Win more contracts by managing over specification….
December 15, 2014
We all want to hit the brief in the bull’s-eye. Perhaps over deliver slightly, but never under. Where Ground Source Heat Pump Schemes are concerned are you over specifying by up to 30% on some installations by not using the proper tools? How many more projects could you win if you knew how to hit that bull’s-eye?
The Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is a key part of the structure of the Renewable Heat Incentive; at least for smaller (<45kW) installations and has grown over the last few years to become a globally recognised body of information and standards. Most people won't be aware that the content of the MCS regulations and background documents has been pulled together largely by volunteers working for the good of the industry and consumers under the auspices of Gemserve who do the admin on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change DECC. Having served on the Heat Pump MCS group for the last few years I've picked up some insights which I hope you will find interesting.
The groups tend to be heavily populated by equipment manufacturers and standards agencies with very light representation from installers and designers of renewable energy systems. This is not surprising as the manufacturers hope to improve the skills and numbers of their installers and standards agencies make money out of the program. Installers tend to view it as another box which just has to be ticked to earn a living and so are less keen to get involved. The result can lead to the regs being a bit insular and short on real world wisdom.
Another outcome is that the regs are very much written to facilitate a box ticking exercise during audits which can lead to very odd conversations between the poor old inspectors and experienced installers who do know their subject.
A further consequence is cost. I did some research for the MCS team a couple of years ago and found that to comply with the latest regs an extra 5% was added to the cost of an installation over what would have been regarded as previous industry best practice. Not too bad until you compare the fully MCS compliant system with what you could call a “cowboy installation” which could be as much as 30% cheaper again. This is interesting when you think about the market consequences.
Something which really bothers me is a thing called MIS3005 which is a set of standards for heat pump installers to work to and includes a set of lookup tables which tell you how much heat you can expect to get out of a meter of pipe buried in the ground. Now don't get me wrong, I co-authored the thing, it's a really important body of work and has undoubtedly contributed significantly to improving the quality of the majority of small heat pump installations. I wish it existed when I started out as a heat pump importer all those years ago.
So what bothers me? Well it's when I ask how a system was designed and someone replies "using MIS3005". That's not a design! Why? The numbers in the lookup tables were put together by running simulations through two ground loop design packages GLHEPro and GLD. I did the GLD simulations myself and therefore know how many assumptions went into the numbers - it's scary. The reason the tables were produced was to provide a rule of thumb for minimum installation specifications. The good news is that if the tables are used properly the system will be over sized - phew. But if a company is installing more than one or two systems a year or is considering larger installations they really owe it to themselves and their customers to learn to do the job properly or to get the job done by someone who can.
Let me illustrate the benefits by giving a quick example, because the bore hole tables were formulated for a regular square array, you get a bit less out of the bore holes in the middle, you won't know this by looking at the tables of course but trust me you do. Now if your customer has a narrow strip of land you can put your bore holes in a line rather than a grid and because you get the full monty from them you can save a bit of drilling, but not if you "design" using MIS3005!
So how much can you save? How does 20 to 30% grab you! (Don't even get me started on heating and cooling systems.) And because a recognised design package is being used the system is still 100% MCS compliant just a lot cheaper.
So the secret – get trained on using a recognised ground loop design package like GLHEPro or GLD, or contract this work to a professional. You will hit the bull’s-eye on the specification, it will be MCS compliant and you’ll have more chance of winning the contract and not over specifying.
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