Cover of survey, titled How to Install More Heat Pumps

What’s holding back heat pump installations?

Heat pump engineers and businesses say a lack of staff is the top barrier to installing more heat pumps where there is demand for installations, one of the most comprehensive surveys of UK heat pump installers has found. Nesta, the innovation charity, analysed 345 responses to a survey of heat pump installers, co-devised with industry and run in partnership with heat pump training consultant Nathan Gambling and Emma Bohan of heat pump firm IMS Heat Pumps, in October-November 2023.

The survey found that one-third of respondents (30 per cent) said finding suitable additional staff was a major barrier to installing more heat pumps. Lack of customer demand was the biggest blocker, cited by 41 per cent of survey respondents.

They said it’s because customers aren’t progressing with installations either because of the cost or because they’ve received a cheaper quote from elsewhere. This suggests that, even with government-funded grants, additional finance schemes for heat pump installations are needed.

Recruitment is an even bigger issue for bigger heat pump businesses. For those with six or more staff, four in ten said finding additional staff is the biggest barrier. More than four-fifths of bigger firms said they were likely or very likely to employ new staff in the next 12 months.

Smaller heat pump businesses – sole traders and company owners with up to five employees – had very little or no confidence in the training of recent graduates from apprenticeships. In particular, they thought the training that apprentices receive on practical heat pump installation and general plumbing skills needs to improve.

Nesta’s previous research suggested that around 37,000 installers might be needed by 2030 to deliver on the UK’s net-zero commitments.

Oliver Zanetti, the charity’s mission manager, says: “It’s clear that staff recruitment continues to be an issue for an industry that needs to expand to meet future demand. To recruit the next generation of installers, colleges and industry must work together to improve apprenticeship courses.”

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