I spoke in other posts of impending changes to our industry, changes that will affect all of us. This blog documents in brief some big changes that we know are forthcoming so that you may better prepare your company for the future.
1, Eco design appliances.
What does this mean?
Europe and the U.K. set out strict air pollution guidelines. From the 1st Jan 2022, it will be illegal to manufacture and sell new stoves that do not comply with the Ecodesign regulations. Stoves that were already in the chain of supply, in showrooms, warehouses etc may still be sold, however, an enforcement team has been set up to verify products sold comply with regulations.The government is already working with the stove industry to ensure clean air target are met.
For the chimney sweep it will mean that we should be promoting clean burning advising to our customers, and that cleaner burning appliances are available . It also means that the products we sell will change.
2, The future ban on the most polluting fuels.
In DEFRAs clean air strategy the government sets the foundation for legislation that will eventually ban the sale of the most polluting fuels.
These fuels will likely be fossil fuels of one type or another.
So how will this effect us sweeps?
This will undoubtedly shrink our market place unless we relentlessly act to convert our customers to the virtues of burning sustainable wood logs or approved smokeless fuels. Ideally in an eco design stove.
This of course will also affect fuel suppliers, perhaps more than us sweeps. Many suppliers are already diversifying their products in readiness.
3, The changing market place.
It is a fact that the sale of stoves across the board has been in decline now for several years. Compound this with the loss of many open fires that will no doubt come about when the polluting fuel ban hits, our market will likely be noticeably smaller.
As we all know there are more registered sweeps than ever before so in real terms there is less work to go around unfortunately.
I believe that this will likely get worse before it gets better. The industry will become more cut-throat as companies jockey for position within the market place. Some companies will no doubt do well while some will fall by the wayside. The changing situation will not only affect the sweeps it will also hit industry stakeholders too, again some will adapt, change, adjust their pricing structures, modernise and some will not. I’m sure you would have seen strong animosity and negative posts from some on social media, Unfortunately in a contracting market this is expected, the pie is smaller and people are hungry. Of course Brexit has a part to play in the economic situation too, hopefully a line is soon drawn one way or another and our country can resume business as usual.
There are some positives here though for the sweeps. There is a vast opportunity for sales pushing the eco design option appliances along with the required servicing of stoves and biomass which are far more complex, involved and carries a much higher value to the consumer than the standard sweep. Diversifying your company into offering these services seems like a no-brainer.
Furthermore many members of the public associate or have associated chimney sweeps with the pollution of the Victorian days. smog, smoke, etc. although this is mostly unfounded. The modern chimney sweeps image will change as the most polluting fuels are banned and we move towards renewables with Chimney Sweeps becoming advisers on clean burning of sustainable fuels.
From 2025 it is likely that gas and other fossil fuels will be banned from new build homes according to Mr Phillip Hammond the then chancellor.
This leaves huge opportunities in renewables and biomass.
For us sweeps it’s a one door closes and another opens type of thing. Training in Biomass servicing will be a must for future sweeping and servicing businesses.
2025 seems like a long way off however I have served this industry for 25 years now, I like many others are here for the long haul and this will no doubt I pact the way we operate.
The consumer today expects much more of us than a sweep of yesteryear. They expect an approved certificate, advice, safety check, professionalism, courtesy, value etc. Many customers now also expect a sweep to be part of an approved trade organisation along with the safety net this brings them. Undoubtedly, because of the advertising power and trusted brands of the orgs this will grow evermore in future years. Customers are extremely brand aware today and success or company brand awareness can be easier for those who adopt or ride on the back of those existing and accepted brands.
6, Is qualification or competency going to be a requirement for UK chimney sweeps?
Chimney sweeping has always been an unregulated or self regulated industry in the UK, with no requirements for formal qualifications.
As a person who speaks regularly with industry leaders I can confirm that no discussions I know of have taken place which would ever make any formal qualification a requirement. As changes in the UK solid fuel industry happen very, very slowly and no discussions have begun then it is highly unlikely that any requirement will come about any time soon.
I have been asked if the level 2 NVQ that is available to our industry is ‘the way forward’ for us, and if I answer in all honesty I would say no its not, My view is that a competency for sweeps via a competent persons scheme would be the only rational leap forwards. The organisations already assess members to a very high standard and we have had qualifications in the past, the city and guilds and the NACS NVQ. Both failed as both were not necessary. On the other hand Competent person schemes in solid fuel are proven, time tested and successful.
The other concern I have with the NVQ is that sweeps within the UK are self employed, either company owners or management level and I cannot see how an entry level qualification fits their many year of experience and management?. Level 2 qualifications are typically used to demonstrate to employers that a basic skill level has been met, however we are our own employers are we not?
A formal qualification might be one of the methods for proving competence under a future competent persons scheme but as I said this is not on the table right now.
I’m not anti qualification, I just cant see how the current iteration of the NVQ2 fits the established industry which has a proven track record without it. If you can find a way to make your company profit from undertaking the NVQ and it fits into your costings then I say go for it
With the above in mind I will persist in pushing HETAS and other industry leaders to work towards a competency for sweeps. The organisations have done a fairly decent job in raising standards over the years and obviously care for the sweeps. Hopefully they can come together to help set out what competency means and work collectively to obtain it?
Although it will annoy some reading this, I firmly believe that the reality is, the days of the independent sweep are numbered. Just 10 years ago there were less than 400 registered sweeps in the UK from around 5500 in total. Today its closer to 2000 registered sweeps from a similar total number. If you also include sweeping associations who are not Hetas approved the 2000 figure rises sharply.
I hope you have enjoyed the above post. Thank you for taking the time to read, follow and kindly share.
For the consumer, for the sweeps, for the environment.