Heat pumps eliminate much of the private market due to cost, so the conversation around cheaper electrical solutions needs to be pushed in line with government targets (i.e. Future Homes Standard)

Callum Whittall, technical and compliance lead, GL explains.

With the recent implementation of Part L and the Future Homes Standard (FHS) coming into set to be released in 2025, the housebuilding industry is currently adapting to some of its biggest challenges in decades. 

As the UK looks to reduce its carbon footprint in line with these updated building regulations, heat pumps are becoming a popular option for housebuilders and homeowners who are looking for alternative energy solutions.

Under the FHS, gas will be removed from all new-build properties, so housebuilders and developers are having to be proactive in finding alternative electric solutions – enter the heat pump. 

Home heating currently accounts for 14 per cent of the UK’s carbon emissions. The government wants to see 600,000 heat pumps installed each year to help meet net zero by 2050.  

So why the furore around heat pumps? Heat pumps use electricity, which often comes from renewable sources, to both heat and cool buildings.

There is certainly a place for them; they’re known to be incredibly efficient, cheap to run, are quiet and require relatively low maintenance. 

Earlier this year, a major survey of heat pump users found that more than 80 per cent of households which have replaced their gas boilers with an electric heat pump are satisfied with the new heating system.

The first-of-its-kind survey, which was commissioned by the innovation charity Nesta, found that those who use heat pumps reported similar levels of satisfaction to those with gas boilers. 

In addition, most heat pump installations were carried out by independent installers with a lead time of 1-2 months and people were generally satisfied with the experience.

Yet, while the figures sound impressive, the survey was commissioned because many people are actually still unfamiliar with heat pumps and less than one per cent of people in the UK actually uses one to heat their home. 

Plus, despite their pros, they are expensive, still relatively unknown and there are lots more accessible options available. 

As a supplier of electric solutions, this lack of knowledge opens up the opportunity to talk about the other options available on the market. 

The one major issue with heat pumps is that they require qualified installers – demand for which will rocket, especially in line with the FHS. Does the UK have enough of these qualified installers? Currently, no. 

Every existing plumber should be thinking about retraining to install heat pumps. As a wet system, they work in the same way as most other plumbing jobs.  

At the moment, the UK is facing a major skills shortage in this area. There aren’t enough qualified installers to meet the demand of people wanting to swap over to heat pumps, let alone to meet the demand for 200,000 new build houses which will also need heat pumps to be installed. 

If heat pumps are the preferred option, where are the tradesmen coming from? In line with demand, those tradesmen who are qualified are then in a position to ask for more to do it, resulting in increased installation costs. 

So what are the other options? 

Infrared heating comes in a range of products, including panels, towel rails and mirrors. 

Another highly efficient solution, infrared heating uses electricity to heat surfaces and objects (the thermal mass) and people, not the air around them.) By absorbing the heat, these objects then re-emit warmth back into the room and, once the thermal mass is warm, the building retains heat for a period of time.

Infrared is a sustainable and affordable heating solution, which, unlike heat pumps, does not need specially qualified installers – any electrician can install infrared panels. 

GL’s range of infrared heating solutions come with durable, toughened safety glass, provide fast and responsive heat from the solid-state element, an open window sensing function and low power consumption with silent, economical, instant heat. 

With a guaranteed long-life expectancy, infrared heating solutions also provide cost-effectiveness once installed – just like heat pumps. 

The removal of gas under the Future Homes Standard will undoubtedly place a strain on electricity and thereby, the grid. Of course, electric solutions – while seemingly contradictory – can have a huge impact on reducing this pressure.

With more and more homeowners also installing solutions such as solar panels and crucially, battery storage systems, unused power can be harnessed and used again or transferred back to the grid, thereby supporting overall energy outputs. 

Ultimately, wh it comes to reducing household carbon emissions, it’s important to look at the options available. While for homeowners, this may just mean researching the many solutions on the market, for housebuilders and developers, this is a much bigger question. Suppliers therefore need to be on hand to offer the best advice they can and work with housebuilders to find the most effective, and indeed efficient, solution.

The Future Homes Hub is going someway to help housebuilders and developers work out what needs to be said and done to meet this requirement and what they need to do. More work and research needs to be done not only into the best solutions for the job but also how we fit them all into modern homes to ensure not only reduced carbon emissions but a good living environment for homeowners.