Fired up by knowledge

A farmer’s request in 2008 has led to one Aberdeenshire business becoming a leader in the biomass heating energy.

Athol Duckett, managing director of AD Heating, was asked if he could fit a biomass system that would supply heat for four properties and a swimming pool.

“Yes sounds interesting, I’ve never done that before but why not?” was his answer, and it led to many more inquiries of a similar nature.

The company began making good contacts with suppliers of the various products it offers and soon began receiving inquiries from other trades people
asking if they could get the products that they were fitting via them and if they could get support.

The inquiries became so frequent that a sister company was formed, Wood Boiler Supplies, which is the trade arm of the businesses.

“We sell to trade companies nationwide and we bring in all the different equipment and act as a one-stop shop for biomass boilers and associated ancillary bits and pieces. It means that we can offer expertise to other trades people,” said Helen Timperley, managing director of Wood Burning Supplies Ltd.

Helen

“As of this year as opposed to just offering our manufacturer-specific training, which we’ve done for quite some time, we also offer the HETAS training. HETAS are the solid fuel association, a regulatory body. We are the only training centre in Scotland that offers the biomass installer training course. It’s a great string to our bow.”

It might seem like a strange concept to understand – why would a company help its competitors?

“Obviously locally there is a lot of demand and we can’t possibly fulfil that demand all on our own,” Helen explained.

“So we need people to be aware of what is out there and what they can do and how it works. There are a lot of boilers which have been installed by other companies over the years which no longer exist and so somebody needs to look after all of these.

“Aberdeenshire is a big place and our remit doesn’t stop there. The furthest installer south that we deal with is Cornwall and furthest north is on Lewis. It’s important that people have a good awareness of different technologies are there.”

Helen

The company offers half day introductions and two-day manufacturer specific courses as well as the HETAS courses. They also offer courses for architects – so they are able to tell their clients about different technologies – and training for showroom staff who sell renewable products.

The courses have grown in popularity over the years, and with more people becoming aware of the alternatives to fossil fuels, the demand for this kind of training is expected to increase.

“You expect a boiler to last 20 years but if your installing company isn’t there after the first five years then you are going to find your local plumbing and heating engineer,” Helen said.

“They might say’ I don’t know anything about that’. Well we are here to plug that gap and say ‘Well you might not have known anything about that but we can help you learn about it.’

“We’ve always responded to what the market has demanded. So it’s been really interesting. Biomass is still a relatively young industry in the UK so we are still playing catch up as an industry as a whole. There is a real lack of skills and knowledge in the biomass industry. It’s important that the expertise and the skills among the general plumbing and heating industry are widen because they are going to be asked to look at these systems, carry out annual services and maintain them.”

AD Heating also had a reason to celebrate when they picked up the Innovation Award and were finalists in the Customer Service category at the 2016 Trade Awards.

The innovation award was for a local project in Fyvie where owners of a new build wanted a home without wet central heating.

“They had been working with their architect and they were very clear what they wanted and they were trying to find someone that could do this for them,” Helen said.

“They approached a lot of different companies who all said it can’t be done, it’s too difficult. We thought it was an interesting project and we thought let’s do it.”

The house features no radiators or underfloor heating – it is run by air heating. Solar produces the electric and heating and there is also a heat recovery system and wood burning stove for chillier nights.

Helen said the awards were a “validation” for the team’s abilities.

“They all do a really great job and they are specialists in what they do,” she added.

“So it’s fantastic that’s been acknowledged. And it’s a great morale boost for the team to know that they are doing a good job and people appreciate what they do.”

Those interested in training should head to www.woodboilersupplies.co.uk/training for all upcoming courses includes the HETAS ones.

Athol

We speak to two local tradesmen who have benefited from the courses.

SHAWN EDWARDS, CAMLARK HEATING SERVICES

WHAT COURSE DID YOU DO?

Biotech Installation, commissioning and servicing

HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT IT?

Helen had advertised the course on an online group for heating and renewable installers, manufacturers and suppliers

WHY DID YOU WANT TO UNDERTAKE IT?

I have been involved in the heating industry for over 10 years mainly in oil and gas. this offered an opportunity to firstly expand my personal knowledge and offer a new service to my clients.

HOW HAS IT IMPROVED YOUR BUSINESS?

Both Helen and Athol have been very helpful and are very willing to help if I have any questions or queries I know they are at the end of the phone. The course has opened up new avenues of potential clients to allow me to grow my business further.

JAMIE MCCOMBIE, JMC HEATING SERVICES

WHAT COURSE DID YOU DO?

I completed the biotech course.

HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT IT?

I heard about on a forum in Facebook "heating and renewables which I'm a member of.

WHY DID YOU WANT TO UNDERTAKE IT?

I was a bit wary at first as I didn't have any renewables experience, as my business is mainly domestic central heating with a small part of commercial work.

My worries were gone after calling and speaking to Helen to ask about the course and explained my situation and advised that it would still benefit beginners to the renewable industry like myself.
We were made to feel very welcome by all staff, and also the lovely dogs. The centre had a very warm welcoming atmosphere.

The two day course was taught perfectly and knowledge and practical was split well, unlike some previous mainly classroom courses I've been on elsewhere where you tend to almost fall asleep in the stuffy rooms.

I initially took the course to gain more knowledge in the renewables sector as I feel it's an area that is only going to get busier in the coming years, and believe we are ideally situated in Aberdeen/shire area due to the high volume of potential customers that may require biomass.

HOW HAS IT IMPROVED YOUR BUSINESS?

I haven't installed a biomass boiler yet, but have already benefited from the course in my day to day work due to knowledge shared from some fellow course members.

 

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