As published in HPM Heating & Plumbing Monthly, September 2023
The inventor and MD of Hounsfield Boilers, Andrew Hounsfield, shares his love of local sourcing and how it plays its part in sustainability.
“Sourcing locally has many environmental benefits, the most obvious being recycling the amount of miles a product travels, saving on transport energy, emissions and cost”
Governments around the world are pushing industry and individuals to become sustainable, to reduce our carbon footprint. But what does that actually mean to be ‘sustainable’ in the heating industry?
Sustainability in our industry is focused on the source of the heat, either gas, oil, electric or heat pumps. Clearly, the fossil fuels of gas and oil are a limited natural resource, electricity production is not always from renewable resources and heat pumps are not financially sustainable for most households. So where does that leave us?
I’m an oil boiler manufacturer, but I’ve been investing in HVO technology for years now, and all Hounsfield Boilers are HVO ready, and incredibly efficient, so that’s the fuel source ticked for sustainability. I’ve been a passionate believer in sustainability for my whole career, and believe sustainability does not start and end with the fuel. The throwaway and disposable culture of industry and society really needs to be examined, as well as how an industry works.
I only use high quality parts in my oil boilers, many parts are life-long rather than long-life, and this investment reduces the need to replace them. That’s good for the planet and pocket. However, there is more to be done and it’s something every company can do, and that’s to source local.
Food miles is a concept that is familiar in the world of restaurants and food retail, but it’s also a concept that is equally at home in other industries. How can any industry be sustainable if parts are being sourced from all over the world resulting in countless lorry movements, shipping, train freighting and possibly exploiting workers with poor pay and conditions?
From the Hounsfield base in Suffolk, we source our parts as locally and sustainably as possible, whilst ensuring that the high quality of our boilers is maintained. Whilst it would be impossible to produce a complex piece of engineering solely from suppliers inside our nearest town or county, we look within our region, East Anglia, and then the rest of the UK before sourcing internationally. The suppliers we use for our boiler casings are both only 25 miles away from the Hounsfield HQ. A sheet metal work company produces our casings, then they are transported 500 meters to a powder coating company for painting.
Sourcing locally has many environmental benefits, the most obvious being reducing the amount of miles a product travels, saving on transport energy, emissions and cost. However there are some additional gains. Sourcing locally reduces supply chain risks – remember the resulting shortage of certain goods when a ship blocked the Suez Canal, and when distant growing conditions resulted in a shortage of cucumbers in supermarkets?
Being located close to suppliers has some very practical gains too. It’s much quicker to inspect a product, adapt it and results in shorter lead in and delivery times. Meeting people face-to-face in a local community is great for forging good business relationships and is better than jumping off a plane in China full of jet lag to negotiate a deal.
Local sourcing is also fantastic for the local economy. It keeps money and skills in the area, and that benefits everyone in the locality. If local people have money in their bank account, then they are going to be more willing to buy a boiler. Whilst some will argue that locally produced parts cost more than those from China, for example, I for one can be more confident in my products when I know that the people making the parts are paid a fair wage, have been trained in their profession, and have freewill to decide what job they do. Using local suppliers also means that we don’t have import taxes to pay and complex paperwork to deal with, and that’s a real saving.
When our boilers leave the factory, we use an independent local delivery company that delivers nationwide, not a multinational corporate company.
Finally, throughout the production process we look to reduce waste and packaging constantly, and recylce wherever possible, and look to our suppliers to do the same. That is why if you get a Hounsfield Boiler, you are choosing the most sustainable HVO/ oil boiler you can get. Not only are you getting an incredibly effiecient boiler, built with high quality parts that reduce waste, you are also buying a boiler constructed sustainably throughout the whole process.