Griff Thomas, Managing Director at GTEC, which delivers heat pump training courses to plumbing and heating engineers, believes we need to look at the bigger picture if we’re to achieve targets to roll out heat pumps successfully

GTEC Managing Director Griff Thomas

Hardly a day goes by without a journalist bemoaning heat pumps. These articles raise the profile of heat pumps in the wrong way and do not support the UK’s net zero targets. Negative news, combined with uncertainty around government policy due to previously unsuccessful schemes to help Britain ‘go green,’ mean heat pumps are not yet being installed at the levels they should be.

Apart from bad press and distrust, at the moment we do not have enough qualified heat pump installers to meet future demand. There are about 4,000-5,000 Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) certified installers, with an unspecified number delivering heat pumps under MCS umbrella schemes.

Predictions suggest that 30,000–50,000 installers could be needed to meet the government’s target of 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028. Heat pumps take longer to fit and potentially involve more people – they are as much an electrical appliance as a heating one – which is why volume of trained engineers is so important.

The challenge is, a) convincing some reticent heating and plumbing installers to upskill and b) successfully communicating the more complex process of specifying a heat pump. Compared to a gas boiler, accuracy is key, with room by room surveying and heat loss calculations an essential part of this process. The margin of error is far smaller for a heat pump and the effects of shoddy installs will be felt more keenly by the homeowner than with gas or oil heating – one of the reasons the media is so quick to point blame.

There has been some government funding available for training. We have managed and delivered funded training under the Renewable Heating Installer Training & Support Scheme (RHITSS) and the Heating Installer Training & Support Scheme (HITSS) but there is never enough budget or a long enough timeframe. On both occasions, as soon as these schemes were launched, all funding was allocated within a matter of days, showing the demand is there.

Thankfully, for the next generation of building services installers, renewables will be very much part of everyday life. A new Low Carbon Heating Technician Apprenticeship was recently launched, providing a great future-proof option for school leavers.

Installers also need to believe in heat pumps. The information and explanation they give to their customers is crucial, including solid advice on use – i.e. leave it alone! Fiddling with controls could lead to cold homes, poor efficiencies, and more bad press.

Often, a heat pump installation is part of a wider retrofit job, including new radiators or underfloor heating, energy efficiency measures and decorative finishing touches. Ideally, all these different elements should be co-ordinated to minimise disruption. A proper EPC assessment is key to any heat pump install and will flag some of the other elements that could contribute to heat pump performance, such as double-glazing and insulation.

In addition to being GTEC’s MD, I am also part of team behind heatly, a new app and supporting software currently in development which is designed to streamline and simplify many of the issues currently detrimentally affecting the heat pump roll-out.

Part-funded by government under Heat Pump Ready Stream 2 programme, the app will help installers by digitising, speeding-up and improving the accuracy of room surveying and heat loss calculations. For consumers, heatly will visualise a heat pump and associated system with 3D modelling, which could also help with some of the other elements involved in a house upgrade, such as measurements for carpets.

Heatly is currently in the testing stages, with a usable app planned for launch next year. There may be some bumps in the heat pump roll-out road, but things are improving, with thousands of satisfied heat pump owners and installers countering the negative rhetoric. New technology, such as heatly will further support the transition, making the processes around heat pump installation far easier and more accurate, positively impacting the take-up of this important renewable technology.

For more information about heatly, visit:

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