Renewable energy advisors The Eco Experts have joined criticism of the government’s failing Boiler Upgrade Scheme, saying online search data they’ve collated proves the government is under-publicising it.
Launched in May, the £450 million drive has registered below half the replacements it was budgeted for. Last month a House of Lords committee slammed the initiative’s low-key promotion by Whitehall
Data from Google Trends collected by the advisory firm confirms strong consumer interest in ‘air source heat pumps’ over the last twelve months, they say, but minimal searches for the ‘boiler upgrade scheme’ or ‘heat pump grant’.
This lack of awareness around the scheme has resulted, the Eco Experts claim, in thousands of UK households missing out on its £5,000 grants, an upgraded eco-friendly heat source, and potential cuts energy bill costs. On average, they could have saved 50% of upfront costs for an average air source heat pump.
Searching nearly a year’s worth of Google Trends data, the advisory group found keen interest around ‘air source heat pumps’ last year, with UK searches for the term hitting peak popularity – 100 of Google Trends datfa- from in the week ending 17 December.
Yet interest around the ‘boiler upgrade scheme’ during the same year was significantly under-powered, with searches for the scheme peaking at a mere 15 – see chart – in April’s second week.
The search term ‘heat pump grant’ also registered low volumes. Its highest score was 28 – see chart – in the last week of March.
In 2022, search popularity for the ‘boiler upgrade scheme’ and ‘heat pump grant’ reached their highest scores before the government scheme had even launched, yet searches for ‘air source heat pumps’ peaked several months later. This data indicates, say the Eco Experts, that searches for the scheme never achieved the levels of interest reached by online searches for air source heat pumps.
“With the UK cost of living crisis leaving nearly 40% of people with no money at the end of the month, coupled with the threat of rising energy bills in April, UK homeowners are now in urgent need of financial support in regards to their energy usage. An air source heat pump will typically save £6,700 over its lifetime compared to a gas boiler, the Eco Experts allege.
The UK government launched its Boiler Upgrade Scheme in May 2022 to help households cut the cost of their energy bills, while encouraging sustainable living to help Britain achieve its net-zero ambitions.
But during the first five months of its launch, the scheme fulfilled just 33% of the heat pump installations it needed to reach its overall target. Data from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme shows that the number of heat pump installations has dropped since the scheme began.
For the Eco Experts, researcher Josh Jackman commented: “The government has failed the public and the planet by refusing to publicise its own Boiler Upgrade Scheme in a year when consumer interest around air source heat pumps has reached peak popularity.
“This new data highlights the government’s two-faced approach to its climate targets: introduce a grant to tick a box, then neglect it completely”.
After ending the home-targeted Renewable Heat Incentive in 2022, this deliberate abandonment of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme takes the government’s record on providing UK households with energy-saving and affordable technology to a new low”.
To equip UK homeowners with tools to assess whether air source heat pumps could help to reduce their energy bills, the Eco Experts offer their own Air Source Heat Pump Cost Calculator.
In line with the government scheme, the group claim their tool instantly provides homeowners with the total average cost for a heat pump installation, and how much of their carbon footprint could be reduced.
Eco Experts researcher Jackman shares five tips for homeowners looking to install an air source heat pump:
- Octopus are installing ASHPs for as little as £2,500 when supported by a Boiler Upgrade Scheme grant. British Gas has promised to match any price.
- Air source heat pumps typically last 20 years, double the life of a gas boiler.
- Professionally servicing of a heat pump serviced is needed only two or three years.
- The average home will need to replace one-third of its radiators with ones 2.5 times bigger.
- Extra insulation and underfloor heating are worth considering, when maximising a new heat pump’s full potential.