Life As A Cylinder Installer - Alan Clarke Speaks To Aquaheat Services

Over recent years, the world of unvented water cylinders has changed. From how homeowners view their hot water needs to evolving cylinder technologies, it is an area which has continued to develop. Alan Clarke, technical support manager at Heatrae Sadia, spoke to Josh Glossop of Aquaheat Services about his experience as an installer who regularly fits cylinders.

Josh Glossop has been working as an installer for almost a decade and his business, Aquaheat Services, is based in Berkshire.

Alan Clarke is Heatrae Sadia’s technical support manager and has been with the company for over 40 years, developing a wealth of experience in the water heating industry.

It has been well over thirty years since the UK Building and Water Regulations were amended to allow the installation of unvented water heaters, and the market for domestic unvented water cylinders has changed drastically.

The first Megaflo to leave Heatrae Sadia’s Norwich factory in 1994 significantly changed the game. Before Megaflo, the use of stainless steels was close to non-existent – today, nearly every unvented cylinder manufactured for the UK market is produced from stainless steel.

And, the cylinder landscape has had to continue developing. At Megaflo, we’ve been responsible for many key innovations, including one of the first internal expansion systems to control hot water expansion, the first ‘floating internal baffle’ to improve the longevity of the internal air volume, and the first units with an appliance-like external casing rather than a spray foamed insulation finish.

From a wider perspective, the industry has had to react to the continued rise of renewable energy. Homeowners are increasingly aware of their impact on the planet, and are looking for ways to make their lives, and households, greener. In response to this, we’re seeing unvented cylinders which are able to work with renewable technologies such as solar thermal, solar PV and heat pumps.

Equally, as the footprint of the average UK home shrinks and multiple bathroom households become commonplace, the industry has faced the challenge of providing cylinders which are slimline in design, but still provide the same level of fast flowing hot water. Our Slimline cylinder is the only unit of its kind currently on the market that uses the internal expansion volume concept.

To get an insight into cylinder installation today, I spoke to Josh Glossop of Aquaheat Services,


Alan: How did you get into the trade, and how did you start working on cylinders?

Josh: I started plumbing when I was 17, working for a local domestic heating company. I first started working with cylinders at the same time, carrying out installations of hot water and heating systems on a regular basis. I then went to work for a commercial gas company repairing, installing and servicing all commercial gas and oil appliances.

From there, I went to British Gas as a technical gas engineer, before taking a big step and setting up my own business. The bulk of what I do now is carrying out installation, service and repair of most gas appliances for domestic and commercial premises.

A: What’s your cylinder brand of choice and why?

J: Personally, I have been installing Megaflo unvented cylinders for almost a decade. I continue to choose Megaflo because they are a robust product that I can put my trust in. For me, being able to trust and believe in a product is paramount for me to sell a product to a consumer.

A: Do you think hot water cylinders are still necessary, when so many people choose combis?

J: Combination Boilers are mostly for places that do not have the room for a hot water cylinder or do not require a lot of demand. I think that end users like the idea of ‘instant’ hot water, but I think installers need to educate homeowners on how that can realistically be achieved.

Essentially, customers have to understand the need for hot water unvented storage to satisfy the flow rate requirements of multiple outlets, such as you’d find in homes with multiple bathrooms. Although combi boilers heat water instantaneously, they do not deliver hot water to the outlets instantly – the cooler water in the distribution pipes would still need to be flushed before full temperature is achieved. Storage systems can overcome this ‘lag’, especially in larger systems, by use of secondary circulation. It’s up to us as installers to explain this and ensure homeowners get the results they want.

A: Do you think it is important for manufacturers to offer loyalty benefits to installers?

J: I think that offering loyalty benefits to installers is a good idea - we all love a freebie or a gift! It also gives us an incentive to up-sell products to our customers. There are plenty of boiler rewards schemes, but there isn’t much on the cylinder side of things. I’m a member of Megaflo Rewards, and that allows me to earn points for each cylinder I register, as well as providing next day engineer call out for customers and easy access to technical support if I need it.

A: Do you think the hot water cylinder market is growing in the UK?

J: If I’m honest, I wouldn’t know if the hot water cylinder market is growing or shrinking, it’s a difficult call! However, I still see plenty of demand in my own experience, so I believe there’s plenty of cylinder opportunities out there for installers.

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