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Heat pumps are ‘sticking plaster’ solution to green home energy

SLOUGH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 02: Plumbing engineers install the pipework for a heat pump system at the Octopus Energy training facility on November 02, 2021 in Slough, England. Ahead of COP26, the UK government announced plans to offer grants to help households install air-source heat pumps over the next three years, encouraging them to ditch their gas and oil-fired boilers. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images) - Leon Neal/Getty Images Europe

Heat pumps are just a “sticking plaster” solution for British homes in the race to cut energy bills and get to net zero, the chief executive of Britain’s biggest radiator maker has said.

Trevor Harvey, chief executive of Stelrad, said the Government’s current home heating plan needed to be broadened to include more funding for insulation and better home heating controls.

Mr Harvey said the Chancellor’s current plan to extend a short-term energy price guarantee while encouraging people to install expensive heat pumps was the wrong approach.

“That doesn't solve anybody's problems, really,” Mr Harvey said. “I think the real issue is that we need to take all obligations towards net zero carbon pretty seriously. And I think we need to be making consumers aware and incentivizing them to upgrade their home systems."

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Mr Harvey said the Government should be promoting smarter home energy controls that can shut off heating when occupants are out or heat only the rooms that are in use.

Mr Hunt and his colleagues should also promote insulation and double or triple glazing as cost effective ways to cut energy demand, he said.

Mr Harvey said: “There was a real opportunity in this Budget to help people heat their homes more effectively for the long term but it's been passed up in favour of a short term sticking plaster.”

The Government has made mass adoption of heat pumps a key plank of Britain's plan to reach “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

The electric devices raise the temperature in people's homes by pumping compressed air from outside to raise the temperature indoors. The Government wants to see 600,000 heat pumps installed each year by 2028, compared to around 35,000 today.

Grants of up to £5,000 are available for homeowners to install a heat pump, however uptake has been slow. Many people have been put off by the high upfront costs of heat pumps, which typically cost between £7,000 and £13,000 to buy and install.

Experts including the chief of Bosch UK have also expressed doubts about the suitability of heat pumps for older homes with poor insulation.

The UK has some of the oldest housing in Europe with almost two fifths of homes built before 1945.

Bad insulation means UK homes heat up more quickly in summer and are harder to keep warm in winter, according to the Chartered institute of Environmental Health.

A Government spokesman said: “Improving the energy efficiency of homes is important to tackling fuel poverty and reducing emissions, and that’s why we’ve committed £6.6bn this parliament and a further £6bn to 2028 to make buildings more energy efficient.

“The Energy Company Obligation scheme alone has delivered improvements to around 2.4 million homes and our £1bn ECO+ scheme is set to boost these efforts later this year, installing measures in households who have previously not been able to access ECO support.”

Last week Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed in the Budget that the state will continue to subsidise energy bills at a level that sees typical households pay no more than £2,500 annually until June, rather than allowing this to rise to £3,000 in April as planned. The extension comes at an estimated cost of £2.6bn.