Following the government’s launch of its Heat and Buildings Strategy, the decarbonisation challenge for the heating industry has moved to centre stage, with the paper offering some promising direction for reaching net-zero.

Questions of affordability

Where discussions are taking place within the heating industry surrounding decarbonisation and the Heat and Buildings Strategy, the subject of cost has often been a sticking point. Primarily, this relates to the affordability of integrating low carbon heating systems into existing housing stock. After all, if the cost of change is prohibitive, it makes it very difficult for people to make the switch.

As for heat pumps, figures from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) suggest that the initial cost of installation for this technology averages £7,060 for an air source heat pump (ASHP), compared to £1,500 for a gas boiler and £3,350 for an oil boiler. 

Although further investment is sometimes needed to better insulate homes and install suitable radiators, as well as any pipework changes that may be required, there are plans for grants to help reduce these costs. For example, the government has announced a Boiler Upgrade Scheme, which is designed to help homeowners with up to £5,000 towards the installation of a heat pump. This should come into effect from April 2022.

Beyond this, there is also the question of running costs and how they may affect end users. By switching to electricity for heating, annual running costs for an ASHP are estimated to be, on average, £236 more than a gas boiler on a ‘like for like’ basis, according to a recent report published by Baxi Heating. Yet in the same survey of 1,277 households, we found that 66% of respondents believed saving money was the most attractive reason for switching to a heat pump. 

Clearly, some incentive is needed to kickstart the heat pump market to increase uptake and bring overall costs down. To help tackle this, Baxi Heating has suggested that the introduction of a ‘Green Heating Credit’, which would give heat pump owners £250 a year to close the gap in running costs, would be a good idea. Three-quarters of respondents said this measure would increase their interest in buying and installing a heat pump.

Getting installers on side

Heating engineers also have a critical role to play in encouraging UK homeowners to transition to renewable heat, not only by explaining the benefits, but also by recommending which heating solution is right for their property. 

Depending on heating requirements and building fabric, it is the installer’s responsibility to select the best solution to provide their customer with an efficient heating and hot water supply.

Aside from financial concerns, the most important challenge that must be addressed is the question of who is going to install heat pumps. Once again, training and time spent away from work to learn new skills comes at a price, which is often shouldered by busy installers. To help, Baxi is committed to creating training that will help heating engineers diversify their portfolio and keep up with the changes brought about by low carbon development.

With legislative targets for heat pump installations looming and suppliers gearing up for higher volumes of new technologies, it is the government’s responsibility to set policy, and support manufacturers to ensure a vital network of professionals is in place. After all, it is the heating engineers who make the decisions on which heating solution to select on behalf of millions of homes across the UK. Without the seal of approval from them, it will be difficult to build a case for some of the low carbon technologies when it comes to decarbonisation of the residential market.