Changes are coming to the heating sector

With the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions increasingly taking centre stage, the new decade is likely to bring changes to many aspects of our daily life. But what will it mean for the heating industry? Ahead of Futurebuild event, where MCS will be working with key partners to create the Future Installer Zone, we put some experts on the spot and asked them the questions that all heating technicians will need answered. You can see a selection of the answers here – or go online and read the full dossier at: www.oftec.org/future-heating/change-is-coming

What will the consumer expect from future installers?
Martyn Bridges – director of technical communication and product management, Worcester Bosch
• The consumer’s ever-increasing expectations will require installers to specify low carbon heating and hot water solutions coupled with flexible and internet-connected control systems. Devices that allow the end user to make use of the cheapest fuel tariffs, allow remote operation and supervision of their heating systems, and also let them know when a fault has occurred, or their system needs servicing.

Phil Mason – head of compliance at TrustMark
• Consumers are waking up to the fact that more needs to be done in all areas of society to reduce our carbon footprint and this will impact on future installers […] The consumer will expect the installer to be able to offer a wider knowledge of technologies and be able to react to their more varied requirements for quality information, installation and service. Consumers will seek more advice on what is best for their home and what impact changes will have in the future. They may also want information about finance options. All of this information should be at the installer’s fingertips to enable them to deliver a positive experience for the consumer.

What is the best way for installers to future-proof their careers?
Stewart Clements – Director – HHIC
• We cannot stand still when it comes to training. Technologies such as heat pumps and hybrid systems will become more and more important as the government looks to cut carbon emissions. Heating engineers should proactively begin to include these technologies in their portfolio and review the training offerings available from manufacturers to ready them for the coming consumer demand in these products.

What is the best way for the future installer to support the decarbonisation of heating emissions?
Graham Lock – founder, Low Carbon Homes
• ‘Frontline workers’ in other professions are trained to identify and guide vulnerable households when they visit customers at home. There is a huge opportunity for suitably trained heating engineers to look beyond the appliance and to consider a whole-house and household approach to heating – to help reduce energy demand and provide low carbon alternatives to intensive fossil fuel use […] The 21st century heating engineer could […] become the conduit to a raft of measures to not only reduce the carbon impact of homes, but also to support the vulnerable and alleviate fuel poverty.

Paul Rose – OFTEC CEO
• Technicians need to forget what they think they know about a particular customer’s home – they will need to carefully assess the current energy requirements of each and every home and provide a range of recommendations to the homeowner including energy efficiency improvements as well as the heating system most appropriate for their home. This will require an entirely different approach – gone are the days of the like for like boiler replacement.

What is the biggest challenge that future installers can expect in the 2020s?
Phil Hurley – managing director, NIBE Energy Systems Ltd and vice chair of the Heat Pump Association
• The biggest challenge will be the shifting of mindset from like-for-like replacements to renewable and low carbon solutions and the provision of services to enable the transition. This will be aided by government policy and increased consumer awareness of climate change. However, installers will play a significant role in providing information and informing the decisions their clients make as well as installing less polluting heating solutions. They will need to be able to confidently and competently talk to clients about the solutions available in a holistic way and encourage the low carbon transition, this will require retraining and upskilling. The government has an ambition to phase out high carbon fossil fuels in the 2020s and installers are the key contact point meaning that they must be fully aware of the policy landscape and regulatory requirements. (Editor’s note: According to the government’s clean growth strategy, it is to phase out the installation of high carbon fossil fuel heating in new and existing off-gas grid residential buildings, so not necessarily the use of the fuel in existing installs).

Paul Rose – OFTEC CEO
• The biggest challenge will be for smaller installers to carry out all the work themselves. There will be a greater need to join forces or collaborate with different trades to provide a complete solution for the customer.

What will future installers expect from equipment manufacturers?
Martyn Bridges – director of technical communication and product management, Worcester Bosch
• Appliance manufacturers are pretty adept at trying to make the installer’s life as easy as possible so I think you will see an increasing amount of options enter the market to answer the challenge of lowering the carbon output of heating and hot water generation. We will start to see oil-fired boilers being produced ready to burn lower carbon oils such as Bio-Kerosene as well as packages of appliances where the oil consumption is reduced and the heating and hot water generated from electric heat pumps with oil needed for perhaps 30% of the time when its exceptionally cold.

Phil Mason – head of compliance at TrustMark
• The whole house approach will lead to manufacturers launching new products which is likely to include an extension in technologies. This is essential to help meet the low carbon objective. Installers will and should expect a broader range of equipment available to achieve this and the product training and technical support to ensure they can be installed safely and effectively. Multi-measure installation packages will become the norm and manufacturers’ solutions to deliver these are paramount to support the installer.

Guy Crabb – technician representative, OFTEC scheme committee
• I would like manufacturers to concentrate on making products more user friendly. Many technologies to date have proved to be very complicated for both the installer to set-up/commission and for the homeowners to control.

What new skills will installers need in the future?
Nathan Van Gambling – founder, Betateach
• The 4 “C” skills remain as fundamental as ever: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity. Collaboration will take the form of peer learning and working closer with manufacturers. Regarding communication, engineers and installers will have to consider how to convey information to a diverse customer base.

Paul Rose – OFTEC CEO
• Technicians should assume that their customers don’t know which heating systems or retrofit measures will be most suitable for their homes. They will no longer just be heating experts; they will need to understand the whole building and be able to identify the most appropriate low carbon solutions. For some homes this will be a heat pump and for others a low carbon liquid fuel boiler.

What will the future installer expect from their training centre?
Guy Crabb – technician representative, OFTEC scheme committee
• Training centres need to design courses that effectively teach new technology installations whilst identifying the skills already possessed by engineers.

Stewart Clements – Director, HHIC
• In the longer term, as we prepare for green gas, the industry will need to design and develop training requirements for commissioning hydrogen-ready appliances. These appliances will require new legislation, standards and a new set of commissioning requirements – all of which heating operatives will need to learn. Training is no longer a ‘nice to do’ it really has never been more of a ‘must-have’.

What can certification bodies, such as OFTEC, do to support the installers of the future?
Ian Rippin – CEO, MCS Certified
• Provide guidance to their members as to the available resources, training and support that can enable an installer’s business to deliver renewable heating solutions for their customers, alongside more traditional heating solutions. OFTEC is uniquely placed to do this as it can offer its members a ‘one stop shop’ with a range of certification schemes, covering liquid and solid fuels, as well as renewable energy technologies such as heat pumps, solar thermal and biomass.

Graham Lock – founder, Low Carbon Homes
• […] Certification bodies could act as sector advocates, promoting the exciting career prospects of a 21st century heating engineer to those currently in education […]