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heatly: Digitising the heat pump sector

Paul Spence, Technical Manager at heatly, explains how technology is set to change the role of heating engineers and solve some of the stumbling blocks to large-scale heat pump deployment.

The need to solve the decarbonisation challenge is becoming increasingly pressured. While the end goal is clear, there seems to be little consensus on how we get there. There are various viewpoints that influence heat pump policy, both from within our industry and from outside. Unfortunately, some of the most influential voices are on the periphery of our industry and have very little understanding of the difficulties that installers face. For installers on the ground, trying to get your point across can feel like banging your head against a brick wall.

The answer, at least in part, lies in technology. The latest digital tools have the potential to significantly disrupt the heat pump industry, empowering installers and homeowners by removing common barriers to adoption. When access to the market is improved and installers are supported to deliver high quality, high efficiency heating systems, quickly and at a reasonable cost, confidence will improve in all stakeholder groups.

If we want to make the heat pump industry more competitive, we need to make it less restrictive, as opposed to making the alternatives more costly. Giving installers access to the latest digital tools that streamline the procurement process, reduce the time spent on surveying and standardise key processes will drastically improve the heat pump process for installers and their customers.

Heat pump specification is complex and largely vulnerable to human error, which explains why heat loss calculations by different engineers are rarely the same. The margin for error is very small and the existing tools available are insufficient or only support one part of the process. For this reason, many installers feel they have no choice but to outsource heat loss calculations to building surveyors, architects or umbrella schemes – a process that significantly impacts both the cost and time of the install.

The next phase of digital tech is set to revolutionise the heat pump specification process, reducing time spent doing heat loss calculations and making heat pumps a more practical and affordable choice for homeowners.

Emerging technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), will enable installers to survey a room in a matter of minutes and provide customers with a visual representation of how the new system will look in their home.

Installers will be able weigh up the cost/benefit of retrofit measures, such as replacement radiators or fabric efficiency improvements, without having to make manual calculations. The perceived hassle of retrofit is a big turn off for some customers, so being able to simulate heat loss projections and demonstrate how these measures will save money in the long term is extremely valuable.

Removing the ‘human error’ element of heat pump specification is one element of the equation, but AI will also improve accuracy and bring benefits to installers. By monitoring real-life data from heat pump systems here in the UK, machine learning algorithms could reveal a much clearer picture of the pain points of deployment – information that will help to optimise heat pump performance and outcomes while informing policies that stimulate the sector, rather than stifle it.

Ultimately, the only way heat pumps will become the natural choice for homeowners is through provable benefits – high efficiencies and reduced capital and operating expenses. Technological innovation and investment in digital tools to improve these key areas is what will improve the working lives of installers and push the sector forwards, not ill-informed rules, regulation and red tape.

Paul Spence will be with the heatly team during InstallerSHOW. heatly will be exhibiting as part of the Heat Pump Ready stand (5H42).

Register for your free ticket here.

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