Training Heating Installers for the Rollout of Heat Pumps

By Phil Hurley, Chairman of the Heat Pump Association

19 million heat pumps will need to be rolled out into homes by 2050 to meet the UK’s legislated net zero target according to the Climate Change Committee (CCC), leaving us with just three decades to rapidly scale up installations. If there is one thing we know for certain, it is that heating installer numbers must grow, and keep on growing.  

We have in recent times seen a push from the Government to make progress on the 35,000 heat pumps sold in 2019, with a deployment target of 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028. This will of course be a huge jump, and it will go unmet without the right supportive frameworks in place to grow the number of installers and improve consumer awareness. There are promising signs that the heat pump industry is moving in the right direction, with a 2021 survey predicting that the supply of heat pumps will almost double this year. This is based on manufacturers having placed orders to deliver a total of 67,000 units.

This growth aligns with recommendations made in the Heat Pump Association’s 2019 report, which set out a potential trajectory for the rollout of heat pumps up until 2035.

The Number of Trained Heat Pump Installers Must Grow

To deliver the mass rollout of heat pumps in line with the above right the way through to 2035 and beyond, we must see a rise in trained heat pump installers. The number needed to put the UK on track to meet net zero is shown below and can be used to demonstrate how many trained and skilled engineers will be required to make a success of the deployment trajectory laid out above.

With the right support and signals from government, the HPA is confident that the heat pump industry is ready and able to deliver this capacity and has been working with other industry bodies to overhaul the route to becoming a heat pump installer. Within our own membership alone, there are over 22 training centres, providing the ability to train over 7000 installers per year. However, the current training route needs to be overhauled so that it is more straightforward and less bureaucratic. 

Reshaping the Training Route for Heat Pump Installers

Aware of the skills shortage threatening the Government’s heat pump deployment target, the HPA has been working hard to revamp the training pathway to prepare existing heating installers for the inevitable phase out of fossil fuels. Working with others across industry, we have endeavoured to ensure that the new pathway is as simple and as accessible as possible so that trained heating engineers, who already understand the fundamentals of heating, are both willing and able to upskill for the future.

What does the new training route look like?

First and foremost, it is essential that all heating installers have the knowledge and skills they need to install all heating systems to perform more efficiently. This is crucial to the Government’s climate targets and will deliver immediate benefits in terms of costs and carbon savings. As such, the training route begins with CIPHE’s Low temperature and Hot Water course that covers essential skills for efficient heating that apply to all technology types. This course covers heat loss calculations, hydraulic balancing, pipe and emitter sizing, and low flow temperature heating, and has been positioned as a prerequisite for any technology-specific training taken up later on.

Heat Pump Foundation Course
Our simplified heat pump training pathway has been split into two parts. First, heating installers can gain the knowledge they need to install a heat pump by taking a 2-day Heat Pump Foundation Course. This will provide an overview of heat pumps in addition to installation guidelines, commissioning and servicing and end user training.

Individual Heat Pump Technology Course
Following completion of the Heat Pump Foundation Course, installers can gain an understanding of each technology type through 1-day courses offered in both air source and ground source heat pumps, including hybrids, with plans to extend to other heat pump technologies.

Levelling the Playing Field Between Heating Technologies

The HPA is proud to have developed a revised training route to support the Government in ensuring its heat pump deployment targets can be successfully met, but we are all too aware that the higher costs associated with heat pump accreditation contradicts the net zero transition.

In our report, Building the Installer Base for Net Zero Heating, we called on the Government to address this issue by levelling the playing field between heating technologies. This could be done through the introduction of regulatory measures that require all heating installers, who are already required to undertake Accreditation Certification Scheme (ACS) refresher courses every five years, to undertake the Low Temperature and Hot Water course as part of their modules.

As steps are taken to prepare the UK for a net zero economy, we must make sure that we are all talking the same language. With the help of the Government, the HPA is ready to ensure that heating installers are on board so that households across the country can enjoy the benefits of low carbon heating. With all hands to the pump, it’s a challenge that can be overcome.