Change is a weird thing. If you look at the heating, plumbing and renewables industry, there is plenty of change.
New innovations, improved products, legislation updates, building regs, there is a constant evolution.
As we’re moving towards net zero goals, more change is coming. Heat pumps, hydrogen, heat networks, but also connected home, solar, battery storage, EVs, the list goes on and on.
There are plenty of opportunities for engineers, but in the here and now, the vast majority of them will continue the work that they’ve been doing for years, and that is fitting boilers.
Heating engineers can be fiercely loyal to the products that they use. Callbacks and breakdowns are wasted time that eat into profits, so installers will have their favourite kit that they are used to, that they know works, and that they are supported by the manufacturer.
When it comes to boilers and controls, they may have different options that they offer to customers, but they will work with the brands that they want to. It’s the same with tools, trade essentials and ancillary products, they will have built up relationships with reps and merchants over years and decades and it will be pretty difficult to change their minds.
As technology is advancing so quickly, and with legally-binding carbon targets to hit, the UK needs to adopt new, low-carbon heating systems, better controls and solar and storage. But this is a lot of change for engineers who will be taking a leap of faith to move into these industries, especially when there’s still a big demand for the work that they currently specialise in.
It is a conundrum, without the buy-in from installers, a heat pump rollout will struggle to happen.
I don’t think installers fear change at all. They are the experts and will do their best to provide heating and hot water to their customers, whether it’s a boiler, or a heat pump or whatever else. But it needs to make sense for them and their business.
There are some fantastic initiatives already, and the industry needs to continue to make any transition process as easy as possible for the engineers. Training grants, installation incentives, leads, technical support, it all needs to be simple, and actionable, or why would they bother?
There are a lot of exciting things in the pipeline for the industry and engineers, and I’m excited to see how things progress.