Part one of this Q&A is available here
Has the government put the cart before the horse by not addressing insulation measures first?
Yes… The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme, designed to support energy efficiency insulation measures in existing housing stock (for owner occupiers), was ended in March this year. In my opinion, this should have continued, running in parallel with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. The efficiency of a building is key to the performance and stability of an Air Source Heat Pump (ASHP).
For low income households, there is still continued support to upgrade insulation, accessed through Local Authorities. This needs to be available for all of the UK housing stock – we have some of the poorest performing houses in Europe; approximately 60% have an EPC rating of D or below, with C the target.
Is a £5,000 grant really enough to bring heat pump installation costs in line with gas boilers?
In an energy efficient home, the costs of a gas boiler compared with an ASHP starts to become comparable when you factor in fuel bill savings. As mentioned, insulation is key to overall performance.
Regardless, however; for anyone thinking of moving to an ASHP, particularly if their existing heating system is very old, £5,000 is a substantial sum that will help people make this move quicker, stimulating installer demand.
Is there a risk that we’ll see questionable heat pump installation companies springing up all over the place as we did with solar PV?
That is always a risk with a scheme that is finite, as some dubious companies try to take advantage of the funding in a short space of time. That is why we need more gas installers to become familiar and comfortable installing ASHPs so the householder can seek advice from someone they know and trust, rather finding a company that has jumped on the bandwagon.
Existing heating engineers should be keeping themselves and their customers up to speed with the changing marketplace, so they can ensure business stays in the hands of experienced and trained operatives.
Do all installers within a company need to be MCS certified or can they carry out a heat pump installation and get it signed off by someone who is certified?
Under the MCS scheme, companies are certified rather than individual people. Sole traders installing heat pumps must be MCS certified, but in organisations with multiple employees, while individual installers need to be competent (usually by having attended a training course), it is the company that is MCS certified.
The MCS Contractor (company) who issues the MCS certificate must be the same company that has the contract with the customer.
The Boiler Upgrade Scheme funds are for the next three years. What happens after that?
That has not yet been decided. The consultation for the future is out now, you can read it here. This looks at a range of market mechanisms that could be used at different levels within our industry, including obligating manufacturers of gas and oil boilers to supply increasing numbers of heat pump (and other low-carbon appliances), in parallel, in-line with the trajectory towards 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028.
They may continue with another support scheme but it is too early to say.