How to position yourself as a trustworthy business in the home improvement sector?

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As we head into another winter of high fuel prices and squeezed household budgets, consumers are looking for solutions to put power back in their hands – and pounds in their pockets. The trend for installing stoves is no longer just one of aesthetics, but can be a way for families to heat their homes more affordably.

Businesses in this sector face a bright future – providing they can demonstrate their professional credentials to potential customers. Joining not-for-profit specialist accreditation organisations like the Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme (HETAS) is a smart way to prove you are the right firm for the job.

Here we meet Bruce Allen, CEO of HETAS, a Which? Trusted Traders partner, to find out how they support both businesses and consumers with safe and clean heating in the home.

What does HETAS do?

HETAS is a not-for-profit, UKAS-audited body responsible for ensuring the safe installation, operation and maintenance of biomass, solid fuel and wood-burning stoves. Our remit takes in installers, service engineers, chimney sweeps and retailers, meaning we cover consumers’ needs from start to finish.

Our team assesses these home energy businesses to ensure they compile with stringent guidelines, so that the public can be assured of a trusted, safe and legally sound service. We have approved training centres and share the most up-to-date technical information, as well as checking installers undergo refresher training every five years. 

HETAS produces an annual list of appliances and fuels that have been checked and approved as safe, efficient and as environmentally-friendly as possible. We also work with national and local government to reduce the impact of the energy sector on the air we breathe.

How does joining HETAS benefit traders?

There’s no better way to stand out against the competition than having the gold standard of HETAS approval. We are robust and rigorous in our assessments of applicants, plus we ensure they are familiar with the latest knowledge and installing systems in accordance with building regulations.

HETAS runs a complaints system and the government requires us to provide financial reassurance to customers should a job not meet building regulations and the original installer is unable to rectify it. This benefits those on each side of the transaction. Also, if we have any fear about fire or safety, we go out and inspect – and tell the installer to act if this is needed.

How does HETAS work with Which? Trusted Traders?

Being a HETAS member gives your customers the peace of mind that you have the first-class technical skills that we expect of all accredited installers. Our partnership with Which? Trusted Traders offers the added reassurance that your business procedures have been vetted by the UK’s consumer champion. Displaying both logos gives customers double the confidence that they are in safe hands.

Not only that, but HETAS members can get a 50% discount on their endorsement fee for the first six months as a Which? Trusted Trader. It also smooths the application process as your business has already fulfilled many of the stringent criteria that the scheme requires.  We work hard to make HETAS the most trusted brand in this sector and we have the perfect partner in Which?.

How is the drive for alternative fuel sources changing the sector?

A lot of things changed during the pandemic and this was followed by inflation and the Ukraine war forcing prices up. Customers are seeking fuel independence and while they remain tied to traditional energy suppliers for much of their needs, a wood-burning stove can give them more flexibility. During autumn and spring in particular, when you don’t need the full central heating on, you can pop some wood on the stove to top up heat levels.

Market demand for wood-burning stoves has gone up 15-20% or more over the last year. But this means that lead-in times are longer. In September 2022, manufacturers were telling new clients they couldn’t provide anything until after Christmas. This is where consumers can be caught out, because an unscrupulous trader might claim to get you an alternative stove sooner. This may not be the right product for you, it could be installed unsafely or they might simply disappear with your deposit.

If an installer is HETAS registered and additionally with Which? Trusted Traders, customers can be assured they are honest, fair and decent.