HVR Q & A Session

Attribute: Kevin Carling managing director, secon

Who you are to the UK HVAC market and how have you evolved in the UK and across Europe?

Secon started out as a distributor of solar thermal products. In 2013 we expanded our product portfolio to include air to water heat pumps, domestic hot water cylinders and buffer vessels. We wanted to offer a full range of products and accessories just as a traditional heating merchant would. Since then, we have evolved and become one of the largest distributors of heat pumps and renewable products in the UK, holding the most extensive stock of heat pumps ancillaries in the industry.

Describe the range of products you supply relevant for the HVAC market and to which customers?

We offer heat pumps from a host of global brands such as Panasonic, Viessmann, Samsung, Mitsubishi Electric, Grant, Vaillant and Hitachi, a wide range of ancillaries, plus solar thermal systems and underfloor heating.

Our sister company AUK Distribution, with whom we partnered in 2020, has expertise in chillers and commercial air conditioning, providing us with a new product suite in a different market.

We aim to service any relevant trade professional by offering the products they need competitively and quickly to site. Our webshop, stock level, and delivering most products within 24 hours is a real benefit to our customers.

Which of your products/services are in high demand for this market and what is driving this?

At the moment we are seeing a high demand across all of our products, ranging from solar thermal, heat pumps, DHW cylinders, buffer vessels to all the other ancillaries we provide. The drive to net zero carbon is promoting renewable energy use and there is more awareness of renewable heating technologies that can help achieve this. Schemes like the Renewable Heat Incentive and Green Homes Grant have brought the technologies to the forefront, and people are keen to explore how they can reduce their carbon impact. Also, we are witnessing an increase within traditional sector engineers wanting to diversify to new technologies, making their businesses future ready.

What are the modern day HVAC challenges you face and what part do you play in overcoming these?

There are two main challenges, the lack of installers and the home-owners confidence in the technology, both of which needs addressing with education. There are only approximately 1000 registered installers for heat pumps in the UK. With the forecast for market growth, this is simply not enough and we as an industry will struggle to supply the demand. Training is vital, and we have been focusing on providing those routes through our partners. We ensure that our partners deliver both product and technology-based training, from the basics, through to correct installation, commissioning and handover. It is key for the installers to spend time learning the specifics so that the end-user is left with a high-quality efficient system, building widespread confidence in both the product and renewable technology.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your operations and how do you plan to bounce back?

The first lockdown slowed the sector down early in 2020, but the market bounced back strongly in the last two quarters and we finished the year on a positive note. Our webshop has been a considerable asset as installers have moved to the web to get around lockdown restrictions. The Secon webshop is the only B2B webshop in the renewables industry and is a vital tool in helping our customers access the products they need. So much so that we are planning further improvements through 2021. We want to continue building on the strong start this year. We have invested in more warehousing space, increased our stock levels on all products, and are recruiting more staff to ensure we keep developing the business to meet the demands of both our customers and the market in general.

In addition, merging with AUK Distribution has expanded our portfolio into the chiller market which we see as a growing market and added valuable knowledge and experience to our team.

Any other future plans?

There will be substantial growth in the industry and we are constantly discussing with our customers their needs. It is key to develop strong, dependable working relationships, and we can only do this by adapting based on these discussions. High-quality products and good service are just as important as the speed of delivery and good pricing. We constantly work on providing and improving this service to all our customers. We aim to adapt to the market with products, service, and deliveries to build and improve as the market grows.