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In The Press

Hot off The Press

Hot off the Press

May Edition

  1. Confidence rises despite higher costs

  2. Users warned of forthcoming R404A refrigerant ban

  3. Fujitsu announces new partner schemes

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Confidence rises despite higher costs

UK: Building services companies remain confident despite higher labour and material costs.

The latest sector-wide Building Engineering Business Survey shows that the sector appears to be showing signs of recovery after a challenging 2018.

75% of businesses surveyed said their turnover had increased or remained steady in Q1 2019, compared to the previous quarter. The outlook for Q2 2019 is also largely positive, with almost 29% of businesses estimating their turnover will increase.

However, costs continue to rise, with 58% of businesses reporting higher labour costs in Q1 2019 compared to Q4 2018 and 73% saw higher materials costs.

Payment terms and retentions remain largely unfavourable for the sector. For commercial work, 81% said the typical number of days to be paid for a project or job was 31 days or more. For public sector work 63% of businesses said the typical number of days to be paid for a project or job was 31 days or more. 58% of businesses had between 1% and 10% of their turnover tied up in retentions in Q1 2019.

BESA CEO David Frise said he was encouraged to see confidence returning, but added: “However, the trend in higher labour costs will not be eased until, as a sector, we address our widening skills gap. This illustrates the increasingly critical need to encourage young people into the industry via apprenticeships.”

The survey receives input from the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA), the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA), the Scottish electrical trade body SELECT and the Scottish & Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers Federation (SNIPEF).

Users warned of forthcoming R404A refrigerant ban

UK: DEFRA has issued warnings of new F-gas rules that will ban virgin high GWP refrigerants, like R404A, in systems of 40 tonnes CO2e or more from 1 January 2020.

Under the European F-gas phase down timetable, virgin HFC refrigerant with a GWP greater than 2500 will be banned from being used to service or refill refrigeration or freezer systems, with a refrigerant charge size of 40 tonnes of CO2e or more. This equates to around 10.2kg of R404A, a common refrigerant in medium sized systems. Smaller and hermetically sealed systems should be unaffected by this ban.

In addition to the commonly used R404A, the ban will also include R507 and the R22 replacement gas R422D, both of which have GWPs in excess of 2500. The ban applies across Europe.

This rule also applies to companies who may have stockpiled these refrigerants before that date. Reclaimed or recycled refrigerant will still be able to be used until 2030.

DEFRA warns that operators who do not comply with the service ban are breaking the law and are liable for enforcement action. Regulators in England and Scotland can now issue civil penalties up to £200,000 to operators found to have breached the requirements of the regulation. Enforcement notices and possible fines can also be applied by enforcing authorities in Northern Ireland and Wales for breaches of F-gas provisions.

UK enforcement bodies, the Environment Agency (EA), Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Northern Ireland’s Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have jointly produced and endorsed a leaflet which provides guidance for businesses affected by the F-gas regulation. This can be downloaded here.

Fujitsu announces new partner schemes

UK: Fujitsu General Air Conditioning UK has launched two new partner schemes – Infinity Partner and Infinity Partner Elite – offering training, extended warranties and other support services.

There is no minimum value of sales to achieve membership, and on completion of a set number of technical training courses each year, Infinity Partners and Infinity Elite Partners will receive extended product warranties.

“We have seen that customers who undertake a comprehensive product training programme are less likely to raise a warranty claim than those who have not been trained,” observed Fujitsu technical manager Martyn Ives. “Education is a main focus of Fujitsu and is a key reason why we have taken this step to link the two together in our new approach.”

Marketing rebates at 1% of sales will be provided for partners spending up to £50,000, extending to 2% at £125,000 for Elite partners. The company says that Elite partners will also benefit from a transferable product warranty, meaning that if they inherit a product that has been installed by a third party, the product will be covered by their extended warranty. Fujitsu will further assist at this level with labour contributions, plus a new dedicated out of hours technical help line.

The company’s existing Comfort Club will continue as Fujitsu’s customer reward scheme. This offers a 2% rebate of sales as points to any member, that can be redeemed though a collection of high street vouchers, joint corporate events or in Fujitsu’s new online store.

Fujitsu’s says that Existing Comfort Club members who meet the training criteria will instantly qualify for the new Infinity partner schemes and should submit a completed application form in order to preserve their 2019 extended warranties.

Further information here.