How Plumbing and Heating fits in
With climate change becoming more apparent every day, energy efficiency is at the top of the agenda for many businesses and individuals. It’s widely acknowledged that the strategic and efficient use of energy is essential in lowering carbon emissions in the UK, particularly if we are to reach the government’s 2050 net-zero carbon target.
So where does the plumbing and heating industry come into this? Stuart Hawthorn, Technical Sales Manager for the Energy Efficiency and Commercial Division of PTS and City Plumbing, has a passion for energy efficiency in the industry and is excited to see change coming. He spoke to us about why the future for home heating is green:
“I’ve spent the last 10 years focusing on energy efficiency”
Stuart’s work with the Energy Efficiency division largely focuses on renewable technologies and underfloor heating, dealing with installers, suppliers, developers, social housing organisations and anyone else in the industry considering more sustainable heating and plumbing solutions. Stuart’s been involved in energy efficiency for the past decade, though has been with the wider group for 21 years.
“We’re the only merchant that can do what we do”
City Plumbing’s proposition is unique within the industry, and Stuart says the end-to-end service on offer – plus the firm commitment to raising industry standards in energy efficiency – means the business is at the forefront of the market. Rather than being complacent, however, he’s keen to share his knowledge and ensure the entire industry is pulling its socks up when it comes to energy efficiency.
“The market has changed dramatically in the past six months, with a big swing towards heat pumps”
While many countries have been using heat pumps for years, the UK has lagged behind in the adoption of these effective, efficient and low-carbon heating systems. However, growth has surged in the last year, thanks largely to Philip Hammond’s 2019 speech which proposed an end to fossil-fuel heating systems in all new houses by 2025. This, combined with the net-zero carbon goal, has resulted in a surge of interest in heat pumps and other systems which reduce reliance on gas and oil for heating homes. As of September 2019, 85% of all heating systems in the UK were gas boilers, with just 2% of heating systems renewable, but the tide is turning and research bodies suggest growth in the heat pump market will be exponential over the next decade.
“The industry is proactive and supportive in making energy efficient changes”
Stuart says industry bodies and individuals are largely enthusiastic about more energy-efficient choices within plumbing and heating, and installers say they’ve noticed a real difference in the last six to nine months in terms of the number of heat pumps and energy efficient systems they’re installing.
“Consumers used to need to be financially incentivised to make sustainable choices, but not anymore”
In the past, people tended to install energy-efficient devices and systems when it made financial sense, says Stuart. Now, climate change has become such a concern for society that people are actively seeking out the most carbon-neutral solutions for their plumbing and heating. The market is growing organically and with increased legislation coming in to regulate energy efficiency, providers and suppliers being forced to think differently and offer new solutions.
“Transport and heat are the two areas we need to focus on to reduce our carbon footprint”
Stuart has long been lobbying for more energy-efficient solutions in plumbing and heating. The government has said the two areas the UK needs to focus on to decrease its reliance on carbon are transport and heat. Tackling climate change will not happen without thinking about alternative transport models (such as electric cars) and heating systems. We have 23 million houses in this country, says Stuart, most of which have gas or oil boilers, and for change to come we need to shift the focus from oil and gas onto renewable systems.
“The next generation of installers will be fitting heat pumps instead of boilers”
People coming through planning on fitting gas boilers will find themselves increasingly installing heat pumps instead, says Stuart. That’s why he and the Energy Efficiency team are working to educate industry professionals on the changing face of heating. Installers who understand how they can upskill to meet future demands will be well placed to secure more plumbing and heating work into the future, and as both the Scottish and UK governments say upskilling installers to be more energy-efficient is a major challenge, it’s clear the industry needs all the help it can gets – and Stuart is proud to be leading the way.
“Our work with Scottish colleges is testament to our efforts to educate future installers”
The Scottish government has mandated all colleges that offer plumbing and heating training must now provide renewables training as part of the course. Stuart has been heavily involved in getting this up and running, working with the Energy Skills Partnership to help kit colleges out with the required equipment. This is hoped to not only ensure future installers are educated on the right renewable information, but also kickstarts a partnership between City Plumbing and new industry professionals.
Stuart will be presenting at an installer event on the ‘Changing Face of Heating – Getting on Board with Renewables’ in Glasgow on April 3. Find out more and register at cityplumbing.co.uk/ee-event-glasgow
Join the energy efficiency revolution at Plumbing at Heating
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