The boiler scrappage scheme is one of the few parts of the Pre Budget Report (PBR) that has already been launched, and it is a timely development for gas fitters and plumbers – many of whom are sorely in need of some good commercial news.
The government scheme was one of the most talked-about elements of an otherwise low key PBR, which was a rather muted affair, primarily because there will be a general election before many of the proposals can be enforced.
The boiler scrappage scheme offers a £400 discount to householders that choose to upgrade an old boiler to a more energy efficient model. The government has mainly focused on the carbon-cutting benefits of the scheme – but the rebate is only available to those who employ a qualified gas fitter to carry out the work. As a result, it could result in a new stream of work for those qualified in this field.
What are the rules of the scheme?
There are a number of restrictions governing who will qualify for a discount. Broadly speaking, if the boiler is over 15 years old it will probably be eligible for the scheme. More specifically, the equipment needs to be rated ‘G’ on the standard energy efficiency ratings. Pilot lights are another good indicator of the boiler’s eligibility; those with permanent pilot lights are generally G rated.
The scheme is only in operation in England, but it is offered to both homeowners and tenants. Registered Social Landlords are not eligible, but conventional landlords are; in fact, a landlord can apply for a rebate on each of their properties.
The discount is provided by way of a voucher, which can be obtained from the Energy Saving Trust after the customer has answered a series of questions. Only the tenant or homeowner should do this; as a gas fitter or plumber your involvement will begin after the voucher has been received.
Which boilers can be fitted under the scheme?
As the main purpose of the scheme is to encourage energy efficiency, only A-rated gas, oil or LPG boilers can be fitted under the scheme. Electric boilers are not eligible in any circumstance, but the scheme does cover micro CHOP units, biomass boilers as long as they are MCS-registered, and boilers with a passive flue heat recovery device.
The rules governing eligibility of new boilers can be confusing to members of the public. As such, you may wish to use your expertise to guide customers through the process of choosing a new boiler.
Getting the most out of the scheme
The boiler scrappage scheme could provide a much-needed boost for gas fitters and plumbers. But it will, perhaps, also have the unintended consequence of increasing competition among them. As such, you will have to take some extra steps to ensure that your business stands out.
Consider contacting your existing customers personally, or by means of direct mail or email, explaining the scheme and the discount. Many people will be aware of the boiler scrappage scheme, but a significant number will unaware of the details and whether it applies to them. Helping to explain the criteria, as well as illustrating how a new boiler could help them reduce their bills and their carbon footprint, is likely to result in more sales.
You may also consider taking out adverts that relate specifically to the boiler scrappage scheme in local media. For example, you might wish to pay for a featured listing in the phone book, or a series of adverts in relevant local papers, with a few chunks of information about the scheme and an explanation of your involvement.
Given that customers will be saving £400 anyway, it seems likely that expert information and guidance will be a bigger differentiator than price. As such you should consider concentrating on the information you can provide to potential clients, rather than necessarily trying to undercut your competitors.
If you have a website and are willing to travel further for customers, you might also wish to place pay-per-click ads on Google or other major search engines. The level of enquiries you receive is likely to improve dramatically if your firm is at the top of the listings when a customer searches for ‘boiler scrappage scheme’.
For boiler suppliers, the key to benefiting from the scheme is to work alongside the tradesmen who will be fitting new boilers to promote the scrappage to potential customers. Anyone thinking of taking advantage of the discount will need to know which new boilers that are accepted under the scheme offer the best value and the least environmental impact.
The boiler scrappage scheme is potentially very good news for those in the heating business. If you ramp up your marketing efforts, particularly during this crucial period when the scheme is still fresh in the mind of many householders, your firm can tap into this important new revenue stream.