HOME improvements are like buses in our house; none for ages and then three at once. The last major job was an extension in 2004. Now all of a sudden we’re looking at a new central heating system, solar panels and a possible kitchen alteration. All to be done within the next two weeks. Kidding.
Why central heating? Well, we currently have a warm air heating system dating back to the ’70s. We’ve long known it to be on borrowed time and until recently were prepared to replace it with its modern equivalent if necessary. But then, with a newly-empty nest, we’ve taken time to muse on the future and speculated on crazy scenarios like renting the house out or selling it. In either case, a traditional radiator system will be expected. Plus, crazy scenarios aside, we’ve realised that while we’ve lived fairly happily with this system for over 25 years, it is, in fact, inefficient and expensive to run. The only reason we’ve not spent a fortune on fuel is because we’ve tended to keep the house colder than many people. And now that we’re on the wrong side of fifty, and with the weather recently seeming persistently, bitingly cold, the light has dawned: A new system might make the house warmer and cost less to run 🙂
And solar panels? It’s another case of just having gotten around to looking into it. We have a south-facing roof. And, with government subsidies on an irrevocable downward spiral, if you’re gonna do it, do it now. Admittedly we think other people’s solar panels are danged ugly compared to roof tiles but they probably thought that about roof tiles in the days when everyone’s roof was thatched. With current levels of subsidy we should get payback in about seven years, as well as doing our bit for the environment.
As for the kitchen, it’s small. You go out the back kitchen door, across a passageway and into what we’ve always called the laundry but these days would be called a utility room. The laundry was tacked onto the house and built in single brick. So, like others in the same design of house, we’re looking at a knock-through-insulate-and-make-a-bigger-kitchen project. (I thought of calling it the KTIAMABK project but concluded it didn’t quite scan.)
So, with three
buses projects to think about, we did the modern thing and went to the Web – to Rated People, specifically. Got to be better than picking names at random out of Yellow Pages. We had quotes from two well-rated companies for the central heating. The first company seemed quite reassuring. The guy from the second one rather tripped himself up by making spurious remarks about having to change the gas pipe. My wife, a qualified plumber, asked him a question that caused him to quickly change the subject. The first guy made a show of measuring all the rooms and entering the total volume into an online calculator; the second guy took no measurements at all.
There’s a great verse in the book of Proverbs in the Bible that says:
“The first speech in a court case is always convincing—
until the cross-examination starts!”
It seems to apply to sales people too. On discussing with her fellow plumbers, my wife found out that both companies had quoted an over-sized boiler. What’s more, the elaborate measurement and online calculation routine was inappropriate for a combi boiler. Oh dear.
The first company also happened to be in the solar panels business and later in the week he returned to quote for that. After some consideration we signed up. But then further research began to show inconsistencies in the technical info we’d been given. On being questioned, the company just shifted their ground. What’s more, they’d talked about how busy they were with these installations – but then wanted to install ours exactly a week after we signed the contract! Having prayed for guidance, we got uncomfortable and decided to cancel. So no solar panels yet. (And, as yet, no return of the deposit…)
So now we need a third quote for our heating system and we’re looking for new would-be suppliers of solar panels. It seems you can take very little said by these folks at face value, and have to assume that someone’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes – no matter how good the reviews on some web site. Check everything. Get a second opinion. And a third. Don’t rush in to a decision.
Finding the right people for the job – people you believe to be honest and who will act with integrity – is apparently more of an art than a science.