The UK’s increasing interest in sustainable solutions for the home, coupled with the ongoing energy crisis, make it vital for tradespeople to equip themselves with the necessary skills to address the growing needs of households all across the UK.
As sustainability continues to be a major consideration for the domestic heating industry, heating engineers will need to be aware of the increasing demand for heating systems using renewable energy. Heat pumps are emerging as one of the most popular technologies, with the government pledging to fit around 600,000 every year by 2028.
We are seeing this in the search statistics on our platform, which reveal rising consumer demand for these alternative heating options. Searches for installation of air source heat pumps are up 214% in comparison to December 2021, while searches for ground source heat pump installations are up a huge 462% since December 2021.
When it comes to heat pumps, an installer first needs to agree an overall design for the system – where to site the external unit is a major consideration so are internal changes to site hot water tanks, control units/valves, heat exchangers, and thermostats.
The low flow temperature means that existing radiators may need to be replaced with larger units too. All the components need to work in harmony to ensure the system is efficient and easy to maintain.
The involvement of other trades is also often needed – a typical installation will require multiple electrical circuits to be upgraded or installed, and the heat pump will require a hard base, such as a concrete slab, on which to stand. Tradespeople will either need to upskill to do these jobs, employ additional workers, or work in partnership with others.
Other skills that would be particularly useful are, of course, mechanical knowledge (key for installing and repairing heat pumps effectively), a good level of building and construction knowledge to help site components appropriately, plus knowledge of building regulations and law.
Installers should also consider gaining accreditation to the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, which certifies low carbon energy technologies and contractors, to give consumers additional confidence when choosing a supplier, and allows access to government grants.
Something else that mustn’t be overlooked is the importance of keeping up to date with the wider consumer/economic landscape and government regulations. The energy crisis means that more eyes than ever before are on the industry – coupled with the current cost of living crisis, it is vital that tradespeople keep themselves informed of the latest regulations and get up to date on their training to be able to successfully help homeowners make the right decisions when it comes to making their homes more energy efficient.
And with typical heat pump installation costs still high, being able to point potential customers to financing solutions, such as the latest government scheme or other sources of financial support, can also help tradespeople assuage any fears from people who may be wary of the costs of such upgrades during the current cost of living crisis.
For example, the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS), which is running until 2025, is offering people grants of £5,000-£6,000 to install heat pumps and biomass boilers, which can make this a more viable solution for those who previously may not have been able to afford it. It is also important to note that installers must be MCS-certified to be able to apply to the scheme on behalf of the property owner.
The government’s Energy Security Bill has also paved the way for a new low carbon heat scheme in 2024, which would introduce an obligation for gas boiler manufacturers to meet stricter ratio of low carbon heat pump sales as a proportion of their total appliance sales to help encourage further take up of heat pumps and reduce their cost.
Not only is upskilling needed, but we need to attract more people to the industry in general – the UK Domestic Trades Skills Index, commissioned by Checkatrade’s parent company, HomeServe Foundation, and carried out by macro-economic analyst Capital Economics, highlights plumbers as one of the top three industries most in need of apprentices, with 33,300 needed by 2030.
To help address this gap, Checkatrade is one of the founding members of Trade-Up, a new industry initiative which has just launched. It encourages those who may not have previously thought of joining a trade to consider it as an option, aiming to retrain 10,000 adults into trades every year and showcase how it is a viable career.
Alongside leading UK training providers TradeSkills4U (a City & Guilds business), Logic4Training, Technique Learning Solutions, Options Skills, and YTA Training, Trade-Up seeks to equip adults with the necessary skills to retrain into a new career and help make greener living a reality for all.
Ultimately, consumer demand for green solutions for the home is set to continue, and heating and plumbing professionals are uniquely placed to support the UK to meet its net-zero target by 2050 – provided they have the necessary skills and confidence in place to effectively deliver the required changes to people’s homes.
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