Government’s heat pumps plan “doomed to failure”

The Government’s plan to increase heat pump installations is “doomed to failure” without a substantial increase in training for installers, according to consumer advice specialists at The Heating Hub 

Last week the Government outlined its 10-step plan for a “green industrial revolution”, which included a commitment to install 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028.

Jo Alsop, Founder of The Heating Hub, said: “There are many financial and environmental benefits associated with heat pump installations as they operate at very high efficiencies of around 200-300%. The Government’s commitment to increase installations is a welcome move that will help the UK to achieve its goal of net-zero carbon by 2050.

“However, without a meteoric increase in training and investment to upskill the workforce, this goal will be unachievable. 

“Our research shows that over 90%* of the UK’s heating system engineers are not trained to properly install and set up modern condensing gas boilers to operate at their peak efficiencies, in spite of the fact that such high efficiency boilers have been mandatory for the past 15 years. Furthermore, 86%* of installers feel “let down” by the sector in terms of the inadequate training they have received. 

“Given that the sector has comprehensively failed to train the workforce to fit new gas boilers correctly, it seems doubtful that engineers will receive the training they need, without intervention.

“Furthermore, with roughly 22.5 million homes in the UK already running on gas heating, improving the efficiency of gas boilers presents a huge opportunity to reduce our carbon emissions. Incorrectly installed boilers work below their operational efficiency, using more fuel as a result, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. 

“Providing the training to help engineers to install and set up modern condensing boilers to run at their A-rated label efficiencies would present a far quicker route to reducing emissions in the short term. Moreover, once gas engineers know how to get condensing boilers working at their A-label efficiencies, the transition to heat pumps is an easy one.”

Heat pumps use latent heat in the air, that is present even in cold temperatures, and convert it to useable heat for the home. Heat pumps are the most efficient alternative to fuel, oil and fully electrical systems, achieving efficiency rates of up to 300%. In other words, for every one unit of electricity they use they produce three units of energy.

However, they are expensive (typical prices range from £7,000 to £12,000 for an air source heat pump) and considerably more difficult to install than gas boilers, as research must be undertaken in order to understand the movement of heat, local geology, as well as the heating requirements for a household.

Jo concluded: “Given the complexities of heat pump installations, it is vital that they are installed and set up correctly to ensure households receive the efficiency savings they have been promised. Get it wrong and efficiencies will drop while fuel bills soar.

“We cannot repeat the mistakes of gas boilers and fit ‘A-rated’ appliances that are only C-rated or less in the home because installers do not understand low temperature heating systems. If we are serious about meeting our net zero 2050 target, we have to strive for actual efficiencies, not on-paper efficiencies.

“Without a step-change in the way the workforce is trained, there seems little doubt that the Government’s policy is doomed to failure. There simply won’t be a sufficient number of qualified engineers to install such a high volume of heat pumps within the next six to seven years and the heat pumps that do get installed won’t meet their label efficiencies.” 

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