The Green Homes Grant will not fulfil its intended purpose of stimulating the economy and improving the energy efficiency of homes unless the deadline is extended and critical failings are addressed, stresses Mark Wilkins, head of training and external affairs at Vaillant.
When the £2 billion Green Homes Grant (GHG) funding was first announced, we welcomed the scheme but did voice some concerns over whether the ability to install heat pumps and other low-carbon heating technologies in sufficient quantities would be limited by a shortage of installers. Unfortunately, recent media reports seem to indicate that this is now the case, with many homeowners simply unable to find an MCS and TrustMark certified professional in their area.
This is disheartening, as there are 120,000 plus registered gas engineers in the UK who could be prime candidates to fill this gap if given the right help and support to gain the necessary certifications. However, as the GHG scheme is currently only valid until March 2021, there is not enough time for this to happen, as the process can take months.
What’s more, as we enter a second lockdown, many homeowners may be fearful about letting a tradesperson into their home during the winter period – especially if they are elderly or have a medical condition – yet people in these groups are likely to benefit substantially from a more energy efficient home.
Therefore, we urge the government to extend the deadline for GHG applications and consider introducing separate measures to encourage current heating professionals to become proficient in low carbon heating installations and gain MCS accreditation.
Feedback from installers who are already eligible for the scheme has also identified several areas for improvement, in particular the need for better education for homeowners on the technical requirements of installing and operating a low carbon heating system for optimum performance.
As heat pumps operate at lower flow temperatures than boilers, they need to be paired with low surface temperature radiators or underfloor heating to operate at maximum potential. The property should also be heavily insulated with minimal heat loss. However, many installers have reported homeowners expecting to be able to just do a simple switchover, leading to disappointment for the customer and time wasted for the installer.
Manufacturers are doing their best to provide educational resources on these topics, but there also needs to be an official resource that is impartial, so homeowners are well informed before even consulting an installer.
Overall, we remain hopeful that the GHG will help us to make a dent in the decarbonisation requirements if these changes are implemented. We need more time, more training and more homeowner education to develop a sustainable heat pump industry and build consumer confidence.