Heat pumps are scrutinised in a way that gas systems are not – Opinion

Griff Thomas, MD for GTEC and Director of heatly, fully supports the Heat Pump Association’s report ‘Unlocking Widespread Heat Pump Deployment in the UK’, an insightful document that clearly outlines the issues, while painting a clear picture of the market opportunities for installers. Griff gives his views:

Unlocking Widespread Heat Pump Deployment in the UK paints a picture of the UK’s current heat pump market as slow on the uptake and shrouded in misinformation. We are so far behind our European counterparts due to a number of factors – some of which started long before heat pumps where even in the frame – which has led to significant stalling in what should be a buoyant and established market. It is shocking to read that compared to the rest of Europe, our heat pump market is considered ‘dormant’.

From missed opportunities when it comes to installing gas systems to low temperature specifications, energy tariffs still in favour of gas and a mainstream media quick to criticise and politicise what is essential a cost-effective heating solution for the majority of UK properties, there is a big job to be done.

The HPA’s report outlines the key areas that need addressing, including consumer education, installer training and, crucially, electricity prices that encourage take-up over gas. It seems crazy that the Environmental & Social Obligation (ESO) is paid at 18% on gas and just 5% on electricity, not to mention the hefty carbon tax embedded within electricity wholesale prices that does not apply to gas.

The report also stresses how heat pumps are scrutinised in a way that gas systems are not. Gas installations have avoided questions about their efficiency for years – most combi-systems should be low temperature, for example, if they were, heat pump upgrades would be cheaper as less ancillary work would be needed. To tackle the wider issue of all heating efficiency, the HPA suggests the introduction of Mandatory Routine Practices for Heating System Installations and Servicing, aimed at reducing operating temperatures and ensuring systems are otherwise properly maintained.

One of the undeniable stumbling blocks is cost of installation, which, even with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, is usually more than gas. The HPA does point out however, that when we talk about gas boiler installs, other changes, such as radiators are rarely added to the equation, yet another example of where heat pumps are being framed negatively. The HPA had some good suggestions to further bring down these costs, including government-backed interest-free loans, differentiation of grant levels depending on owner and property type and zero VAT on some of the supporting equipment, such as heat pump ready cylinders.

While I was aware of all of these different factors, seeing them together in one document paints a very clear picture – heat pumps have been done a disservice and we need to turn the tide on unfounded opinion, which leads to fear of change.

The role of installers must not be underestimated. The heat pump market is growing, exciting and future proof. Installer training must be of the highest quality to ensure right first time installs that meet optimum efficiency standards. Support, with tools like heatly, the app currently in development under the Heat Pump Ready Stream 2 programme, will further help installers and improve accuracy, while providing a key communication and information tool for consumers.

Installers considering a move into heat pumps should take this report as an exciting presentation of opportunity.

Find out more at www.gtec.co.uk and www.heatly.com