Hidden within a vast warehouse on the Slough Trading Estate in Berkshire, two properties are under construction that could help to kick-start Britain’s shift to low-carbon heating. Over the coming weeks Octopus Energy will put the finishing touches to these three-bed semis, from fitting carpets to planting grass in their “gardens” and plumbing in gas boilers to provide heating and hot water. Then, later this year, it will begin inviting new recruits to come and learn how to safely disconnect those gas boilers — and install air-source heat pumps instead. Heat pumps powered by low-carbon electricity are expected to play a crucial role in decarbonising Britain’s homes. Operating like a fridge in reverse, they draw heat from the air or ground and use a compressor to raise the temperature, offering a green alternative to the gas-fired systems that heat about 80 per cent of homes today. Less than 40,000 heat pumps are installed in Britain each year — a tiny number compared with the 1.7 million gas and oil boilers replaced or installed annually. But by 2028 the government wants heat pump installations to increase to 600,000 a year. While a political row continues over how to drive demand and pay for heat pumps, which can cost £8,000 to £12,000 per home at present, there are also concerns over whether Britain has enough skilled workers to install the devices, and whether it can secure the manufacturing spoils from making them.
Times 12th July 2021 read more »