Thursday 25 April 2013

Ariston Boilers

Ariston E-Combi Evo
Our local plumbing merchants often do breakfast mornings, an event cunningly designed to entice the innocent heating engineer into a chat with one of the many UK plumbing manufacturers. 

The lure is usually a sausage sandwich so, being a sucker for such wonders, I duly ended up in conversation with the rep from Ariston. To be honest I didn’t even know Ariston did boilers but after a brief natter I was left wondering why we hadn’t been fitting them. After all they seemed well priced and appeared to be good quality but - and here’s the numb of the problem for the less well known manufacturers - my first thought was, ‘why change?’

This got me thinking about why I was so conservative about the boilers we recommend and, having had my ponder, I figured that it really boiled down to the following criteria:

How easy is it going to be to sell this boiler?
If the boiler comes with a great reputation then, occasionally, it might be able to sell itself. Sadly, most customers struggle to tell the difference between a quality boiler and a bag of nails, so the usual deciding factor is price and if your quote is more expensive than everybody else’s because you’re promoting an expensive boiler you will struggle to win business. So most installers will look for a boiler that is competitively priced.

Another factor that helps sell a boiler is warranty. If boiler A comes with a 2 year warranty whilst boiler B comes with 5 years it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which is the better buy. A long warranty is also a help to the installer in that it suggests that the manufacturer is not expecting many problems within that warranty period – otherwise they’d have to put up the price of the boiler to cover the cost of the warranty. So both installer and customer are comforted by a nice long warranty period.

How reliable is this boiler going to be?
A strong counter to the first point is reliability. Many people forget that the party most affected by an unreliable boiler is the installer. Assuming he or she is not one of these ‘fly-by-night’ outfits that disappears from sight the moment the cheque clears, it is the installer who’ll be called out to investigate any problems - even if the boiler is still under warranty - and the installer who’s reputation will be badly tarnished if the boiler turns out to be as reliable as a political manifesto.

How easy is it going to be to install?
Again, if you’re going to win business, you’re going to have to give a competitive quote and one of the biggest price factors is the length of time it’s going to take to complete the install.

Initially this means how good is the installation manual because, if this is the first time you’ve installed this type of boiler, you are going to have to refer to the literature. Once you’re familiar with the boiler the odds are that the manuals will barely see the light of day and it will all come down to what the manufacturers have provided to make the job of installation quick and easy.

The trouble is that until you’ve actually installed the new boiler you can’t be sure of many of these points and so, unless the manufacturer makes a total mess of things, you tend stick with what you know.... Unless the customer buys the boiler and you just fit it!

As luck would have it a customer of ours did just this and soon found himself the proud owner of an Ariston E-Combi 38. Well this seemed like an ideal opportunity to test them out – if it worked, great, if it turned out to be a heap of rubbish we hadn’t bought it, we hadn’t even recommended it... so it wasn’t our fault.

Well I’m happy to report that it all turned out well – as least so far. The installation manual was pretty good so the basic install went ok. We had a problem with the blow-off connector, which wouldn’t fit anything we had. I assumed it was one of those strange foreign fittings but it turns out it was just a dud batch that would only work after you’d spent half-an-hour paring them down with a flat file.

It didn’t come with any pre-formed copper fittings for the main inlet and outlets pipes so you had to manually cut lengths of tube and fit elbows to them. This is no great shame but after you’ve been fitting Logic+ boilers it felt like a bit of a bind.

The manual asked that you fit the condensate pipework into a tundish and that you fitted a trap in the pipework, both of which seemed a bit odd and outdated. The end result was that the condensate pipework was strangely noisy.

On the plus side it came with an inbuilt timer and filling loop. What’s more (Ideal take note) you could actually see the pressure gauge on the front of the boiler!

The commissioning process was fairly neat, once we’d figured out that the button they constantly referred to as “Esc” in the manual isn’t actually labelled that on the boiler - it’s a circle with an arrow on it! In fact the installer interface is very comprehensive, allowing you to adjust the boiler heat output and play around with umpteen settings so as to maximise the efficiency.

I suppose the obvious downside to this is that the engineer gets put off by the threat of maths and ignores this section all together. However, Ariston will actually send out one of their own engineers to walk you through this process and, if you feel it’s all getting far too technical, the boiler comes with an “Auto Function”.

Most boilers just blast out as much heat as they can muster when the CH is first switched on, which wastes a lot of energy. With the Ariston you can just press this nice, non- threatening, “Auto Function” button and the boiler will immediately start to learn the heating characteristics of your home and central heating system. Once it’s worked these out it will operate the boiler at the lowest settings required to get your home nice and warm within a reasonably period of time but without wasting fuel. The auto-function can also be used with a weather compensation control to increase efficiencies still further.

All in all they seem to be remarkably good boilers, very reasonably priced. All we have to hope for now is that they are also very reliable. The fact that the “Clas” range comes with a 5 year warranty would suggest that Ariston at least think they are.