It’s a good time to be a HVAC engineer.
Despite the ups and downs of the economy and the ongoing struggles in the retail and leisure sectors, there is still work out there in both new-build and retro-fit.
Who knows, we may even, finally, be seeing the true birth of home air conditioning in the UK market, especially as more people work from home and our summers get hotter.
It’s true that the office sector has not yet recovered from the pandemic and people are not back in the office, five days a week – and may never actually go back to that model.
But that also means that the concept of the ‘office’ is changing which sees more temporary and ‘drop-in’ offices springing up as Jane Sartin, the Executive Director of the Flexible Space Association has previously written about on the Hub.
It also means that offices are being repurposed with many being converted into town-centre apartments, which require heating, cooling and ventilation.
And for many air conditioning companies, that will provide more than enough work to ‘keep the wolves from the door’.
This requires a tenfold increase in the number of heat pump installations over the next five years
Nothing stands still
There are also others though, who realise that nothing stays the same forever and can already see that more change is coming to the air conditioning sector as we go through the F-Gas Phase Down of refrigerants.
They’ve therefore chosen a more diverse route and have branched out into other parts of the HVAC sector, which is why I want to talk about heating.
And no, I’m not talking about selling to consumers and crawling around someone’s precious home – although there is a booming market out there as we reach the inevitable end of gas boilers.
I’m talking about the customers you already work for in the commercial sector, where we are predicting significant growth in renewable heating over the next five years.
More sustainable buildings
My colleague Chris Newman has already written on The Hub about buildings becoming ‘stranded assets’ as they get left behind in the drive for a more sustainable future.
This offers real potential for building services providers as this part of a building can have such a dramatic effect on energy use.
Heating accounts for almost a third of all carbon emissions in the UK, so finding a more sustainable way to heat our buildings is now critical to tackling climate change and reaching net zero.
Businesses are rapidly waking up to this and are looking for ways to remove gas from their sites completely.
And this presents a significant opportunity for building service providers – you, to step in and help these customers by installing renewable heating.
The technology is here
The Government has set a really ambitious target to achieve 600,000 heat pump installations a year by 2028. This requires a tenfold increase in the number of installations over the next five years.
It also applies to both the residential and the commercial sectors and presents a significant opportunity for businesses that can support customers in the transition to low-carbon heating.
The renewable heating products already exist and today, you can buy anything from a 5kW Ecodan air source heat pump, which is ideal for a small, modern home, to a heat pump chiller delivering over 1000kW of heating for a school, a hospital, or a leisure centre.
There are also businesses from hairdressers and pharmacies, to whole office blocks that are now crying out for sustainable, renewable heating.
Stop burning stuff
Before anyone jumps up to argue that hydrogen is going to save the boiler industry, I’d make three points.
Firstly, this is simply not proven at the scale needed and we don’t know if we can produce enough hydrogen, or how to do so in a sustainable way.
Secondly, you would also need to upgrade every home’s boiler to a hydrogen-ready one. If you are already disrupting the home, why not go one step further a properly future-proof the house with a heat pump?
Finally, there are major sectors of society that will really benefit from using hydrogen, long before it makes any sense to use it for home heating. Agriculture, shipping, heavy industry such as steel production – all of these sectors need to find ways of decarbonising and hydrogen could offer much more potential in the battle against climate change.
So, for anyone looking at areas of growth for their business, I’d encourage you to find a heat pump course and sign up today. We really are entering the age of the heat pump.
Ben Bartle-Ross, Technical Trainer at Mitsubishi Electric.