How the Government is discouraging the installation of heat pumps

The Government is discouraging the adoption of heat pumps through the very important ‘Energy Performance Certificate’ (EPC) system. The EPC system shows energy consumption for particular buildings and gives advice on how to reduce it. It is legally essential when selling properties. Incredibly, even when a property is entirely heated using ‘resistance’ electricity, and therefore especially suitable for heat pumps, the standard advice given for energy improvements fails to mention the most important single measure which is likely to be the conversion of the heating system to a heat pump. Various other piecemeal measures will be selected under the EPC system, but heat pumps are not explicitly promoted.

In fact heat pumps are likely to reduce the carbon footprint of heating (usually by far the largest element in domestic energy consumption) by around two-thirds. And remember, this includes circumstances where the house would need to pay for a gas connection before a gas boiler could be added, making gas connections quite expensive.

Now, I emphasise,  it is not the EPC assessors that are to blame, it is the software that they have to work with that automatically throws up options for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. So clearly this is a major Government failure. Government press statements promote heat pumps, but the most important driver at the public interface of the housing industry, the EPC system, actually discourages people from thinking about installing heat pumps even in the most obviously attractive situations for them.

We are still waiting for the software to be updated. Part of the problem is that the Government’s estimates of the carbon-reducing value of heat pumps is almost a decade out of date. The system still works on carbon outputs from the electricity system of 2012. In that year the carbon footprint of a kWh of electricity was more than twice what it is now. It seems that this disparity will not be changed until at least June 2022 when the building regulations covering energy efficiency are updated. Then the software giving people advice on how to reduce the carbon footprint of their homes might be changed. If we’re lucky!

The lack of urgency in doing something about this state of affairs exposes the gap between the Government’s public relations and its ongoing reality.

David Toke

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4 thoughts on “How the Government is discouraging the installation of heat pumps”

  1. The reason why the advice provided by energy performance certificates assessors very seldom mentions heat pumps is simple. The assessors’ primary role is to advise on how to reduce energy consumption at minimum costs, covering both capital and revenue expenditure.
    Installing a ground source heat pump is currently approaching four times more expensive for a householder than installing a high efficiency (95%+) A rated condensing gas boiler,

  2. but the case I was thinking about (actually a real one that I know about) is where there is no gas connection and where it may cost a lot of money to connect up the gas boiler to it – otherwise there probably wouldn’t be electrical heating in the first place

  3. I was responding concerning the 86% of British households which currently have gas central heating.

    I think you will find that historically electric heating was installed in many buy to let properties, largely to avoid landlords having the hassle and expense of commissioning gas safety inspections to each property each year.

    However, as since April 2021, regular electricity safety inspections have also become mandatory for rental properties, the original Unique Selling Proposition assisting the installation of electric heating has now gone.

  4. The vast majority of British homes (86%) are heated by gas. There has been a trend towards electric heating amongst buy-to-rent landlords, in order to avoid the hassle and expenses of acquiring a gas safety certificate survey each year.
    But , as from April 2021, it is now obligatory for electrically heated rentals to have a safety survey each year too. Thus removing electric heating’s Unique Selling Proposition overnight….

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