Heat Geek’s Adam Chapman: “buckle up for the ride!”

As the founder of online learning platform Heat Geek – the go-to resource for both end users and installers, Adam Chapman is at the forefront of the industry.

Heat Geek’s Adam Chapman: “buckle up for the ride!”

We asked him about his path to date, and his thoughts on the big things coming for the future of heat pumps.

Talk us through the development of the business from those hopeful beginnings

My journey as a business owner in the heating industry began at 23, right after completing my apprenticeship. Now, reflecting at 38, I definitely started with a burning desire to demonstrate my value and establish myself as the top choice to every individual customer. This is something I still feel today, although the customers are different.

However, there was a problem. Being asked difficult questions from consumers, yet not seeing any comprehensive, accessible or consumable resources, especially being dyslexic, meant I couldn’t answer them. I could see that there was a HUGE void for a final investigative resource in this industry!

Knowing efficiency and climate matters were only going to increase in both importance and urgency I always thought it was absolutely MENTAL that a Heat Geek type of resource didn’t already exist! I saw it as a place for complex and useful information that could save consumers money, and increase the value of an engineer willing to upskill, expressed in an easily consumable and entertaining way. Consumable and entertaining were particularly important to me, as someone with dyslexia.

I’ve been part of the forums, the community and knowledge sharing, for 15 years since the official launch of the Heat Geek blog, and then the YouTube channel in 2016 (after an attempt at a not-for-profit knowledge sharing platform/ association called EcoTechnicians).

I always like to stay malleable as a business and shape the solution to the users’ needs, rather than pin everything in one offer, or fitting a square peg in a round hole. So training, then an MCS umbrella, then digital tooling seemed obvious as each customer need became apparent.

What have been the main milestones?

I will always remember pouring my heart and soul into the training and, on launch day, not actually knowing if anyone would purchase it. I had taken on three staff for what was, essentially, a blog and a YouTube channel with 2,000 subscribers, making 30p a month.

Sending the pre-sale purchase page live even though I hadn’t even fully finished the course, and having these new employees sat around the table with me, all with huge anticipation, while I desperately utilised the social media network that I’d worked tirelessly to create over the previous eight years, is a moment I’ll never forget.

Then bang: the first sale, the second, the third to 10th, all within a few minutes! I grabbed my wallet and sent a new staff member straight down the off- licence a few doors down! We bloody did it!

I always knew that once we had people taking the course, we were high and dry, because the information in there was, and still is, an absolute gold mine. I’m very proud of how far ahead of the curve I was at the time. I don’t have quite the same lead anymore, as I have to focus on the business so much more now that I simply don’t have the time, but there’s no doubt that we lead the conversation, in my mind at least – and many others, too.

Since then, it’s been milestone after milestone, to be honest! It all stems from that most important one, though.

 Where does your drive come from?

As an undiagnosed dyslexic/ADHD child, I always had a huge curiosity about how things worked. Not being able to express that in a written way meant my hand was always up in science, yet I was penalised due to not being able to write a thesis. This meant I left school with sweet nothing. This is something you’ll hear me bang on about a lot, but it really underpins a lot of Heat Geek’s core values: illustrations and imagery, no big walls of text, simple language etc.

ADHD comes with another superpower, though. Hyper-focus. I have the ability (and curse) to spend days fixated on a problem until I’ve fixed it. It’s like an insatiable appetite to solve a puzzle. Many engineers have this dyslexic/ADHD trait that also makes out-of-the box thinking extremely easy and natural for them, yet many have no idea that they may have these conditions.

If this sounds familiar to anyone reading, I urge you to get tested or read up on it! You may have been raised being told you are much less capable than you really are, but, in reality, you are one of the people that can innovate and change the world! School was just not set up for us, and it’s really very sad.

How have you gone about driving up energy efficiency in the industry?

One word: education. Education for installers, but also videos and resources for them to send to customers. Customers will spend more on solutions, they just need informing and educating on what the value is. It’s a double- pronged attack that means the installers make more, the customers save more over time, and more carbon is saved!

What makes Heat Geek special?

Three things:

  1. We are a support network, not (just) a course. Unlike other training where you turn up for three days and leave, never to speak again, our course is simply an entry into the wider community, and a way of ensuring we all speak the same language. The real value happens on site, when you get stuck. You have a whole army of other heat geeks waiting to help you and answer questions, because they want their brand upheld.
  2. Our main difference is the questioning. Although you have unlimited attempts, we require a 100% pass mark, and the questions are designed to make sure you absolutely understand the subject. Our certification isn’t just an ‘attendance course’, we want it to actually stand for something. This is something that’s missing from training in our industry these days, unfortunately.
  3. It’s all online! Plumbers have been connecting pipework for centuries. Installers already know how to join pipe up, and a heat pump is typically a sealed box with two connections! The important part is the system that’s connected to the box, not the box itself, and that heating design theory is all stuff that can be done online. There is no ‘I only learn with hands-on’ approach, you can’t size pipework or a pump with your hands. You need a calculator!

This means the engineer doesn’t have to lose days’ wages or spend money burning diesel driving miles away to upskill. It also means, importantly, that they can learn in their own pace. Show me a class of 30 people who learn an in-depth subject in three days, and I’ll show you 15 people who didn’t understand it and 15 people who didn’t need to be there three days. And those numbers will change for each day too. Our online approach allows tailored learning.

With all of the experience and industry knowledge you have now, where do you feel your focus is best directed to get results?

Digital tooling and finance

It’s no secret that the savings from a heat pump can pay for the install if it’s installed properly – more on that shortly. We’re building that bridge and an assurance for the lender that it’s going to be installed properly due to our platform, network, and code of conduct, meaning we will be able to get great rates.

Helping to reduce the workload

We’re moving to heat pumps, whether gas engineers want to or not. It’s an arduous, painful, and paperwork-heavy job which, as I mentioned earlier, installers probably aren’t well suited to. These installers should be focused on the bit they should be doing, which is earning money installing, not unnecessary calculations and paperwork.

Don’t get me wrong, they should understand how and why to do the calculations, but that doesn’t mean they should be doing the immense repetitive stuff revolving a heat pump installation.

What is happening with demand?

A few things have driven up demand. Heat pump controls, refrigerants and system design training have all driven up heat pump efficiencies, meaning more people ‘believe’ they work. The main bottleneck has always been installers, and demand has always been hindered by lack of supply. Installers now have much more access to information online, in whatever format that gives them the comfort they need to take the perceived risk.

How would you encourage more installers to enter the sector or to upskill from traditional tech?

There’s a huge benefit to getting in early. Get in any industry during rapid growth phase and your company will be scaled up rapidly with it! It’s a huge opportunity for you to build a high value business to sell later and have a retirement fund that’s larger than your house! Staying in boilers will do the opposite of that. With that you can earn more money, and/or achieve a better life/work balance (something we could all do with, I’m sure).

Any thoughts on recent government announcements and net zero strategies?

I feel like they finally get it. We’ve been screaming out for improved training alongside things like subsidies for 15 years now. There’s more to be implemented yet, but I feel like they are on board. It’s been a bloody long and frustrating journey watching them slowly come over, and I wish they’d have listened to the boots on the ground earlier, but, from their perspective, how do they know who’s right? And I think everyone in this trade thinks they’re right, even the ones who are wrong.

What is needed to drive energy efficiency and uptake?

More installers. Customers need them, and installers need competent staff to grow their businesses! This is something we’re looking at helping with.

How do you think we can overcome industry challenges?

Apprenticeships. We can overcome this with a digital solution. Watch this space!

What are your thoughts on the industry future?

Perhaps the same as the above [more installers and apprenticeships], but let’s assume those two key aspects are sorted.

  1. System efficiency – we now guarantee our quoted heat pump system efficiencies and average a SCOP of 4.2 and counting.
  2. Tariffs – See our recent collaboration with OVO energy and Heat Pump Plus which only charges 15p/kWh of electricity.

Finance will be the unlock for this thing to go absolutely insane. Two words – buckle up!