When it comes to choosing a home central heating system the options are plentiful, but for those conscious of environmental factors and the need to futureproof their home, heat pumps are the obvious solution.
And we thought the Government did too. However, the various schemes aimed at incentivising consumers and developers to install heat pumps over fossil fuel heating systems, are coming to an end, raising doubt as to whether the UK will meet its target of getting 600,000 homes fitted with a heat pump by 2028.
Heat pumps – a trusted technology
You might be surprised to learn that heat pumps aren’t a new technology. They have in fact been in use since 1845, but just not in the UK. They are commonplace in Nordic countries, with Sweden having by far the highest penetration of heat pumps per capita in the world. There are now 1.7m heat pumps installed in the country with a population of around 10 million, making the UK’s target look paltry by comparison.
For heat pump novices, there are three types of heat pumps: ground source, air source and water source. The most common type installed in the UK is air source, with ground source used on large properties, and water reserved for those with a lake or river at our disposal! To find out more about the differences between the systems, visit https://www.imsheatpumps.co.uk/
According to research by the BSRIA, the UK saw around 37,000 heat pumps sold in 2020, representing an increase on the previous year of 9.2%. This increase was in no doubt helped by the Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Green Homes Grant (GHG) schemes.
The current RHI scheme – Ground Source up to £35k and Air Source up to £11,200 – is set to end in March 2022. As yet, there is no firm commitment from the government as to what financial incentive will be in place thereafter. Whilst big promises had been made with regard to the GHG, the Government announced on 27th March 2020 that it was closing the scheme to new applicants on the 31st March 2020. This brings into question whether the UK stands any chance of achieving a net zero carbon economy by 2050.
The GHG has been important for the market which has seen steady growth in the refurbishment sector despite the drop in the number of installations in new builds as a result of the pandemic.
Heat pumps installations in new homes
Carbon-saving technologies like solar panels and heat pumps are a big part of the Government’s plan to bring about the carbon emission reductions needed to be carbon neutral by 2050.
With the goal of no new homes using fossil fuels from 2025, heat pumps are inevitably going to become the heroes of the green domestic heating reduction. However, relying on new homes to bring about the reduction won’t be enough. According to official figures, the number of completed new dwellings more than halved during the first 6 months of 2020 to around 15,000. This is unsurprising given the pandemic, but to what extent these figures bounce back is currently anyone’s guess.
However, heat pump installation still represents a major challenge in existing homes. The ongoing review of Part L and Part F of building regulations offer hope that refurbishments in homes and buildings will be conceived with low carbon heating in mind, but the review’s outcomes are yet to become a legal requirement.
The environmentally conscious consumer
So, what needs to change?
Emma Bohan, General Manager of one of the UK’s leading ground and air source heating pump installation companies – IMS Heat Pumps – believes a change in attitude is also what’s needed. “In addition to government incentives, we need to make heat pumps fashionable and highly desirable. It’s starting to happen, but just not at the pace that’s required” says Emma. “We’re increasingly finding that clients are coming to us because they want to do the right thing in terms of the environment, as well as future proofing their home against potential unfavourable legislative and pricing changes around fossil fuel heating systems.”
There is no denying that it is more expensive to install a heat pump system over your standard gas boiler, however in the long run, and with financial incentives, there are savings to be made. Therefore, persuading the home renovators, self-builds and retrofit consumer to opt for a heat pumps will be key.
Thought also needs to be given to the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which provides a rating of a property’s likely energy efficiency. EPCs are primarily used by would-be buyers or renters to give an indication of how much their energy bills might cost in their home. A report from the Environmental Audit Committee, released on 22 March 2021, called for the EPC methodology to be overhauled to support energy efficiency and low carbon heating measures.
Ofgem estimates that there are currently around four million homes in the UK that are not connected to mains gas supplies and must therefore use other forms of heating, including oil, LPG (liquid petroleum gas) and electricity. Therefore, having access to this information will help to inform people’s decisions on how to heat their home.
Of course, there is also the potential that the Government may take a more radical approach and legislate to stop new gas boilers or other environmentally unfriendly heating methods from being installed altogether should conscience alone not be enough.
There is an ongoing review of Part L and Part F of building regulations which could include further requirements that refurbishments in homes should include low carbon heating systems. Only time will tell what is decided.
In the meantime, it seems that the Government is looking to rely more heavily on the Eco-friendly “green” pound to achieve its environmental goals.
About IMS Heat Pumps
Established in 1997, and with offices in Perth (Scotland) and Sheffield (England), over 20 years’ experience in the field of heat pumps. IMS Heat Pumps design, supply, install, commission, service and maintain ground, air, and water source heat pumps and under floor heating and radiator systems to create cosy, low carbon homes.
For more information visit www.imsheatpumps.co.uk or call Emma Bohan on t. 0114 327 0100