Body behind three-day training says 40,000 plumbers could be reskilled a year

The business secretary has said a training course for heat pump installers is a crucial step in the transition away from gas boilers.

Kwasi Kwarteng has welcomed the Heat Pump Association (HPA)’s three-day training course providing a recognised qualification for plumbing and heating engineers, who are expected to deliver the government’s target of installing 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028.

The more eco-friendly heating systems, which extract low-grade heat from water or air and raise the temperature so it can be used for space or water heating, are a core part of the government’s 2050 net zero ambitions.

Around 14% of the UK’s carbon emissions are produced by heating homes, which are among the least energy efficient in Europe.

Ministers have said gas boilers will be banned from new-build homes in 2025, and have suggested banning all gas boiler installations from 2035 although media reports this week indicate this may be watered down in the forthcoming Heat and Building Strategy.

Government has conceded that the cost of the technology could make it difficult to persuade homeowners to install the devices. Air source heat pumps are priced between £7,000 and £14,000 while ground source heat pumps cost from £15,000 to £35,000, with installation prices driven up further by the limited number of trained installers.

The HPA claims over 40,000 installers a year could qualify through this new course, which is available at 38 training centres in the UK.

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This week chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders Brian Berry said other concerns are that heat pumps are too large, noisy and do not produce enough heat.

Despite these issues the ministers believe costs will come down and are keen to prepare the industry for heat pump installation in existing homes.

Kwarteng said: “The government is absolutely committed to working with industry to drive down the costs of heat pumps over time so they are increasingly affordable for consumers.

“While heat pumps are fast becoming a natural option for households, we need to ensure we have enough skilled tradespeople to hit our target of 600,000 installations each year by 2028 - so the HPA setting up this training scheme is absolutely critical in this endeavour.”

The government has estimated there are 4,000 heat pump installers in the country, although a report by EY said there are just 1,200 compared with almost 10,000 that would need to be qualify within the next four years to meet current targets.

The new course is open to people with an NVQ Level 2 in plumbing and heating or equivalent, and comprises a two-day foundation course followed by a day each on air source and ground source heat pumps.