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. But consumer advice specialists at The Heating Hub say the plan is “doomed to failure”.
Jo Alsop, Founder of The Heating Hub, agreed that there are many financial and environmental benefits associated with heat pump installations.
She said: “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.”
Lack of trained engineers?
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, despite the fact that such 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.
Jo worries that since 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.
Reducing carbon emissions
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 UK’s carbon emissions. Incorrectly installed boilers work below their operational efficiency, using more fuel as a result, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
Jo added: “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.”
The complexity of heat pumps
Heat pumps use latent heat in the air, that is present even in cold temperatures, and convert it to useable heat for the home. They are the most efficient alternative to fuel, oil and fully electrical systems. For every one unit of electricity they use they produce three units of energy.
However, they are expensive, ranging from £7,000 to £12,000, and considerably more difficult to install than gas boilers. Research must be undertaken in order to understand the movement of heat, local geology, as well as the heating requirements for a household before they can be installed.
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.”