What a spring clean of your van can lead to...


18 April 2023

Ben Bartle-Ross on why it’s worth spending the time on keeping things tidy.

It’s that time of year again, but before I give you my easy tips on presenting a clean, professional looking van to your customers, I wonder if you can tell me the main difference between the van of a plumber or heating engineer, and a heat pump engineer?

Any thoughts?

Well, we’ll come back to that, but this month I wanted to talk about why you should devote a couple of hours to giving your van a good old spring clean. Yes, I know I’m teaching many of you to ‘suck eggs’, but as a trainer, you’d be amazed how many vans I see that would benefit from a bit of a tidy up!

So here are my five quick steps that will help:

  1. Pick one day
  2. Allocate two hours
  3. Divide into three
  4. Don’t 4get the hoover
  5. Take five minutes.

Five easy steps 

Pick a day and stick to it – and make sure everyone knows not to disturb you while you’re on the case! 

At the same time, this really shouldn’t take all day so allocate two hours. It doesn’t mean it will take that long, but without it, you’re more likely to rush or even stop halfway through.

Put things into three distinct piles: 

  1. The rubbish that just didn’t make it to the bin
  2. The stuff that needs to be recycled or more careful disposal
  3. The stuff you need to return to your office, or put back in the van 

Be completely brutal in your choices. Do you really need those old tools that you haven’t used for so long? 

Time for the hoover. Make sure you do all the interior, both front and back of the van. It really makes a difference. 

Finally, plan for five minutes each day to remove any rubbish, and a little bit longer at the end of the week to keep your van clean and professional-looking.

Is it now time to spring clean your workload?

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At the start I asked for the major difference between the tools inside the vans of heating engineers and heat pump engineers.

Well, it’s pretty much the same except that the heat pump engineer will carry a refractometer, which measures the ethylene glycol and propylene glycol concentration in a heat pump. 

So am I saying that a heating engineer can easily add to their portfolio by sticking a refractometer in their van?
Well, yes! There are already so many similarities between heating and heat pump engineers that the plumbers who come on my training courses are often surprised at how easy it is to transition from carbon-based heating to heat pumps.

However, there are fundamental differences, so to adapt your current skills to those required to size and install heat pumps also requires a change in mindset – a kind of spring clean if you will!

Back to basics 

Heat pumps operate at different flow temperatures and flow rates from gas heating and require different pipe sizing.  
This often means taking a step back and looking at the basics of everything you’ve learnt and forgetting what has become ‘common practice’ in the world of high temperature heating.

Otherwise, there is less chance of the heat pump system working properly and delivering the reliable, consistent heat that the customer wants and expects. 

And this is why our training courses start off with the basics, because once you understand the nuances needed with heat pumps, it becomes almost impossible to get it wrong.

You’d be welcome to join me and my fellow trainers on one of our courses. They start with online training that you can do in your own time, which covers the basics – and they finish we real time, classroom training where you get your hands on the equipment, having learnt the basics first.

For me, it’s about taking the skills you already have and upskilling so that you can understand the fundamental differences. Then it’s all about getting out there and helping to satisfy the huge interest in heat pumps and the growing market.

So, perhaps the jump from plumber to heat pump engineer isn’t quite as big as you may have thought… Just saying!

  • Ben Bartle-Ross is a technical trainer at Mitsubishi Electric