Ask the Manufacturer: The future of heating


Russell Dean, residential product group director at Mitsubishi Electric, speaks to Housebuilder & Developer’s Jack Wooler on the Government’s net zero target – exploring the challenges in reaching it, and arguing why heat pumps are the future.

Most housebuilders now recognise the challenges of reaching net zero, already aiming to design and build their homes to reduce carbon emissions and future-proof their properties. 

Proactively making their own commitment to building net zero homes and designing ambitious projects that reach beyond the Government’s Future Homes Standard, leading builders are increasingly specifying solar panels, electric car chargers and now – as Russell Dean of Mitsubishi Electric argues – installing heat pumps as standard.

He believes that builders, both large and small, already have a “strong appetite” for heat pumps, but that moving forwards – if all goes as hoped – they will become standard practice, with the biggest challenge left being effective collaboration between all parties. 

“There is no one silver bullet that will make a home ultra-efficient,” says Dean. “It’s the effective collaboration between the build fabric, low carbon technologies, controls, smart use of energy and the consumer interface that will ensure that high level of efficiency.” 

“Although this is a challenge, it’s well within our gift to solve,” he continues. “We certainly see strong signs that manufacturers are working together so that their technologies are working in synergy.”


There are likely few builders who are unaware of air source heat pumps at this stage, but some may still question what makes them a ‘green’ technology.

As Russell Dean explains it, air source heat pumps are classified as a renewable energy source because they capture free energy from the air, “making them a great solution for gas and old boiler replacements.” 

He uses the analogy of a fridge to explain the workings: “The technology inside an air source heat pump is very similar to that of a domestic fridge – transferring heat from one place to another. The back of your fridge is
warm because it is removing heat from the food inside the fridge and out into your kitchen.”

He continues: “An air source heat pump sits outside your home and extracts warmth from the outdoor air. It upgrades this renewable heat energy and transfers it inside the home to provide hot water and heating for radiators and/or underfloor heating.”

Like your fridge, it will do this “quietly and reliably,” as Russell puts it, all year round, with leading products working even in sub-zero temperatures, down to -25ºC. 

Still, some builders may question why this green technology in particular should be adopted, especially if it involves a change in their supply chain.

According to Russell, heat pumps – along with technologies such as solar panels – are simply “the way forward to reach net zero.”

“The UK Government has led the way in making a legally binding commitment to reaching net zero,” says Russell. “That means moving unequivocally away from the use of fossil fuels such as oil and gas to heat our homes.”

Because of this, he argues that sustainability must become a “cornerstone” of all business right now, with a number of challenges likely to be shared by the whole sector as the Government and the country itself pushes towards a sustainable future.

Three such main ‘recognised challenges’ Russell lists that he believes will affect all builders are: carbon neutrality – achieving a decarbonised society to curb climate change by reducing CO2 emissions from the company and society, a circular economy – achieving a society in which resources are effectively used and sustainably circulated, and security – achieving a resilient society that can
cope with various environmental changes as well as risks.

Where heat pumps come into play here, according to Russell, is in effectively tackling all three of these issues, with heat pumps not only helping the UK reach its net zero target, but able to provide jobs and opportunities to grow the green economy, reduce the UK’s reliance on imported gas and oil. By reducing the use of energy in heating homes – they also therefore reduce the cost of heating.


Despite the above benefits, the transition to such technologies is a concern to many in the industry, particularly those working on older properties – not just concerned about retrofitting older homes to offer the insulation necessary for the technologies to function optimally, but of creating the spaces and infrastructure for the technology itself, and training people to install heat pumps.

As to the latter, Russell tells us that Mitsubishi Electric is ahead of the game. He reports that the company has already invested heavily in training to address this concern, currently training 400 installers a month, with the capacity to train up to 4000 a month as the demand for the technology grows.

“From our perspective we do not see a challenge finding the installer base; there are hundreds of installers in every town; they are just currently installing gas boilers.”

As to the ageing stock, while Russell notes that the UK has “some of the oldest and least efficient housing in Europe,” he argues that this doesn’t change the facts – the switch to low carbon heating systems for our homes “is critical” in order to ensure the UK achieves its 2050 net zero carbon emissions target. No matter the obstacles, this cannot be ignored. 

“From small flats to large detached houses, heat pumps are the renewable, low carbon alternative to traditional high carbon heating systems,” he says, adding that whichever way you look at it, “that means retrofitting old properties.” 

“Our challenge as a manufacturer is to make the transition from fossil fuel, high temperature, high-capacity systems to low carbon, high efficiency systems,” Dean continues. “We need to design our products and technology so that every gas boiler installer in the UK can simply to any suitable home.”


Alongside the collaboration between housebuilders, developers and manufacturers, Russell Dean argues that the Government must take further measures to support the whole industry if the targets are to be met. 

He is thankful for the financial support the Government has already offered, such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, the recently announced improvements to the Home Energy Scotland Scheme, and regional government plans such as the Mayor of London’s Warmer Homes Programme. While welcoming the progress so far, he believes they must be further promoted and expanded upon in order to effect real change.

“These schemes already encourage homeowners to insulate their homes and opt for sustainable heating,” says Mitsubishi Electric’s residential expert. He concludes: “Heat pumps are the future of heating in Britain, and more support could bring this future even closer.”

The four measures the Government needs to take (according to Mitsubishi Electric’s Russell Dean) to support consumers and businesses in the transition to decarbonisation: 

Support, incentivise and encourage households to insulate their homes so to use less energy. The Government is well positioned to run public information campaigns to create greater awareness for the need to reduce energy demand and so lower household bills – insulating homes is a primary method of achieving that.

Decouple the cost of electricity from gas, and rebalance taxation away from green economy catalysts for the price of energy, as is being considered in the recent review of electricity market arrangements. While the price of electricity is pegged to the cost of gas, and dependent upon its demand and supply, or open to weaponisation as is the case with war in Ukraine, it will remain at risk of continued price hikes that aren’t the making of its suppliers. 

Set a legally binding end-date for the installation of all fossil fuel fired boilers (not a phasing out). Following the Government’s phase out date for the installation fuel fired boilers in all new build properties, it should be definitive and set an end-date for their installation, whether that is for new build properties or retrofit. This will be a similar position to that taken by Government banning the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Just like the car industry and market has adjusted, so the heating market and industry will adapt to an end date of installing fossil fuel fired boilers – the CCC’s recommendation dates would be a good starting point for this.

Support training of more heat pump installers. As the demand for heat pumps increases, so more installers are needed. Government should also support young people to train in this growing green business, and encourage plumbers, electricians and heat engineers to upgrade their skills to install heat pumps.