The uptake of renewable technology among plumbing and heating engineers has certainly risen in recent years. In fact, last month the industry body, MCS, reported that there has been a record number of renewable energy installations in the first six months of 2023 and heat pumps reached a peak number of 3,000 household installations a month for the first time.
Our recent survey of 150 domestic heating installers further proved that renewables are on the rise. In fact, we found that 41% of installers who historically install oil or gas have now begun installing renewables. On top of this, of the heating installers who still mainly install oil and/or gas, 37% said they’re currently looking into more renewables and associated training and 38% said they’re considering moving into renewables.
Current industry uptake
To understand how renewable energy sources have been embedded into our industry up to now, we asked heating installers about how they’ve incorporated renewables into their work.
Our research found that more installers are coming around to more sustainable solutions, with almost 2 in 5 (38%) of installers who mainly install oil or gas considering moving into renewables and almost as many (37%) sharing that they are currently looking into more renewables and associated training.
Some have been quicker on the uptake of renewables than others, with almost a third of respondents (29%) who traditionally worked with oil and gas telling us that they now regularly install renewables.
The research also found that a small number of installers are already taking a renewables-first approach, with 5% saying their company predominantly installs renewables. However, some installers remain steadfast in what they know, with 11% of those mainly installing oil and/or gas saying they have no plans to look into renewable heating solutions.
While the wider shift to renewables is being driven, in part, by updates to Part L of the building regulations and the upcoming Future Homes Standard, it is clear that customer demand also has a key role. Conversations with customers are an integral part of a heating installer’s job, so who better to ask about consumer demands? When asked about interest amongst homeowners when it comes to renewables, a third (33%) of installers said their customers are generally very passionate about reducing carbon emissions, and 29% said their customers only ask for renewable energy.
Some of the demand for renewables is being driven primarily by the economic climate and cost of energy. Almost a fifth of installers (18%) said their customers are interested in renewables, but mainly because they want to reduce gas bills, and 17% put their customers’ interest primarily down to prices.
In addition, almost a quarter (23%) of installers said that their customers ask them about legislation and are very interested in reducing carbon emissions, while 19% say their customers are interested in reducing carbon emissions, but don’t ask about legislation.
Heat pump training
Whilst demand is certainly on the rise, one of the major barriers to uptake is a lack of industry training. 30% of installers said they want to book a heat pump training course but can’t find one anywhere, and almost a quarter (24%) said that there are not enough heat pump training courses available, despite them looking. This is disappointing and as manufacturers, we should be supporting training initiatives to ensure installers develop the skills they need for a sustainable future.
However, there also appears to be a segment of the installer community that remains reluctant to pursue training on heat pumps, with a fifth (20%) saying they haven’t looked into training courses and have no intention to, and 19% saying they haven’t because they don’t like heat pumps and believe there are better alternatives. A further 13% said their refusal was because they had no interest in renewables at all.
More positively, despite this reluctance, many installers have already completed or sought out training on renewables such as heat pumps. Almost one fifth (17%) said they have had heat pump training and feel confident in the installation process and 21% said they’ve had heat pump training, but so far there has been minimal demand from customers. A further 22% said they’re already booked onto a heat pump training course, but are currently waiting to attend.
While it’s positive to find that many engineers are undergoing training and carrying out more renewable installations, it is clear that a lack of training has been an issue for many. Hands-on advice will play a huge role in supporting installers through the transition to renewable energy and we know that a number of manufacturers are investing heavily to provide this education.
At Polypipe Building Products, we not only offer training, but our technical and site support teams are also on hand to help with the initial specification and design of low-energy heating systems, and also to attend the site should you need in-person advice. If you need advice on renewable solutions, please get in touch with us below.