Gas installers – you are the future, says Mark Krull, Director for LCL Awards

24 Nov 2021

"Both the present and future is bright for gas installers. Yes, big change is coming within our industry and we are already starting to see shifts in the heating mix, from oil and gas to greener alternatives, such as electric heat pumps and hydrogen.

"But we are not there yet – natural gas still provides the vast majority of our heating, it is reliable and familiar and there will not be a mass shift to other technologies for some time. Whatever the pace of change may be, the transition to low-carbon heating is inevitable and should be seen as a business opportunity for heating installers, who are perfectly positioned to fill gaps in the installer base as new markets develop.

"Like many things these days, there is always a ‘lively’ (and often ill-informed) discussion on social media about the future of gas. There is a lot of misinformation out there, but I believe people in our industry have a responsibility to take a more balanced view of what’s going on.

Heat pumps are coming but gas boilers still heat our homes for now

"Heat pumps got a lot of airtime over the COP26 conference recently.  The government announced the Boiler Upgrade Scheme which will stimulate those already thinking of installing a heat pump to do so, boosting demand for installers.

"However, funding is limited and gas will remain the dominant heat source for the next 10 – 20 years. If we start putting young people off a career in gas, we will shortly be faced with an even bigger skills shortage than we already have.

We need a ‘fabric-first’ approach

"One of the most common criticisms of heat pumps is that they do not work well in uninsulated properties. It is certainly true that the efficiency of a building will have a huge impact on the performance, stability and cost of a heat pump system.

"Currently, low-income households can access support to upgrade insulation in their homes through their local authority, but if heat pumps and renewables are to achieve their potential, we need more widespread support.

"In energy efficient homes, the lifecycle cost of an ASHP is more comparable to a gas boiler, but insulation is the key to achieving high efficiencies. 

The jury is still out on hydrogen

"The idea of hydrogen as a heating fuel is still very much at the research and development stage, with various trials going on across the UK to assess its potential. Its use in homes is not the only issue – to be ‘green’, hydrogen needs to be created through electrolysis, which is much more expensive than using natural gas.

"We will need a combination of technologies and approaches to achieve net zero and I expect hydrogen will play its part in the future fuel mix.  For now, it’s a case of watch this space to see whether some of the production and deployment issues can be solved.

We need more skilled heating installers

"If we are to deliver real change we need skilled and trained installers to underpin government strategy – without this, ideas and policies will remain just that. 

"Heat pump and renewable installations require a whole building approach which is different to gas central heating. For experienced gas installers, this is a great opportunity for career progression, to learn new skills and grow your business. But we also need more newly qualified gas engineers coming through to secure the supply chain.

"We all have a responsibility to provide positive and accurate information about the changing landscape – don’t feed the sensationalist media rhetoric!"