Given the advanced technology and sophisticated electronics in modern gas condensing boilers it’s not surprising that even the most experienced Gas Safe engineer needs to seek expert advice from time to time. Whether you are a trade professional or an end-user, Eric Brawley, Technical Coordinator at Vokèra by Riello, offers a few tips on getting the most out of a technical support call.
Our UK technical team handles around 250 calls a day and always aims to answer enquiries as quickly as possible because we know everyone’s time is precious. We receive calls on a broad range of subjects, from flues and smart controls to spare parts and compliance. Whilst not every question is answerable in one conversation, callers can assist the process by being prepared. Before making the call, it helps to have some key information about the boiler to hand and, if possible, to be at the appliance. For example, a fault code showing on the boiler is one of the most common reasons for contacting our team. When this occurs, the first thing we need to do is determine the exact model of boiler we are dealing with. When you consider that Vokèra has produced over 200 different models, you can see the problem! The model details will be on the installation or user manuals, so it saves time to have these ready. If these documents are not available, we will point the caller to the section on our website where they can be downloaded.
An increasingly frequent question our team has to deal with these days relates to boiler controls. This could be a new product, or maybe a new tenant who is using the boiler for the first time. Again, it is worth finding out the precise model of control before calling as it could be a third-party device chosen by the installer. If it is not a Vokèra product we may be unable to override the device and will therefore need to direct the caller to the control manufacturer.
We also get many calls from Gas Safe engineers who need advice on repairs. Having confirmed the model we will ask a series of questions about what the boiler is (or is not) doing when it is trying to operate. Unfortunately, from our experience there is a 50% chance that the engineer is not alongside the boiler at the time. This can make answering our questions more tricky unless the caller has made detailed notes of the problem. Once we have the engineer’s feedback we can try and identify why the fault may have occurred and explain a systematic procedure to effect a repair.
Boiler siting is a frequent topic tackled by our technical team and may require a site visit for more unusual installations. One of my most recent visits was to assess a Police Stables conversion in Glasgow. Work had to be halted after bones were found on site but, thankfully, it turned out to be a horse and not a human skeleton!
A common site visit will involve the replacement of old balanced flue water heaters with new high efficiency models such as the Vokèra AquaNova le. These installations have to comply with a zonal system for the siting of the heater. Our products are suitable for zones outside of zone 2 in this type of system, which would not have existed when the original appliance was fitted.
Site visits can be a challenge and may require compromises along the way. For example, I recently got a call from an engineer looking to replace a water heater that was currently under a worktop. I checked the size to ensure clearances could be met but unfortunately they couldn’t so an alternative site had to be found for the new appliance.
Since Gas Safe issued a bulletin at the start of 2019 regarding verification that an unusual flue installation complies with the manufacturer’s instructions, we are being asked almost every day for confirmation on installations. To do this we require the attending engineer to supply us with some photographs of the installation, together with the address and the dimensions. If it has been installed correctly, we will keep a record of the communication from the engineer so no one is in doubt that it is compliant.
On the subject of flueing, our team is asked on a daily basis about how to connect a new boiler to an existing flue system, most commonly twin flue. Although we always look at the individual system and advise appropriately, from experience we generally advise against trying to connect to an old flue (15 or 20+ years). In view of the 80/125mm flueing options on modern HE appliances we tend to recommend a new flue system that is more suited to today’s appliances, fitted with the correct runs.
Another frequent question will be about Boiler Plus compliance in England, particularly with regard to controls, both in terms of what engineers need to do to comply and wiring. Needless to say, it saves time if the engineer has a basic understanding of the compliant options before calling. Our team can then go through the solutions from the cheapest to more sophisticated control in the OpenTherm configuration, for example, with the further option of remote Internet access for additional control if required. As the engineer seeking this advice is probably not at the appliance at this point, we can discuss any wiring questions once they have chosen their control and are at the boiler.
Indeed, enquiries about how to wire controls, particularly to ensure compliance, are very common. Whilst we can obviously advise on the products we have to offer and how these are wired to the boiler being fitted, in some circumstances the installer may be seeking generic advice on zoned systems and how they are incorporated into the boiler, as well as third-party devices. In this situation we can tell the installer, or more commonly the electrician, how they are wired into the boiler, but placing emphasis on the fact that the device must be used in a volt free configuration, or our relay will need to be used, to offer a 240V fitting option.
In addition to offering advice on boiler installations and maintenance, our team also receives calls from specifiers who are looking to figure out which model of boiler will best meet the needs of a particular project. In order for us to offer advice on this the specifier will need to provide some key project details such as the application, heat output requirement, and budget. We often refer specifiers to the Vokèra Product Guide that can be download from our website that shows boiler specifications in relation to inputs, flue lengths, water flow rates etc. Indeed, the advice being sought about a product specification, installation or servicing could be available at the click of a mouse, so it is well worth checking a manufacturer’s website or YouTube videos before picking up the phone.
The introduction of new products and constantly evolving technology can be an initial challenge for heating professionals and their customers. It is important, therefore, for them to know that there is someone at the other end of a phone to provide advice and answer any questions. By following a few simple tips before making a call our technical team will be better able to resolve an enquiry quickly and efficiently.