Earth Notes: Domestic Heat Pumps: Barriers to Installation (2022)

Updated 2024-04-08.
A case study in the friction in specifying and installing a heat-pump in the UK, even for a savvy early adopter. #heatpump #netZero #futureReady
What gets in the way when you do decide to go heat-pump? How will the UK government meet its goals of hundreds of thousands per year?

David Symons very kindly shared his story from early 2022:

Moving from gas to heatpumps? My experience of trying to install a heatpump shows it's still far from easy. Here's three actions which would make a big difference.

  1. Train the architects. Our sole trader architect hadn't installed a heatpump before. It took a lot of persuasion to get this on the table, batting aside talk of huge installation costs, poor performance etc.
  2. Make the process as simple as fitting a gas boiler. Heat pumps are more complex to install, but the whole process today seems grounded in complexity, with multiple people involved across a long supply chain. Even getting the pump sizing was a three week process for our simple home extension. For most installations it needs to be faster, simpler and as easy as installing a boiler.
  3. Get the supply chain sorted. When we were ready to order, there were no heat pumps available anywhere in the UK. Of course supply chains are covid disrupted, but there's no zero carbon revolution if there's no pumps available.

The UK's Heat and Buildings Strategy is absolutely correct to say We need to act now to develop the market and bring down costs for energy efficient low-carbon heat. With a target to install 600,000 pumps a year by 2028 there's no time to lose.

There are not enough engineers in the field from specifying to installing, and a general poor UK habit of slinging in vastly oversized systems not carefully assessed or adjusted. And end users don't yet have the skills to manage heating well for comfort and efficiency.

2022-11-25: Jilted

[W]e were ready to go for it. A heatgeek plumber gave us a quote but took us a few months to decide. When we did the plumber wasn't up for it anymore and we couldn't find anyone else. We are on an end of terrace first floor flat with limited garden access so only option was to install at height which seemed to be what put him off

(SE London, 1900s semi-detached house. Flat conversion so we are in the upper floor with no direct access to garden.)

2022-12-22: EoH Report

The Electrification of Heat (EoH) report from the Energy Systems Catapult [ESC2022EoH] aims to demonstrate that heat pumps can be installed in a wide variety of homes and deliver high customer satisfaction across a range of customer groups.

It notes that Only 12% of properties surveyed were considered unfeasible based on technical constraints.

2024-04-06: 322 Quid per dB

We have had to apply for planning permission as we were 1db over the 42db level. £322 for 1db.

See more at his blog.


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