What does safety really mean when it comes to heating appliances in the home? Christian Hadley of Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation examines the real value of safety testing, the issue of self-declaration – and why external certification can be key
Consumer awareness of product safety has never been higher, with customers more switched on to safety and the peace of mind afforded by safety certification. Last year the Government set up a new code of practice for consumer product recalls, PAS7100, which is designed to help companies plan and execute product recalls in light of recent issues. But what actually goes into a product safety testing programme and how can social and private landlords communicate the added value to tenants?
Like any product category, the level of testing undertaken by heating appliance manufacturers will vary from statutory requirements through to rigorous, external safety testing. At the most basic level, it is a mandatory requirement for electrical room heaters sold in the UK to meet the requirements of the safety regulation 60335-2-30 part 2, conformity of which is demonstrated by the application of the CE (Conformité Européene) mark. The introduction of BS: 60335 meant that all products could be compared on a like-for-like basis, instead of installers, wholesalers and merchants having to try and compare from a range of alternative standards as they had previously. Plus, it gives end users greater confidence in the safety of their heating system. However, for some there remains a question over the credibility of CE Marking, not least because it is a self-administered system which does not always require additional independent testing for a product to be approved. The responsibility for carrying out the conformity assessment lies with the manufacturer themselves, which is why we believe manufacturers have a responsibility to gain independent verification of compliance in order to ensure the safety and performance of their products.
One way to do this is to undertake rigorous external testing through a third party organisation, such as the voluntary BEAB Approved Mark from Intertek. As one of the most stringent product testing routines in Europe, BEAB enables manufacturers – and in turn their installer partners – to show their commitment to best practice, commitment to producing quality goods and commitment to the safety of customers. The Mark indicates that the product has been manufactured in an inspected factory, using accepted methods and that the product has been tested and assessed by Intertek. Products bearing the BEAB Approved Mark are also randomly checked by Intertek on an annual basis to offer complete peace of mind.
At what price does safety come?
Of course, additional safety testing comes at a cost to the manufacturer, a cost which is ultimately recouped through the added value of being seen to lead the industry for product safety and conformity. And likewise, for the customer. There may well be cheaper (often imported) options available when specifying a new electric radiator, towel rail or convector heater, but as consumer awareness of safety testing increases, so too do the opportunities to add perceived value and boost social responsibility with rigorously tested, market leading models. With safety, comes reassurance – and in most cases this is combined with the recognition of a brand name; one study from last year shows 71 per cent of consumers are more likely to buy a product if they recognise the brand. Housing providers and private landlords should not underestimate the trust and confidence that their tenants place in household heating brands with years of heritage behind them.
Christian Hadley is head of product marketing at Glen Dimplex Heating & Ventilation, which includes the Dimplex, Creda, Faber and Valor heating brands
Safety standards: What is best practice?
Best practice product testing is demonstrated by the safety testing routine undertaken on the Dimplex Quantum high heat retention off-peak heater. The purpose of the product safety testing is to assure consumers that what they are buying is safe and compliant with applicable safety requirements of the relevant country. Product safety test includes, among many others, the following tests or inspections:
- Functional test – does it operate in the way it is meant to?
- Markings and instructions – looking at everything from location and size of labels to whether the symbols and values used are correct. Particular attention is paid to warning labels.
- Construction – is it well made and durable?
- Mechanical strength. A “test hammer” is applied to test impact resistance.
- Stability and mechanical hazards – inspecting for access to potentially dangerous moving parts.
- Supply connection and external flexible cords.
- Leakage current and electrical strength.
- Internal wiring – inspecting wiring requirements.
- Moisture resistance and resistance to rusting – some appliances are tested for electrical safety after water has been tipped onto the controls, checking to see if the water makes any part of the appliance electrically unsafe.
- Protection against access to live parts – this can include using a replica of a small child’s finger to establish whether they can gain access to electrically live parts.
- Heat and fire resistance.
- Overheat protection devices are tested.
- Appliance surface temperatures are measured for compliance under normal operating conditions.
- Appliance surface temperatures are also tested under “abuse conditions” for instance with outlets partially blocked to ensure that temperatures do not rise too high.