Looking back to this time last year, the boiler industry looked to be in a very strong position indeed. In 2013, the boiler market had grown around 15% on what it had been in 2012 and boiler sales were actually at a ten year high. This was excellent news for boiler manufacturers, merchants and installers, however, by the second quarter of 2014 sales began to level out.
The effects of the economic crash in 2008 and subsequent recession is still being felt in the heating industry, although it’s definitely on the road to recovery. The Energy Companies Obligation, a government initiative introduced at the beginning of 2013, definitely helped with the increase in boiler sales during 2013, so it was somewhat inevitable that the figures would drop in 2014.
The scenario described above highlights one of the main problems with government incentive programmes such as the ECO and the Green Deal. They can be very useful to certain consumers who are, firstly, aware that the schemes exist and, secondly, are eligible to receive assistance under these incentives. However, for the manufacturing and fitting industry, these short-lived schemes can provide a false sense of security; good for business while the programmes are running, but then dropping off sharply after they finish. In effect it can create a boom-bust situation, making long term planning very difficult for the heating industry as a whole.
Another set of issues facing the heating industry is the inconsistencies in policies on how to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The Renewable Heat Incentive was another government initiative that didn’t really provide the boost to renewable energy take-up in the way that was hoped, and has proved how hard it is to implement consistent measures on our existing housing stock that will really have a positive impact on the environment.
For the foreseeable future, it’s difficult to see how renewable energies such as heat pumps will overtake traditional gas-fired appliances. It’s now been a decade since it was made mandatory to install condensing boilers in UK homes, but the existing housing stock only has a maximum of 55% of boilers that are condensing installed, so there is still a lot of work to do to convert the other 45%.
Although there’s still a lot of work to do in Britains existing housing stock, the new build sector is looking more positive, with as many as 130,000 new houses being constructed each year. This creates demand for new and efficient heating and plumbing products and bodes well for the heating industry.
Additionally, the modern boiler is now so efficient that the industry is looking to other areas where heating performance can be enhanced. The main area of interest and development right now is in smart controls.
Smart controls seek to make the boiler automatically adjust itself in line with the outside weather conditions or the individual circumstances of the homeowner. As this technology develops, it should hopefully improve the efficiency of heating systems even further and also make people more interested in an aspect of their home that was traditionally not given much attention to. Anything that can raise the profile of heating components and generate a public awareness is excellent for the heating industry and should prove beneficial for knowledge and growth.
Article by Benjamin Clarke