Scottish companies partner to form heat efficiency training academy

HeatFix Scotland and the Edinburgh Boiler Company are partnering on a new center intended to train 100 engineers a year and also educate the public on heat system efficiency

A new community-focused energy training academy will open in Scotland this year with the aim of building awareness about operating efficient heat systems.

The academy will be housed in a purpose built 12,000 sq. ft building to deliver professional engineering training and public workshops via a collaboration between HeatFix Scotland and the Edinburgh Boiler Company.

The new academy is designed to operate as a social enterprise that will allow existing engineers to upskill, while also delivering apprentice training and public events focused on practical steps to improve the efficiency of domestic heating systems. The site will be located in the town of Dalkeith and see the two companies working together to provide both commercial training services for the HVAC sector that will be used to help fund ‘community focused’ projects for ensuring more sustainable and affordable heating in homes. The announcement of the project comes as the UK braces for further significant rises in the cost of energy for heating homes over the next six months that campaigners warn will see a surge in fuel poverty rates nationally.

Andrew Lamond, managing director of HeatFix Scotland, said an estimated 100 new heating engineers are expected to be trained at the center annually when it is fully operational. This training would also increase its focus on helping engineers to specialize in renewable energy systems as demand grows. Mr Lamond said it is currently planned for managed learning programs and foundation apprenticeships to be offered at the site from 2023. Meanwhile, theory-only training could start from this year.

Mr Lamond added, “The academy will be open to any plumbing, heating or electrical company that requires training. It will be a fully inclusive training center for anyone who requires it.”

Another aim of the professional training will be to provide extended work placements for apprentices at the academy. Mr Lamond said, “We feel seven weeks is not long enough to gain the vital experience required to become a heating engineer. We will also offer full-time jobs to the best candidates in areas where we require additional staff. “

He added that these commercial training activities at the academy would allow for public awareness workshops and events to be held.

Mr Lamond said, “We will work with schools and colleges for referrals. The council and local education system will fund training placements on an individual basis. There will also be free community events for local residents and business owners to learn more about energy efficiency and new heating technologies.”

The academy is also looking at offering free service, repair and installation work that can be provided to lower income or vulnerable households as part of a partnership with the City Region Deal funding packages provided by the Scottish and UK Government.

A separate focus of the academy will be to host classes from local schools at the site. These visits are expected to start later this year and will aim to teach individuals about energy efficiency and simple methods that can be implemented in the home to reduce heat demand.

Mr Lamond said this work would be vital to address limited public awareness around ensuring heating systems are being run efficiently in homes. It was possible that implementing some of these measures could save households hundreds of pounds a year in energy costs, he added.

Mr Lamond said, “The hot topic right now is central heating flow temperature. We are trying to encourage home owners to turn their heating temperature down to 55 deg C for maximum efficiency. This only works if the system is properly set up and balanced. We have also been recommending weather compensators that use external and internal temperatures and adjust the boilers’ output to perform at its most efficient level.”

The academy said it would also recommend the effective use of insulation in homes and that programmers, thermostatic radiators and zoned heating are being used.

Mark Glasgow, managing director of the Edinburgh Boiler Company, said he had originally planned to operate an energy training center at its existing headquarters. However, a decision was taken to partner with another company to increase training for the academy.

Mr Glasgow said a major aim for the academy was to help create local job opportunities and meet the skills needs of the heating sector to deliver more efficient, affordable heat.

He said, “For example, unless someone has a National 5 qualification, they can’t do an apprenticeship or go to university. We will take them under our wing with this academy and give them an environment where they can learn, build confidence and develop as individuals.

“Ones who show real promise will be put through the training program and hopefully at the end of it there will be a career as a gas engineer waiting for them.”

Earlier this year, the Edinburgh Boiler Company announced it was undertaking a free fuel poverty prevention scheme for a limited time to ensure installed boilers across the city region were functioning efficiently. This health check scheme used an 8-point checklist designed by the company to consider the performance of installed boilers along with the effectiveness of their heating controls, radiator systems, valves and thermostats.

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