History

Roger Unwin

The business was founded on May 13 1971.

At that time most Companies installing heating were well established plumbing firms, such Albert Jackson’s, Norton’s and William Green’s (all of the of West Bar area) who had progressed into the “new fangled” central heating market.

Wanting a different, more modern title, I decided to use just initials (at that time almost unique) and decided on my own which are Roger Stephen to form R S Heating Co., a wholly central heating dedicated Company.

In that era there was little in legislation (CORGI being a voluntary organisation) and no credentials were required to fit gas, solid fuel or oil central heating. There were substantial areas of Sheffield without gas i.e. the Highcliffe Road end of Greystones Road, Long Line, most of Derbyshire villages and many more. Thus it was important to be able to offer a wide range of products, not just gas.

Realising the importance of trade qualifications, training courses were attended with Shell at Acton in London, obtained certification with the original Coal Utilisation Council (later to become the Solid Fuel Advisory Services, later still to become HETAS) and was one of the first CORGI members with a registration No. of 1064.

As I am probably the worst plumber in the Industry for actually fitting equipment, all my standing is in the design of Heating / Plumbing systems, from Churches to the smallest of homes. I’ve always thought (and I am always in great admiration of the artistry that a good installer makes) that if I can get the design and organisation of work correct, then the life of the fitter is so much easier making the satisfaction of the customer more assured.

The industry has witnessed and adjusted to many changes. On the larger installations, oil was usually preferred as it was much cheaper to run although dearer to install than gas. Trianco Redfyre, Potterton or Worcester were the choice makes The sitting of the oil tank could be a problem and I can remember actually having an oil tank constructed in the cellar in a house in S11!

It’s probably still there.

Unfortunately the Middle East wars caused wild rises in oil price, thus decimating that market.

Solid fuel was extremely popular, with Parkray or Redfyre type room heaters and 4 / 5 radiators giving a good background heat with lashings of hot water to thousands of  homes. I was involved, for some time, in the installation of heating in the Miners homes of such villages as Langwith, Cresswell, Dinnington, Maltby etc.

Sadly the tragic Miners strike of ‘85 / 86 curtailed much of that business.

Hence, with the conversion to cheap North Sea gas from the traditional Town gas, it’s convenience, cleanliness and reliability through extensive new pipe lines to a much bigger area and until recently, stable pricing, Gas became King.

With the swing more to gas, I concentrated on the new generation of wall mounted boiler, such as the cast iron Glow worm Space saver but my favourite was the diminutive, copper heat exchanger New World 502. This was one of the first boilers to a have “modulating burner” which is now common on most high efficiency models. This allows the boiler to fluctuate its out-put, depending upon demand, rather than being a set output, as the normal at that time. This and other advanced features made the 502 extremely cheap to run but everybody said that they would burn out in a couple of years. They lasted for years!

I recently saw the flue of one that we fitted in 1973 on the outside wall of a house in S8. Amazed at it’s longevity I couldn’t resist introducing myself. The new owner of the property assured me that all was still well but they had just contracted a Company to replace it with a Vaillant eco TEC plus.

There have been so many changes in the Industry that it is unrecognisable to 40 years ago. In the 70’s inflation reached approximately 26% with bank rates not much better at around 25%. As registered Credit Licence brokers, we were allowed to sign the customer up, in the home with a No deposit loan spread over 10 years, at the exorbitant rates.

Because the inflation was so high, everybody wanted central heating their heating now, the Industry was booming. This was in spite of the three day working week, the winter of discontent of ’79. In Sheffield, the steel strike of ’83, which virtually closed all the steel companies brought our boom period clashing to almost standstill virtually overnight. This was followed, not too long after by the Miners strike. Not good times.

The turmoil of the Country’s economy caused our Company to diversify into Plumbing of all types and directly into building.

In the mid ‘80’s we were among the first Companies to give expert “Wall Tie” reports to home buyers when the “black ash” scare was started. Loft / Bathroom / Garage conversion, Kitchen extensions, etc. all became part of our remit and soon gained expertise in complete house refits. Customers appreciated the fact that we could be given a full works schedule, complete all tasks in the specified time leave the property clean and in the majority of cases, flowers in a vase on the mantelpiece. They only had to deal with two people – myself and their bank manager.

By this time Company had expanded its title to R S Heating & Building Co. and had become Limited under Safetask Ltd.