/ French plumbers Arrrrgh!! Any UK plumbers need a job?

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Phil Payne - on 13 Sep 2013
We're just about to purchase a house near Toulouse and just had a ridiculous quote for fitting a heating system as the house is currently without any heating system.

It's a big house (350m2), so I appreciate that it won't be cheap, but does anyone have an idea of how much it should cost to install about 20 radiators and hot water to 3 bathrooms and a kitchen?

We just had a quote for that + a 35kw biomass boiler for 28k which just seems ludicrously high to me.

I'm seriously considering getting a plumber over to do the job, because I get the feeling that these guys are taking the mickey out of me.
andymac - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

With you being English ,chances are they are taking the piss.

If you know any other Brits in the area ,maybe ask them if they could recommend one of the native pipe monkeys.
Simon Cahill - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne: My guess is the cost of the boiler plus not many experts.

How Much Do Systems Cost?

It costs about 12,000 to install an automatic biomass boiler in a domestic residence, about ten times that of a more conventional gas or oil boiler system, so perhaps it is not surprising they account for such a small percentage of boiler sales.

Manual biomass boilers, where the wood is fed into the furnace by hand, are cheaper at about 7,000. But biomass boilers intended for commercial and business use are even more costly. A large hospital would need to spend a staggering 400,000 to provide adequate year round heating and hot water using a biomass boiler.

On top of the cost of the equipment and installation, fuel costs themselves need to be taken into consideration. Wood pellets derived from waste wood materials are the most suitable fuel for biomass boilers and typically cost between 150 and 200 per tonne.

With the average household requiring approximately 11 tonnes of wood pellets per year, a domestic-use biomass boiler will typically cost an estimated 15,000 during its first year.
Phil Payne - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

This quote was given to my wife who is French and I wasn't there, so they don't know that I'm English. I get the feeling that a lot of guys around here take the mickey though.

We're currently renting and the electric garage door broke last week. The door jammed and it snapped a plastic pulley. The estate agent sent a guy round today who told my missus that the motor was knackered and that pretty much the whole mechanism needs replacing. I've checked and there's absolutely nothing wrong with the motor or mechanism and all that's required is a small plastic pulley type thing and a bit of rigging so that it doesn't happen again.

Also has a similar problem with an electric shutter that doesn't open fully and they told the owner that it needs a new motor (most expensive part to change) even though it motors up and down just fine, just not all the way.

So, that's 2 local tradesmen (if you can call them that) that are both taking the piss, so you can see why I'm finding it hard to take this heating quote seriously.
Phil Payne - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Simon Cahill:

No mains gas in the village, so no chance of a conventional system like in the uk. We want to take advantage of a 0% eco loan and lower VAT for the biomass boiler, so I was expecting about 10k for the installation of one of those.

What I don't get is the other 18k for some fairly basic plumbing work albeit with quite a lot of pipework to install. I did a rough calculation that I would need about 200m of copper pipe to be installed but not bothered about it all being hidden under floorboards or anything.
interdit - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

Phil, Check the T&C's for the Eco loan & VAT.
Certainly with any Eco grants they usually insist you use a registered French installer.
A UK plumber may be better & cheaper, but will not be likely to have a SIRET No.

Also, before choose your French 'artisan' plumber to do the job, check exactly where they are going to lay the pipes.
Many of them are not too fussy about concealing pipes (the French appear to have different aesthetics with this sort of thing, adds to the workload, may require other tradesmen and adds to the cost) - So get a walk around with the plumber before signing them up.

Sorry - Don't know any decent local plumbers, so I installed my own wood-fuelled central heating last year.
Phil Payne - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to interdit:

I know about the eco loan thing, so was hoping to use that forthe boiler but get a UK plumber in to install all the radiators and pipework.

Just out of interest, how much did it cost you in materials for your installation?
interdit - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

I can't give you a total that would be useful to you.

- I already had most of the radiators, but bought new thermostatic valves etc.
- I shipped in a 20kw jacketed wood burner from the UK.
- I bought the copper tube in bulk (to get trade rates) for this and other projects.
- I don't use the sytsem to heat water for the taps.

I'm not a pro btw.
pec on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

>
I did a rough calculation that I would need about 200m of copper pipe to be installed but not bothered about it all being hidden under floorboards or anything. >

Don't they use plastic push fit in France yet? Its cheaper than copper now and way faster so much less labour, you could probably do it yourself if you wanted.

Phil Payne - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to pec:

They do, but it's an old house and I prefer the look of copper than having cheap looking plastic pipes all over the place. I don't want to lift the floorboards because it has really nice parquet flooring, so that would mean running plastic pipes along the walls.
interdit - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

Just dug through some receipts on the other half's computer.

20kw Stratford Ecoboiler 2200 (Direct from manufacturer)
Copper tube (28, 22, 14mm) 450 ish
Fittings 900
Odds and sods ?
Lots of elbow grease.

Currently running 10 rads in 160sqm, but specced & plumbed to expand when we convert the barn to up to 16 rads.

A plumber (English) laughed when we said we were looking to do it for less than 6K
Phil Payne - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to interdit:

Even if copper pipe, radiators and fittings comes to 5k, that still means that the guys wants 10k+ for labour. I reckon that an experienced plumber with the correct tools could probably do the whole lot in about 2 weeks, so I find the ~1k/day of labour a bit much!
dinkypen - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

Get a quote from Enershop http://www.enershop.eu/ukhomepage.htm who recently installed a heating and hot water system for friends of mine North of Agen for apparently a very reasonable price
Phil Payne - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to dinkypen:

Cheers, will check them out.

By the way, if any UK plumbers are reading this, I'm serious about hiring someone from the UK to come out and do the work and I'll even find the time to go out climbing with you!
dinkypen - on 13 Sep 2013
jimtitt - on 13 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:
Bit vague about what sort of biomass your going for but if it is going to be an automatic pellet/wood chip system then along with the boiler, the fuel store and access and feed screw, buffer tank, a new chimney/renew old, wiring, control system, domestic hot water system etc it sounds fairly reasonable. Ive spent maybe 12,000 on my heating (which isnt automatic feed) and thats doing everything myself and easier than most houses since it is in an outbuilding.
Phil Payne - on 14 Sep 2013
In reply to jimtitt:

I don't have a problem with the cost of the biomass boiler installation, just the cost of installing radiators in the house. The guy gave a quote based on how many square metres the house was and not with regards to how many radiators I wanted. How can you quote a plumbing job based on that?
jimtitt - on 14 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne: Im not a heating engineer (nor a plumber for that matter) but its pretty typical way to calculate the cost. Youll find numbers around the 20/m quoted which for your house makes 7,000 and depending on exactly what they have to do the rest is the boiler part.

One of the guys I share a beer or two with is a heating engineer who installs pellet and woodchip systems and he did a rough and ready estimate today for 350m 32kW pellet system and came to 31,200 depending (read that as upwards) on the chimney, conversion or new build a pellet store and a few other fairly minor things. He never even asked how many radiators you wanted since that is relatively minor aspect I guess but just wrote down 5,000 for them + 2500 for the pipework and electrical material and 4500 to install the whole gubbins.

Pellet and woodchip systems are popular here in Bavaria, mainly as weve loads of trees which are sort-of free for a lot of people (my system uses logs which means it isnt automatic but as there is usually someone at home thats not a hassle). Woodchip is the more popular as pellets come from Austria whereas the trees grow next door and therefore cheaper.
The big hassle is space as the thermal store is rather big, for yours you need probably 2 x 1,000lt tanks, and place for maybe 50m of whatever your burning.

The spring flooding here revealed an interesting new problem with pellet systems though, the winter was longer than normal and a lot of people filled up when the spring came. Then the floods came and the pellets expanded lifting houses off their cellars or bursting the walls, at least I only had firewood drifting across the yard.
marsbar - on 14 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne: If you email Cthulhu through the forum he will have a chat with you.

http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=559615
yorkshireman - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:
> (In reply to jimtitt)
>
> I don't have a problem with the cost of the biomass boiler installation, just the cost of installing radiators in the house. The guy gave a quote based on how many square metres the house was and not with regards to how many radiators I wanted. How can you quote a plumbing job based on that?

There is some logic - depending on the room sizes, the radiators need to be different sizes and therefore cost different amounts. We're just about to get two upstairs rooms fitted out and were told by the plumber that the 3 other identical rooms that were fitted by a plumber were far too powerful and over the top (we're in France btw, and sounds like we're in a fairly similar situation).

We're sitting on several quotes (did you get more than one quote to compare?) for a 42kw wood pellet boiler to heat a similar size of house. The boiler installation, 3000l water tank to run everything off, silo to hold 10 tonnes of pellets, electrics (it will be housed in a barn until we rennovate that) and all plumbing between buildings averages around 30k. That's with no radiators.

We've had experience with several French plumbers and don't find they're pulling the wool over our English eyes. Some are better than others, and some will actively try to advise you on the best/cost efficient solution, whereas others will just put stuff where you tell them to. It takes time to sound out who to listen to.

The danger of thinking you can get an English plumber over to do it more cheaply is that depending on where you live, there are local nuances to think about. With us, it's the long cold alpine winters that Brits just aren't used to and can throw up some interesting challenges.
Phil Payne - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to yorkshireman:

I think I'm going to have to seriously rethink the whole biomass boiler thing if the costs are so high. We're in the south of France, where the temperature rarely drops below zero, so I don't see a need for a super high spec system.

There are several working chimneys in the house to provide additional heating and I don't suppose that as a family of four we will need to use all 15 rooms in the house and could get away with a smaller installation with electric heaters for rooms occasionally used when we have guests.

This will be our first time and renovating a property and we might have chosen a bit more than we can handle, so I'm just trying to keep costs under control and not get carried away right from the start.

Cheers for all the advice so far though.
sleavesley on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne: Maybe worth contacting Paul here http://eco2solar.co.uk/ maybe get an air source heat pump and some solar electrical panels at the same time.
I'm not an expert but he is. Maybe worth a call?
ads.ukclimbing.com
jimtitt - on 15 Sep 2013
In reply to Phil Payne:

Certainly if you live in a fairly benign bit of France then the capital cost against the amount of heat your going to get out is worth looking at. No point in investing a huge amount if over the life of the plant you arent going to save compared with a low capital/high running cost system. I use about 50,000kWh for heating in the year which would make a fairly hefty electricity bill;- 13,700, oil 4,400, wood 1950 so a higher capital cost will repay itself fairly easily (I get most of my wood free anyway but thats a different calculation!).
And wood plants are quite labour intensive no matter what is claimed, the feed screws jam up and all sorts of fun things go on whereas an electric fan heater either works or goes in the bin and only costs a tenner in the first place!

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