About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

The aim of this project was to uncover challenges and barriers that existing heat pump installers face to installing more heat pumps, and make recommendations that would lead to meaningful solutions to those challenges. This report shows the findings of that project.

In order for the UK Government to meet its legally binding net-zero targets, fossil fuel heating systems will need to be replaced with heat pumps and other low-carbon heating systems in all homes across the UK by 2050. In 2021, the government set an interim target of installing 600,000 heat pumps every year by 2028. But with only 55,000 heat pumps installed in 2022, installation numbers need to grow quickly.

To date, efforts to meet this target have focused on increasing the number of trained heat pump engineers entering the workforce. Whilst this is a crucial part of the solution, making the system in which existing engineers work more streamlined and efficient could decrease the amount of time each installation takes to complete.

We worked with Emma Bohan (IMS Heat Pumps) and Nathan Gambling (BetaTeach) to conduct a nationwide survey of heat pump engineers to explore the challenges they currently face in increasing the number of installations and how these challenges can be addressed.

What’s in the report

  • 87% of respondents wanted to increase the number of heat pumps they install each year, but reported challenges to making this a reality.
  • Their largest challenge with increasing heat pump installations was either:
    • a lack of customer demand (41%)
    • an inability to find additional suitable staff (30%)
    • the time spent on unnecessary tasks or administration (19%)
  • 45% of survey participants believe that customers don’t progress with a heat pump installation after receiving a quote as the costs across quotes are too high. A further 27% believe customers received a cheaper quote from another installer.
  • Employers prefer to hire more experienced staff, with only 2% favouring taking on a first job applicant.
  • Employers expect a much higher level of practical heat pump installation experience than graduates currently have. Over two thirds of respondents said they’d be unlikely to take on candidates who have qualifications without work-based learning.
  • Administrative tasks are a larger barrier to increasing installations than tasks relating to the physical installation of a heat pump. Respondents reported wanting additional support from both digital tools and staff.
  • Sole traders and companies with one to five employees prefer to use MCS umbrella schemes to avoid the cost and paperwork associated with obtaining their own certification.

Findings/recommendations

  • Although there are government-funded grants available to almost all homeowners in England, Wales and Scotland, other types of finance schemes may increase the likelihood that customers go forward with an installation after receiving a quote.
  • There need to be improved pathways for junior staff, recent graduates and those who have qualifications without work-based learning to enter the sector.
  • There is a clear demand, from employers, for a deeper focus on practical skills in the training that apprentices receive. Colleges, and the companies with whom an apprentice does their workplace training, may require additional support to meet the demand from employers.
  • There is some demand for improved digital tools for business administration and installation-related paperwork.
  • Greater recognition and support from MCS for certification umbrella schemes may enable a greater number of companies to install a greater number of heat pumps. Alternatively, finding ways of reducing the paperwork and cost burden for the smallest businesses could allow them to become MCS-certified themselves.

Authors

Shaan Jindal

Shaan Jindal

Shaan Jindal

Senior Analyst, sustainable future mission

Shaan is a senior analyst in the sustainable future team.

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Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Senior Mission Manager, sustainable future mission

Oliver Zanetti is mission manager for Nesta’s sustainable future mission, which focuses on home decarbonisation and economic recovery.

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Emma Bohan

Emma Bohan is the Managing Director of IMS Heat Pumps. Established in 1997, IMS are one of the UK’s leading installers of Ground Source Heat Pumps and Air Source Heat Pumps.

Nathan Gambling

Nathan Gambling is the owner and creator of BetaTeach and the podcast BetaTalk. He holds industry qualifications, assessor qualifications, a PGCE and a degree in behavioural studies.

Benoit Siberdt

Benoit Siberdt

Benoit Siberdt

Analyst, sustainable future mission

Benoit joins Nesta as an analyst for the sustainable future mission.

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Elysia Lucas

Elysia Lucas

Elysia Lucas

Quantitative Analyst, sustainable future mission

She/Her

Elysia is a quantitative analyst for Nesta's sustainable future mission, using research and data analysis to help accelerate the decarbonisation of homes in the UK.

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Oli Berry

Oli Berry

Oli Berry

Senior Researcher, sustainable future mission

Oli is a senior researcher for the sustainable future mission on secondment from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT).

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