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What can we expect to see over the next few years in heating and plumbing?

What can we expect to see over the next few years in heating and plumbing?

If the events of the past two years have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected. Just as the reality of Brexit was sinking in, COVID struck. Now, the energy crisis is having a significant impact on the heating and plumbing industry, prompting us to think about how we’ll deal with the worsening effect of climate change. Undoubtedly, there is a pressing imperative to refocus on sustainability and efficiency to reach net zero in 2050.

So what changes can we expect to see in the industry in the coming years? Most of these changes will come from the top, as sustainability-oriented regulations impact the way we do business. The good news is there will be work, and lots of it – systems need renovating, homes refurbished and new technologies put in place.

The beginning of the end for the gas or oil-fired boiler

The government is investing big in construction – they’ve set aside over £100 billion for construction projects over the next decade. Changes will really start to be felt in June 2022 when the Part L uplift comes into force. This is the first step towards The Future Homes Standard, which will take effect in 2025. This will require all new homes to have 75% less CO2 emissions than they do now, which ultimately, signals the end of gas and oil-fired boilers and a transition to new and more environmentally-friendly heating solutions.

This issue doesn’t only impact new-builds. Approximately 23 million homes in the UK have gas boilers, and sooner or later they’ll need to be replaced. Hydrogen has been suggested as an alternative, with the government aiming for 5 GW of low carbon production capacity by 2030. It is likely that a decision will be made soon about whether hydrogen-only boilers can be installed from 2026 onwards.

Short-term solutions to make homes more sustainable

In the short term, we can expect to see the installation of many more heat pumps. They’re a big feature of the government’s 2021 Heat and Buildings Strategy, which aims to install 600,000 heat pumps by 2028. This target will come with installation challenges; for homes with combi boilers, they are up to four times more expensive to install than the £2,500 average for gas. Even if the government meets its promise of halving these costs, they’re unlikely to become dominant quite yet.

To pick up the shortfall, other methods need to be brought into the fix. This could include IR radiators and underfloor heating, which are programmable to improve efficiency. These smart home features are likely to be more popular in the near future, with programmable devices like wireless TRVs appearing more in new builds.

Driving sustainability forward

The coming year will bring changing regulations, new technologies, and major public programmes for the heating and plumbing business. Talent will be key to driving these projects forward. In the past, engineers and plumbers have found it difficult to attract new apprentices and trainees; centring sustainability and innovation will be essential to attracting this new talent, and meanwhile, technologies need to become more efficient and intuitive to make up for the skills gap.

There will be plenty to keep the sector busy, especially after a post-pandemic lull. It’s important to keep learning, stay on top of new ideas and innovations and train new talent to take this crucial sustainability mission forward.

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