Poll finds renewable heat meters blighted by spike in problems

by Search Gate staff. Published Thu 09 Apr 2016 12:28
RHI installations are encountering rising number of problems

Technology company Itron has released new research which reveals nearly three-quarters of heating engineers have been called back to projects to address problems with the installation of renewable heat meters.

The research, “Understanding Renewable Heat Meter Installations,” was commissioned for the second consecutive year by Itron and undertaken by Dynamic Markets.

The latest research report comes three years after the introduction of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) for commercial properties and a year after the domestic RHI launched in April 2014. Research findings year-over-year show a significant increase from 29 percent to 72 percent of engineers being call backed to address installation problems over the previous three years.

In addition, approximately 15 percent of RHI participants surveyed had one of their heat meter installations fail an RHI inspection.
“There has been a massive amount of growth in the industry over the last two years, which has resulted in the growing number of installers that need training. The skills shortages we have seen in the report are surprising given the fact that the Department of Energy & Climate Change has invested in training and has engaged a lot of people as a result,” said Bernard McWeeney, water and heat manager at Itron.

“It is vital for the credibility of the renewable heat industry that installers are supported with appropriate guidance, training and standards. This is especially true because metering is mandatory for commercial renewable heat projects to qualify under the RHI.”

The Dynamic Markets’ research showed additional inefficiencies that hinder installers’ ability to keep their costs under control:

• In the last 12 months alone, 44 percent of the installers have been called back to address problems with heat meters on renewable technologies

• On average, this group has had to return to a single customer site four times in a 12-month period to correct installations, while the maximum was 20 visits to a single household.

The research, which surveyed 100 Microgeneration Certification Scheme certified heating engineers, depicts apprehension in the industry, with 72 percent of heat engineers saying they find the current RHI heat meter regulations confusing to some degree.

Coupled with the high proportion of call backs and confusion, the research also found that 69 percent of certified heat engineers have not had any training on the installation of heat meters for renewable applications.

The survey also revealed a lack of clarity on RHI standards, particularly when it comes to the use of inhibitors that prevent meters from being affected by cold outdoor conditions. Glycol is one such inhibitor that acts as an anti-freezing agent in meters that are positioned in outdoor environments, and works by lowering the freezing temperature of water.

However, many are unclear about its use within RHI installations. Overall, 79 percent of heat engineers find at least one element of installations that require inhibitors confusing. Of those who have had an RHI inspection fail in the last two years, 36 percent have failed because of inhibitors.

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