Back in April 2022, the Government launched a scheme designed to help homeowners in England and Wales switch to heat pumps from traditional gas boilers. While this sounded promising at the time, cut to a year later and unfortunately it’s a different story.
In recent news, many people have referred to the scheme as a complete failure. But what went wrong?
Let’s take a look at the scheme as a whole, exploring what it was intended for, why it failed and the alternatives you can use to achieve similar benefits in your home!
What is the Boiler Upgrade Scheme?
The Boiler Upgrade Scheme, also referred to as BUS, was introduced by Boris Johnson’s government back in March 2022. It was designed to help meet the UK’s target of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2050 by helping homeowners with the upfront costs involved in switching from traditional gas boilers to low-carbon alternatives.
The government outlined their plans to drive the cost of low-carbon heating technologies down, while working with industry professionals to ensure they weren’t more expensive to buy and run than traditional fossil fuel boilers.
To achieve this, they announced funding in the form of a grant for those replacing existing gas or oil heating with air source heat pumps, ground source pumps or biomass boilers.
They promised £5,000 off the cost of buying and installing an air source heat pump, £5,000 off the cost of buying and installing a biomass boiler, and £6,000 off the cost of buying and installing a ground source heat pump.
The BUS had exciting targets; a target of 600,000 heat pumps installed a year (announced back in November 2020), which later dropped to 90,000 heat pumps installed across England and Wales by 2025, with a budget of £450 million.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case…
What’s Happened to the Boiler Upgrade Scheme?
The government’s heat pump scheme has recently come under fire, with energy experts and even the House of Lords scrutinising the results. So what went wrong with the heat pump scheme?
Well, here we are a year later and unfortunately, the scheme hasn’t gone quite to plan. Rather than heat pumps installed in thousands of homes across the country, the reality is actually an inquiry into the scheme’s failings and calls for the scheme to be scrapped!
A year on and less than 10,000 homes in England and Wales have utilised the BUS – a disappointing figure that’s miles away from the target of 90,000 by 2025! Because of this low success rate, people are now calling for Sunak to scrap the failing scheme.
The House of Lords Environment & Climate Change Committee published a letter following their inquiry in which they described the Boiler Upgrade Scheme as ‘seriously failing’.
The Head of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, Mike Foster, had plenty to say about the BUS and suggested it should be replaced by a more sensible initiative to help permanently lower energy bills.
He went on to explain how the grant not being enough to cover the price of installation means “only the well-off need apply, which in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis with fuel poverty levels rocketing, is entirely the wrong priority”.
“Pumping money into the hands of those who wish to go green, rather than helping those who are forced to choose between heating and eating, is immoral.”
Eco expert and researcher, Josh Jackman, also commented on these failures, “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.”
It’s clear that the scheme hasn’t had the effect they’d hoped for, but what went so wrong?
What Went Wrong with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme?
There isn’t really just one thing to blame the poor uptake of heat pumps on. Instead, it’s a combination of a number of factors and failings.
Lack of Awareness
The first issue being the complete lack of awareness of the scheme in general. It hasn’t been the most advertised government scheme in history, which is reflected in Google Trends data for the past 12 months.
For example, there has been an increase in consumer interest in air source heat pumps and similar search terms for the past year or so as many are looking for cheaper and more environmentally friendly heating solutions.
However, the figures for searches like ‘heat pump grant’ or ‘boiler upgrade scheme’ are nowhere near these volumes, as most homeowners simply don’t know it exists!
In fact, recent surveys by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) found that less than half of UK homeowners had even heard of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.
Low-Income Households Locked Out
Though the grant is designed to help with the initial installation costs, the £5,000 maximum you’ll get from the BUS is still not enough to cover these costs. By part-subsidising the installation of a heat pump, you’re then leaving homeowners with a lump sum of between £8,000-14,000 to pay out of their own pocket!
Unless you’ve got this amount of money saved up and available to use, then you simply can’t make the switch to a heat pump – even with the government’s grant.
No Understanding of Heat Pumps
As well as not knowing about the existence of the BUS grant, many homeowners are completely unaware of heat pumps in general. According to BRE figures, 62% of UK homeowners surveyed said they wouldn’t feel confident explaining how heat pumps work.
And a Public First survey found that only 14% of 4,000 UK adults surveyed said they would choose a heat pump as a replacement for their existing gas boiler.
People often fear what they don’t know, and perhaps the lack of awareness and understanding means too many homeowners are put off by this!
Shortage of Qualified Installers
Compared to your regular gas boiler plumbers, there just aren’t enough qualified heat pump installers around to deliver the figures that the BUS set out to achieve.
A recent survey by Samsung found that only 23% of heating industry professionals are fully trained and qualified to install air source heat pumps. And a shocking statistic shows that nearly three in five are not considering training in this area at all!
All of these factors together have lead to the overall failure of the scheme so far.
Eco-Friendly & Money Saving Heating Alternatives
If you were planning on using the Boiler Upgrade Scheme for your property, you may be disheartened by the points raised above. But, fortunately, there are plenty of other alternatives out there that will allow you to reduce your carbon emissions and your energy bills for affordable prices – without the need for a government grant, and the extensive work that comes with it!
The issue with heat pumps, and this grant, is that it only refers to the installation costs. Not the extensive work that’s involved in retrofitting the device and making the heat pump work with your home. This could involve further costs and some pretty major construction to your home if existing pipework and radiators need replacing completely.
Realistically, air source heat pumps work best when installed at construction level – when the home is being built.
However, if you’re looking to switch your existing home heating and hot water systems to something more energy efficient, environmentally-friendly, and economical then electric radiators and thermal hot water systems are the way to go!
They can be seamlessly integrated into existing systems, without the need for huge installation costs or any major building work. Plus, here at North East Heating Solutions, we’ll remove your existing heating solutions on the same day before disposing of it in an environmentally safe manner – leaving you with nothing to worry about and an effective heating solution that will last you for years to come!
Don’t waste your time with the Boiler Upgrade Scheme. Save your money and your home with the help of our expert heating solutions! Contact us now on 0800 270 7736 for your free quote or book your free survey today!