess of one will never bear fruit? That said, given that installers who don't explicitly charge for initial heat loss surveys may well claw back the money in other ways, this might end up being a rhetorical question...

Finally, worth considering how many other areas is it normal practice to charge to produce a quote, regardless of whether the quote is accepted or not. Not all quotes are trivial to produce, but it is probably fair to say that a heat pump quote that includes a heat loss survey is more labour intensive than most. But it then comes back to the previous question: who should bear the risk (cost)?        

Midea 14kW (for now...) ASHP heating both building and DHW


   
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(@damon)
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This isn’t a difficult one for me here in all honestly.

the amount of information and detail that goes into an air source Heatpump quote is completely different to going and giving a quote to plaster a wall or change a radiator for example.

In no other trade are you expected to go out and give so much information and time for free.

To get the best performance out an heat pump you need to get everything right, an estimate can be so far out.

This may work for people and it may not work for people l, for me As a small business this is my way of working to protect myself.

I guess I'm lucky I'm in a position where people come to me for the work I do. 

If someone was to provide a heatloss to me I would quote from that with terms and conditions covering that any changes required after conducting my own heatloss is variation work to the original quote. 

Professional heat pump installer


   
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cathodeRay
(@cathoderay)
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@damon - as I said right at the start of my last post, "This is a difficult one, and I don't know the answer." But I think it is an important question. I completely understand where you are coming from (and I am sure there are even frivolous punters out there who expect free surveys even when they have no real intention of going ahead - though dropping out for legit reasons eg circs change is fair enough), but I am concerned that chargeable surveys either put potential customers off getting a reasonable number of proper quotes with surveys or alternatively spend a four figure sum (from my earlier example four quotes in all = (£350 + VAT) x 3) finding their preferred installer good result. That money of course is dead money they can't spend with their preferred installer.

Midea 14kW (for now...) ASHP heating both building and DHW


   
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(@damon)
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Yes I totally get that, that’s why I mentioned that I’m lucky as people come to me for what I offer rather than me getting into quoting wars.

My process and charges are outlined from the beginning and it’s all black and white. It’s then upto them if they decide to or not.

it also seems to differentiate myself between the ones who are genuinely interested and the ones who just want information.

 

as a sole trader who started my renewable journey 2 years ago I found myself giving too much time away for free that has then a knock on affect to everything as your not winning any work or getting any money to cover your time, I had to sit and reassess and this has been implemented for around 16 month la and working very well. 

there is a market out there for customers who don’t just want a cheap install but want to full package. The people giving their time for free are usually the sales guys and bigger company’s, and nothing really against them but we do different types of work. My customers aren’t just a number.

My reputation is built on a high level of work and then the aftercare that comes with that. I’ve found there’s a niche in the market for company’s like this, especially with the should I say lowered trust in the product with all the bad stories out there.

I do see both sides though, as I also mentioned I will work from another heatloss report but I normally always find issues. one I priced late last year was down at 18kw heatloss, I’ve priced based on a 20kw eco Forrest, when I’ve done my own heatloss we are only at 13kw and this came from a retrofit company that charged over £1500 for the package. 

my heatloss report is all done on heat engineer, is mcs complaint and in the customers to keep if they didn’t go ahead. 

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(@derek-m)
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Posted by: @cathoderay

@damon - as I said right at the start of my last post, "This is a difficult one, and I don't know the answer." But I think it is an important question. I completely understand where you are coming from (and I am sure there are even frivolous punters out there who expect free surveys even when they have no real intention of going ahead - though dropping out for legit reasons eg circs change is fair enough), but I am concerned that chargeable surveys either put potential customers off getting a reasonable number of proper quotes with surveys or alternatively spend a four figure sum (from my earlier example four quotes in all = (£350 + VAT) x 3) finding their preferred installer good result. That money of course is dead money they can't spend with their preferred installer.

I suppose that the ideal solution would be to have reputable companies that merely perform heat loss calculations for a reasonable cost that is then supplied to the homeowner. Armed with the heat loss calculation the homeowner would then be able to approach a number of system designers/installers for the necessary quotes.

This would be the common sense approach so I doubt that it would ever come to fruition.

 


   
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cathodeRay
(@cathoderay)
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Posted by: @derek-m

I suppose that the ideal solution would be to have reputable companies that merely perform heat loss calculations for a reasonable cost that is then supplied to the homeowner. Armed with the heat loss calculation the homeowner would then be able to approach a number of system designers/installers for the necessary quotes.

@derek-m, you beat me to it - I had just written something very similar (but not the same, I separate all the design from the installation):

Another quick thought (this has come up before) - perhaps the problem is having the same person/company doing the design and installation? Because the design stage involves significant work, perhaps is should be done by a heating system designer (and done only once, and paid for only once), and the installation done by a heating system installer, with each accountable for their part in the process? This is in effect the model for architects/contractors etc, maybe it should apply to heat pumps?

@damon - you would have probably got my custom, had you quoted for me, I like your down to earth approach! 

This post was modified 2 months ago by cathodeRay

Midea 14kW (for now...) ASHP heating both building and DHW


   
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(@damon)
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I do provide heatloss and design packages separate in all my own sort I love installing but the design side is where I find myself more drawn.

in my opinion the installer should be designing the system, your then accountable and the customer only has one place of accountability 

issues can arise with design and install separate and you have more chance of corners being cut when your not in charge of the Job.

look at how many poor designs there are out there in umbrella schemes.

my approach is kind of simple really. I see as an industry we struggle, you hear more bad stories than good. I don’t do anything special as such, I just do things as I think they should be done. That’s makes life easier for me and my customer and we all know where we stand and what is and isn’t being done. 

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

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Majordennisbloodnok
(@majordennisbloodnok)
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Posted by: @cathoderay

Posted by: @damon

the heatloss survey is chargeable work, prices start at £350 plus vat but this is redeemable against the quote if you were to go ahead. 

This is a difficult one, and I don't know the answer. Some thoughts:

Arguments for and against 'free' surveys: they allow a customer to get more quotes without being seriously out of pocket. If I get say four proper quotes ie a heat survey (and the rest) were part of the quote then I don't spend over a grand to find out which installer I will chose. The arguments against are they do take up installers time/money (but that can be got back in other ways, eg adding a bit to each quote - so maybe we are still paying) and because of that shoddy quotes are more likely.

Arguments for and against chargeable surveys: you should get a better heat loss survey...but will you? One of the installers I contacted was a charger, and it was very obvious from early on he was a tw&t. He never got instructed to do a thing, and he then spent the next 18 months cold calling me, even after I had told him I now had a heat pump. The argument against is that chargeable heat loss surveys will actively discourage getting a number of quotes. Given the current state of the heat pump industry, I think for me that is the deciding factor: you need to contact and get something from a number of potential installers to get a feel for their competence or otherwise. Another potential installer I had, the local authority administrator's preferred installer, were utterly hopeless, their (non-chargeable) heat loss survey was little more than a collection of random numbers, despite taking  three or so hours (and a lot of travel - for some reason, the local authority administrators preferred a non local installer) to do the survey.

Another way of looking at this might be to ask who should bear the risk (ie cost) of the surveys, given that by definition any survey in excess of one will never bear fruit? That said, given that installers who don't explicitly charge for initial heat loss surveys may well claw back the money in other ways, this might end up being a rhetorical question...

Finally, worth considering how many other areas is it normal practice to charge to produce a quote, regardless of whether the quote is accepted or not. Not all quotes are trivial to produce, but it is probably fair to say that a heat pump quote that includes a heat loss survey is more labour intensive than most. But it then comes back to the previous question: who should bear the risk (cost)?        

I think there is a third option, though, which is a reasonable compromise and in practice often employed.

When we were researching air source heat pumps plenty of companies were prepared to see us for an initial visit. In that visit they were able to take a quick look around and familiarise themselves before giving some pretty generalised suggestions. The size of the house and general state of repair gave them a chance to have a guesstimate in their minds with which to give us some idea of likely sizings and pricings. All that was uncharged. It also gave us a chance to size up the company and see if they were talking sense or winging it.

Anyone prepared to give you an actual quote on the strength of that visit, however, would obviously be guessing and you'd be unlikely to receive a sensibly designed system as a result.

Once we had a shortlist we were able to choose who we'd like to get back for a chargeable survey. By this point we already knew the kind of people we were dealing with and so could confidently say we were serious enough to put some money into it. Anyone on the shortlist would therefore be able to protect their valuable time (as @damon has covered) and, in return, provide us the customers with an accurate quote for a properly designed and specified installation.

Let's also remember, though, that as soon as someone provides a chargeable survey it attracts certain legal safeguards. If they take £350 and basically give you nothing in return you can take them to court for a refund. Within all this my wife and I were perfectly happy to talk with lots of installers, pay for a follow-up with a couple and then pick the one we felt was best fit. The speculative ones only wasted a brief visit, the unsuccessful surveyor was still paid for their time and the successful one had all the necessary info to design what we wanted and win the business.

 

105 m2 bungalow in South East England
Mitsubishi Ecodan 8.5 kW air source heat pump
18 x 360W solar panels
1 x 6 kW GroWatt battery and inverter
Raised beds for home-grown veg and chickens for eggs

"Semper in excretia; suus solum profundum variat"


   
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(@louise-howlett)
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@cathoderay the problem with getting one separate designer to do the heat loss and specify is that then you would have to find an installer that offered the products specified and it might not be as easy as you might think to match this up. Don't forget that you'd need that designer to be MCS qualified in design and it is trickier than you might think to sort out the contract - will the designer take responsibility for the project will you claim the BUS grant through them? - this situation turns the installer kind of into a sub-contractor...We're trying to offer the best customer service by where feasible doing an initial site visit and then the usually chargeable heat loss and design visit separately. For a complex property the heat loss alone could take 3 to 4 hours. That is without the design work back at the office. You are talking at least a day's work for a degree qualified member of staff. I really urge customers to build as much of a relationship with the potential installer as possible before getting to the heat loss design point. They should obviously be supporting you by showing they are credible. Then you can avoid a 3 quotes system. Talk to 3 or 4 companies but if you find one that is meeting what you need follow the heat loss & design process with them and only turn back out if something is not working - and give them feedback about what that is.

Commercial Director: R A Brown Heating Services


   
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(@showi)
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Topic starter  

This has been the approach so far by the independent installers who have quoted, they have prepared an estimate based on a ‘quick’ visit and will confirm the cost should we proceed with them.

The big guys take a stab based on limited information entered online, Octopus went with £3k and BG have gone with £10k (post Grant)

I Understand the approach to paying for a pre survey but was hoping when I saw the recommendation on here I wouldn’t potentially be the Guinee pig and would have seen numerous satisfied customers, i.e. members!

Having said that @damon has great reviews and certainly seems to be one of the ‘Good ones’ and I fully understand his approach, in our industry which is factory automation we don’t have a cat in hells chance of being paid for a quote and travel UK wide but we are dealing with businesses rather than the flaky general public! 

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This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

   
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