Building the Installer Base for Net Zero Heating

Plans to decarbonise Britain’s homes will fail without a rise in heat pump installers, with warnings from the Environmental Audit Committee confirming that the supply chain needs to be strengthened.  

To see 600,000 heat pumps installed by 2028 in line with the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan, we need to see a rapid rise in the number of installers qualified to install the technology. There are over 22 training centres across the HPA membership alone, providing the ability to train over 7000 installers per year. However, an overhaul of the training pathway to becoming a heat pump installer has been needed for some time.

The Heat Pump Association has been working hard with key actors across the heating industry to simplify the training pathway for heat pumps and level the playing field between technology types. Led by CIPHE, the first part of this new pathway has developed into a new Low temperature and Hot Water course, that we believe will help to address the low carbon skills gap and turn the Governments aspirations for heat pumps into a reality. The course officially launches in May 2021.

A prerequisite for all heat source technology

It is important that installers have the skills they need to install all heating systems to perform more efficiently. Low temperature and Hot Water course therefore begins with a technology-neutral course, covering essential skills for efficient heating that apply to all heating types. This includes heat loss calculations, hydraulic balancing, pipe and emitter sizing and low flow temperature heating. This two-day course has been positioned as a prerequisite for any technology-specific courses taken later on.

Low Carbon Skills Card

Once an installer has completed the initial technology-neutral course detailed above, they will have the option to take up training in specific technologies. The HPA has also proposed a Low Carbon Skills Card to allow them to keep track of all courses undertaken and demonstrate their credentials to households. Customers will then benefit from the knowledge and peace of mind that their installer is trained and accredited to install low carbon technologies like heat pumps in line with plans to roll out low carbon heating in homes across Britain.  

Heat Pump Specific Training

The heat pump training pathway that exists today is outdated. Our proposed route, shown below, has been designed to simplify the training route and make it more accessible. The installer will first get to grips with the knowledge they need to install a heat pump, and then delve into each technology type.

  1. Heat Pump Foundation Course (2 days)
  2. Overview of heat pumps
  3. Installation guidelines
  4. Commissioning/Servicing
  5. End user training

  6. Individual Heat Pump Technology Course (1 day per technology)
  7. Air Source Course (1 day)
  8. Ground Source Course (1 day)
  9. Exhaust Air Course (1 day)

Keeping the Course Content Relevant

The course content must be updated to reflect any changes as and when needed to ensure that installers derive the most benefit from their training. This will be crucial as the market continues to innovate as growth occurs.

Government Support

The Climate Change Committee has advised the Government that buildings must be addressed in order to meet the 2050 net zero target. With 37% of emissions arising from heating, the phase out of fossil fuel heating is both essential and inevitable. It is therefore essential that the Government supports initiatives to train installers so that they can install the technologies that will be rolled out as an alternative. Installers need to see clear and unequivocal support for heat pumps from the Government through both stable long-term policies and financial support.

Government support is particularly important when we consider that the costs associated with becoming a heat pump installer currently outweigh those needed to become a gas boiler installer. This clearly contradicts UK climate targets and is a challenge that must be overcome.

Mandatory Training

The Government could help level the playing field between heating technologies through the introduction of regulatory measures that require all heating installers to undertake the newly launched Low temperature and Hot Water course. These skills are not only needed for heat pumps and will help installers to adapt to the changing market as soon as possible.

Every five years, installers are required to undertake Accreditation Certification Scheme (ACS) refresher modules to ensure they are on the Gas Safe Register and working safely and legally. There is an opportunity for the Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Dwelling module to be added to this established ACS re-accreditation framework and to provide a significant proportion of the market with the skills they need for the heating transition within the next five years.

To find out more about the Heat Pump Association and its recommendations for building the installer base for net zero heating, click here.