The debate around trickle vents is morphing into one which will continue to rage within the sector, but actually go nowhere. The petition that was launched at the start of the year to try and force the Government to overturn the newly revised regulations stands at a grand total of 624 signatories. For the Government to consider debating a petition, that number has to reach 100,000.
There is not a prayer that this petition is going to get even a tenth of the way there. And the chances of the government lending an ear to a sector that failed to show up in any meaningful way during the consultation on the new regulations is slim to none. No matter how hard we stamp our feet.
The fact of the matter is that trickle vents are here to stay. So rather than argue against forces that we have little to no influence over at all, we can take an approach that is actually much easier to navigate. We can, as a sector, work towards creating better products, and trickle vents, like those that exist in Europe, which combats the arguments against trickle vents in the first place.
Make trickle vents great again
Perhaps that is going a bit too far. Have trickle vents ever been that great? But the point to be made here is rather than expend energy on a campaign to roll back brand new legislation, which we played very little part in during the consultation process, surely it would be better for our industry if we used those efforts to improve the quality of trickle vents and increase the amount of choice.
For years, we have used injection-moulded plastic vents which have been used by pretty much everyone in this sector. Their appearance has changed over the years, from square and boxy to more rounded and sleek. But the materials they are made from a largely the same, with more coloured and wood grain options now to match the variety of frame choices on the market.
In the round though, the quality has stayed pretty much the same. And in comparison to versions I have seen in Europe, there is much catching up to do. Although we may be behind other markets on quality, what it does do is provide a new sales opportunity both within the sector and to the end user. Trickle vents are very much here to stay, whether we like it or not, therefore we’re going to be selling millions more per year as part of the new regulations. Why not use this as an opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves and the public that we can make improvements for their benefit?
One area I would like to see more development in is concealed trickle vent systems. Very few exist within our industry, which is slightly surprising considering the number of profile systems available and the length of time trickle vents have been around in our sector. There are a few though. The one used on Evolution products is pretty good, and they have a neat vent internally, with a hood to the top of the frame hiding the grills that are routed into the top of the outer frame. Having more options like that available to installers, it allows the company to at least try and assuage any visual concerns a homeowner may have.
In this post-pandemic era, there is rightly more focus on our health, and measures we can take at home to ensure better living conditions. As a result, we are seeing more attention on cases where people have become ill or worse due to terrible living conditions. Part, although not all, of these examples, is down to lack of ventilation. Poor housing, deprivation and exposure to air pollution all play a role in contributing to breathing conditions.
Because of this renewed emphasis on health and trying to cultivate healthier homes (despite various Governments for years telling us to insulate and block up everything) we are likely to see further measures introduced with the aim of making homes not just more efficient on energy, but also on ventilation. To that end, we cannot think for a moment that the Government is even going to consider rolling back the legislation it has only just introduced.
Britain is not mainland Europe or the Caribbean. We do not have a naturally warm climate. We keep windows and doors closed and turn the heating on to stay warm. There is nothing wrong with that, and logical behaviour given our climate. But it results in our homes becoming traps for warm, moist air. And after decades of being told to block up our homes to stop heat from getting out, we have not paid enough attention to how our homes actually need to breathe. We have forgotten the importance of air quality inside our homes.
In a hypothetical situation where the Government would actually engage with us at the installer level, the idea that they would step back from their argument of trying to improve the health of homeowners because of the appearance of a trickle vent is incredibly flimsy. They would argue that health comes before anything else. More than a fifth of homes in the UK suffer from damp and mould.
We really do have to move on from this issue now. The Government is not going to listen to our pleas and complaints about appearance. It is done and will not be undone. I will say though that our trade bodies need to work on compliance. One of the major gripes from installers is that companies who are trying to stick to the new rules are losing customers to companies who are happy to ignore the new regulations. Our sector needs to work harder to deter that kind of behaviour so that good companies can keep winning business on the right terms.
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I think the first company that comes up with a good looking slim well made vent that performs well acoustically and thermally will clean up.