A major entrant in Britain’s heat pump market has welcomed the government’s intended easing of planning rules governing home installation of the low technology’s air-sourced variants.

This week housing ministers launched a consultation aimed at accelerating uptake of the clean heat devices in English homes, towards a goal of hooking up 600,000 pumps every year.  Currently, instals run at less than 5% of that figure.

Reducing to below one metre the distance separating externally-mounted devices from neighbours’ properties is among steps proposed, under revisions favoured for air-sourced pumps’ ‘permitted development’ status.  Making pump-fitting as easy as erecting a garden shed or installing a jacuzzi shape ministers’ intentions.

The consultation runs until 9 April. Details are here.

Homes are estimated to account for around a quarter of current UK carbon emissions. Daniel Särefjord, boss of Aira UK, a recent entrant to the nation’s pump market, says the devices offer potential to reduce that footprint by as much as 17%.

“It is crucial to recognise the transformative potential of heat pump technology in lowering energy bills and emissions,” Särefjord said.

“We need more policy changes like this without delay to bring us closer to reaching our nation’s legally binding Net Zero targets. It’s undeniable that the time for action is now.”

“Today, 95% of the UK’s gas boilers are still being replaced with the same polluting and highly inefficient systems at the end of their lifespan, despite the availability of more sustainable and cost-effective alternatives, such as heat pumps”, the Aira leader went on.

“Up to half of these gas boilers are being replaced without even leaving the consumer much of a choice, because currently months of planning policy red tape must be overcome before a heat pump installation is permitted.

“Very few individuals and families can accept to live without heating and hot water for months on end to finally be able to ditch their dirty fossil-fuelled boiler”.

Home heat pumps can be four times more efficient than a gas boiler, Särefjord said, consuming only small amounts of energy.   Addressing another consumer worry, modern home pumps produce as little sound as a domestic refrigerator, he added.

Swedish-based Aira has committed £300 million towards fitting a million pumps in UK homes by 2027.

Addressing the nation’s shortage of qualified installers, the firm is developing skills centres in London and Sheffield, the latter following its purchase of contractor All Seasons Energy.

In December the Heat Pump Association called for a temporary tariff discount favouring residential installations. It would redress cost distortions in home heating caused by environmental levies contained in electricity bills.  These, said the HPA, frustrate the government’s own ambitions to decarbonise home heat.

An interim measure bridging the gap until wider reform is achieved in the nation’s electricity supply, the device-specific tariff discount would require £533 million up to 2027, the body estimates.

“Action must be taken to change the energy price signals so that the lowest carbon heat is the lowest cost heat, which in turn will accelerate the deployment of heat pumps, HPA CEO Charlotte Lee said at the time.



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