The Committee on Climate Change has forecast that by 2030, the use of air source heat pumps to provide heating for UK homes will rise to over one million units per year. So, is now the time for social housing providers that have not yet developed a renewable programme to take a look at the technology?
Gas boilers are still the dominant force in the domestic heating market with around 1.5 million units sold each year.
The heat pump market on the other hand can be measured in the tens of thousands and the majority of this steady growth has been through the adoption of the technology in the social housing sector.
The reason for uptake in this sector is quite straightforward as heat pumps can make a serious difference to tackling fuel poverty in off-gas areas. Many HAs have therefore kept in line with the general thrust of the former Code for Sustainable Homes and adopted heat pumps to help achieve what was previously Code Level 4.
More than just alleviating fuel poverty
Landlords are also finding added benefits from installing heat pumps as they can help improve tenants well-being by enabling them to heat the entire property cost-effectively rather than only being able to afford to heat one or two rooms.
This in turn helps HA’s maintain their assets as it helps minimise and reduce property damage from damp and mould.
As the Touching the Void report from Sustainable Homes also shows, the use of renewable technologies in a carefully planned maintenance regime can also help reduce the social impact of empty properties in the community. The report can be downloaded at: www.sustainablehomes.co.uk/research-project/rent-arrears/
The research examined data from over 500,000 homes, looking at benefits of energy efficient homes for social landlords’ income. The study found that:
• as homes become more energy efficient they are void for a shorter length of time – on average, 31% shorter for band B properties compared to those in bands E and F
• landlords with more energy efficient stock spend less on refurbishing void homes, less on repairs and less on staff time to manage voids
• rent arrears are on average half a month higher in Band F properties than in other bands
• other cost savings identified include time spent seeking overdue rent payment, legal costs and court costs which decline by around 35% for more energy efficient homes
Heat pumps are recognised as a low carbon alternative to traditional heating systems such as direct electric, gas and oil and the UK Government is fully behind the technology – particularly air source, as a key part of the way we will all heat our homes in the future.
We as a manufacturer are already seeing an increase in both enquiries and sales of our market-leading Ecodan range as a result of the recent 33% increase to the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) tariffs for air source heat pumps.
We are also seeing an increase in enquiries for hybrid systems, where a heat pump is simply being added to an existing heating system as the technology includes smart controls which decide when it is most efficient and effective to use the heat pump over the existing heating system.
This gives social housing providers an easy way to add renewable heating even if the property is on the gas grid and funding from the RHI means that the payback period can be reduced significantly.
The other thing that sometimes gets asked about heat pumps is whether they are noisy, which is why we are proud that the entire Ecodan range is endorsed by the Noise Abatement Society with the prestigious Quiet Mark.
Web-based controls are becoming the norm now and MELCloud, our smart controller for the Ecodan system also allows landlords to interrogate the heating from afar and call on our technical support if needed – without needing to disturb tenants.
Finally, there is also a growing awareness amongst the public at large that there is now a proven way to sustainably heat our homes that doesn’t involve carbon-intensive gas or oil; is more efficient and can therefore reduce running costs; and will help reduce the country’s reliance on imported energy.
Isn’t it time that you took a look at the future?
Max Halliwell, Product Managerfor the Ecodan range