South West Heat Pumps & The Energy Lab

Turning Up the Heat in North Devon

Based in Shirwell, North Devon, South West Heat Pumps and The Energy Lab are owned and headed up by 34-year old Richard Hopkins. Having trained and qualified as a fully certified heating engineer by the age of 26, Richard Hopkins set up South West Heat Pumps with a business partner in 2009 before taking full control of the company in 2011.

The company started off installing and distributing Sanyo CO2 air source heat pumps and having grown from strength to strength, it now offers a large range of renewable heating systems, including air, ground and water source heat pumps, biomass boilers, under floor heating, hot water cylinders and buffer tanks.

“We install tailored renewable heating systems and our UKwide customer base includes home owners as well as large public and private organisations,” said Richard Hopkins. “We specialise in historical sites, where we’re able to lend our installation expertise to retro fit sophisticated, modern technologies into buildings that weren’t designed with these kinds of systems in mind.”

Richard’s vision for the business was always to become more heavily involved in distribution and over the years he has succeeded in building successful relationships with many different suppliers. Having secured distribution deals with several of the sector’s major suppliers, he now distributes to other renewable heating installers across the UK.

Key to the success of South West Heat Pumps has been Richard’s determination to grow the business each year and stay ahead of the game. “I’ve always strived to be at the forefront of new developments in the industry and be amongst the first to know about new products that come onto the market,” commented Richard. “Central to our growth has been getting new products in early and knowing enough about them to be able to supply confidently to the installers behind us.”

South West Heat Pumps now employs nine people and has doubled its turnover each year for the last three years, from £430,000 in 2012 to £1.9 million in 2014. The fact that virtually all its business has been generated through word of mouth recommendations suggests that Richard’s commitment to delivering great service has played a big role in the company’s success.

Richard commented: “Our trade customers don’t just get a box delivered; they get a complete package that includes technical advice and help with design specifications. If there’s a problem, we’ll go out and fix it and we provide dedicated telephone support whenever our customers need it. Yet even so, we’re no more expensive than other distributors.”

With the rapid growth of South West Heat Pumps over the last three years, Richard decided it was time to set up The Energy Lab. Richard commented: “Installation and distribution are two different things and it makes sense for the two sides of the business to run separately so that they’re not tied and can evolve independently. Having said that, each arm also supports the other; our expertise in installation really helps on the distribution side.”

Although the website and back end for The Energy Lab are already in place, the new company will be officially launched in early 2015, at which point all of South West Heat Pumps’ existing trade customers will be transferred across.

Richard started working with Simpkins Edwards in 2011 when he took full control of South West Heat Pumps. The company’s day-to-day book keeping is handled internally but Simpkins Edwards produces the annual accounts for the business. Richard commented: “The team at Simpkins Edwards’ Barnstaple office offers an excellent service. I am in regular contact with David Thorne who is always really helpful and provides us with advice on general tax matters. Each year we also have a business review meeting with Jilly Watson who heads up the Barnstaple team to look at the bigger picture.”

So, with further growth on the horizon, what does the future look like for South West Heat Pumps and The Energy Lab?

“Renewable heating technology is a growing sector in the UK, particularly since the launch of the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme in April 2014, which is designed to encourage uptake of renewable heating among domestic consumers,” commented Richard. “This also makes it a very competitive market place and that’s why we’re channelling our efforts on developing the distribution side of the business. Our goal is to focus eventually purely on distribution and support – that’s definitely where we see our future.”

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