Opinion: Where have all the boilers gone?

In his exclusive column for Installer, Heating Engineer Andy Gibbs shares his experiences as he struggles to secure the boilers to fit for his customers:

I’ve been doing this job a long time, compared with most, coming up to 32 years now, and in that time I have never encountered a situation like the one we are now facing. A shortage of boilers.

Now there are various reasons for this, I’ll touch on them, but I’m not really interested in reasons, just how it affects installers.

I believe the reason for the shortages is a lack of microchips that get put into the boilers and pumps, along with other various supply chain issues caused by COVID, Brexit, ships stuck in the Suez canal ETC.

In my experience, it’s affecting many manufacturers. You try to get the brand/model you want, but when that stock is wiped out, you take whatever you can get.

For you and I, it’s been a problem for a good few months now, and it’s not just affecting me. A look at social media and you can see how many installers are in the same boat around the UK.

Historically, if you want a boiler, you call your favoured merchant, who will either have one or get you one within 24 hours on an overnight delivery or similar. But that is most certainly no longer the case.

Now you have to call them and tell them what you would like, and they won’t have one, so they will have to search the entire company stock across all their branches. Then they call you back and say ‘sorry we don’t have one’.

So you call your backup merchant, and go through exactly the same thing. You might get lucky, you might not. If not, it’s onto your second-backup merchant, and so on, and so on.

You might end up having to go back to the customer who wanted boiler X but can only have boiler Y, or even worse, boiler Z!

And all of this is taking up time. And as we know, time is money.

That one phone call to get a boiler that used to take five minutes is now three or four calls that take half an hour, or more. I’ve definitely wasted more time hunting down boilers this year than in the previous five years added together.

The best bit is it’s nearly summer, when boiler demand is traditionally low. What will happen come October, when it’s cold, if there are still availability issues? This could put major pressure on engineers, merchants and customers who could be stuck at home in the cold.

It’s tough out there, so good luck finding what you need.

Thanks for reading, there will be more next month, looking forward to seeing you all at InstallerSHOW, make sure you register for your FREE tickets today.