Hiring heating engineers to fit, service and repair your boiler…what’s the best option?

Like many purchases, when it’s time to get a new boiler or maintain your existing heating system, the different service provider choices and how much they all charge can be baffling.

So, whether you’re installing a new Valliant combi boiler, servicing an old Worcester or your Baxi boiler has stopped working and needs urgent repair the following are your three options;

  1. Hire an independent local heating engineer
  2. Hire a medium sized regional or national company which has a team of heating engineers
  3. Take out a home insurance plan from one of the large national providers

The pros and cons of each option;

Independent Heating Engineers

Cost

Independent heating engineers will charge you what they pay for boilers plus a bit more (e.g. 10%) for organising collection and to earn a bit of profit which is perfectly normal for any business. They then charge you an hourly rate or a fixed price based on their estimate of how many hours/days are required for the job.

Independent heating engineers will usually charge the most reasonable hourly rate as they do not have costs such as admin staff, layer upon layer of managers with flashy offices, an additional team of sales staff to pay for or expensive marketing such as tv or google ad words to pay for.

When you need help later the independent engineer will charge you parts and labour each time you need them. Occasionally this will mean a big bill however there is no fixed monthly cost.

Quality

If you find a responsible, intelligent independent heating engineer they will advise an appropriate for you design heating and hot water system i.e. with a pressurised water cylinder or a simple compact combi boiler depending on your family needs. They will know what to do regards maintenance and competently fix problems such as boiler circuit board electrical faults or motorised valves inevitably failing. It is easy to manage problems when the same person attends who knows your system and doesn’t blame other engineers who may have attended…as he installed and maintained it.

Service

An independent heating engineer is most likely a sole trader or at most has a tiny team, they may not have fancy vans or smart uniforms. In winter he/she will struggle to rush to all emergencies at once but normally will have serviced your system in the summer and tried to avoid you having problems. Winter is the time independent engineers struggle and a broken-down van can cause havoc to their ability to respond to clients if it snows over the weekend.

Medium Sized regional or national company

Cost

A large company with fleets of smart vans, uniformed employees, franchisees or subcontractors, large offices a team of sales and admin people, driving around quoting, answering phones and designing google friendly websites……etc obviously has a lot more overheads than a sole trader and guess who is going to pay for that?

Yes, you need to pay for all that fancy stuff…. plus, the cost of the new boiler or repair you need.

So, any well-known large heating business is going to cost you significantly more than a small local sole trader.

Quality

A well run medium sized business MAY have a good team of intelligent engineers but most likely they will have some senior specialists and trouble shooters with a fair number of average engineers competent when jobs are simple. If for example your heating system has a complex electrical error or requires a thorough powerflush then they will arrange a second visit with their appropriate engineer in attendance. You will get the job done as these businesses are serious but it will never be cheap.

Service

Attendance will be prompt, professional without drama. And if there is a disagreement then they will try to help you as reputation is important to these businesses.

National insurance companies

Cost

The huge insurance model businesses who charge a monthly fee and provide cover when you have a problem operate a very different model. First, if you need a new boiler installed, they will probably charge 100% more than an independent installer even though they will be getting discounts by ordering 10,000s of boilers at a time. The problem they have is a huge pyramid of management costs plus advertising budgets running into the millions. For some the pay every month is good value eg for landlords who have sensitive tenants. However eventually when a big problem arises, they often insist they replace your system at hugely inflated costs otherwise cover is voided. Many of there clients are older, wealthier or more nervous people who value the security as much as the service. Most of the visits will not really be of much benefit to your heating system as that would go against the profitability of the business model. E.g. adding inhibitor to systems annually never occurs in practice even though all boiler manufacturers state it is required.

Quality

The products installed should be good but the detail of installation will depend on who turns up and could vary considerably.

Service

When a business employs and subcontracts literally thousands of engineers then quality will always be mixed including the downright useless. Eventually any problem will be resolved but may involve various engineers attending until a good one is available who knows how to resolve the problem. Each engineer will need to be booked in, be waited for and explained the problem as it’s the first and probably last time you will see each one. You can rest assured that problems will always be fixed eventually and that money will leave your bank account every month for ever.

So if you are a landlord maybe get insurance, if you are desperate call a big well known expensive business but if you want an intelligent reasonable cost long term solution then find a local independent engineer you trust, treat them well and they will return the favour.

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