Industry body demands legal standard to avoid poor heat pump installations

In response to rapidly increasing demand, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) is pushing for mandated quality standards for heat pump installations not covered by the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. 

Under the scheme, those installing heat pumps must be MCS certified, but there are no minimum legal requirements for installations completed outside of the scheme.

Without legislation to prevent substandard heat pump installations, systems could be poorly specified, improperly installed, unsuited for the setting and, as a result, uneconomical and potentially detrimental to the sector’s reputation. 

Kevin Wellman, chief executive of the CIPHE, stated: “Competency is essential, so the idea there’s no minimum legal standard for all heat pump installations is nonsensical. 

Disastrous ramifications 

“With proficient installation, heat pumps can provide low-carbon heating, which saves money and has a positive impact on the environment – but in cases where poor installations are carried out, there could be disastrous ramifications. Plus, there may even be an influx of legal claims years down the line,” Wellman said.  

“We are all vulnerable if plumbing and heating work is poorly executed and, if plumbing and heating professionals are not appropriately trained and a legal standard put in place, the consequences could be severe.” 

A call for a legal qualification requirement for all installers 

“Steps like the BEIS investment and updates to the Scottish Heat in Building Strategy are extremely positive, but this must be underpinned by a mandatory minimum standard for all heat pump installers, including those installed outside of the upgrade scheme. 

“Given that many boiler replacements are distress purchases, there will be a percentage of the population who cannot wait for government grants to come through. In these incidents, consumers may be vulnerable to poor installations.” 

According to the MCS database, there are around 1,300 companies certified to install heat pumps giving an approximate figure of just 4,000 certified heat pump installers. 

An additional 5,000 to 7,000 engineers needed 

With a target to achieve 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028, Nesta forecasts that to achieve this, the sector will need to recruit around 5,000 to 7,000 additional engineers every year from 2025 to 2035. 

“Without more qualified professionals, current installers will need to work 25-hour days, eight times a week, to hit net zero targets,“ added Wellman. “That is simply absurd, and as such, government and industry must continue working together to attract new recruits while promoting ongoing training for those already in the industry.“