The year 2021 in review

Eoin McManus – CEO of Installer – takes a look at the key milestones of 2021, a unique and challenging year for the heating, plumbing and electrical industry:

2021 will live in the memory as the first full year of the world dealing with COVID-19. It’s crazy to think that most of the UK was in a full lockdown until April, and restrictions weren’t fully lifted until July.

It’s been difficult and frustrating for all at times, but the heating, plumbing and electrical industry has not stopped, in fact, it’s been as busy as it’s ever been. Here are some of the most significant updates:

Engineers are the front line

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, but heating, plumbing and electrical engineers were some of the many heroes of the pandemic. Never has access to heating, hot water and electricity been so important for our health, and installers are the ones who provide it.

Engineers cannot work from home, so they were out there, on the front line, in customers’ homes, keeping the lights on, the water running, and the heating comfortable.

It was another reminder for the government, public and even some within the industry, of the essential work that installers do every day, and how important they are to keeping the country going.

Catastrophic Green Homes Grant Failure

This is one of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s biggest failures that perhaps isn’t talked about enough outside of the industry.

The Green Homes Grant Voucher Scheme ran from September 2020 to March 2021, offering homeowners and residential landlords vouchers worth up to £5,000, or £10,000 for those on low incomes, to pay for fitting measures to cut carbon in homes.

However, the initiative was slammed as a horror story by industry experts, installers and even the Nation Audit Office, as it flopped costing the taxpayer around £314million for upgrading just 47,500 homes.

It was criticised for its lack of interaction with installers, delays in payment to homeowners and engineers, and poor execution.

Unfortunately, a lot of commentators in the heating, plumbing and renewables industry (including installers) saw this coming and were not surprised at yet another failed retro fit scheme (remember Green Deal?).

The government must do better in the future.

A focus on heat pumps

Heat pumps have been making headlines in trade publications, and the national press this year. On www.installeronline.co.uk, it was the most-read technology, and our webinars on heat pumps have been some of the best attended.

The government has set ambitious targets to install up to 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028, and starting next year, grants of up to £5,000 will be available to homeowners to encourage them to fit low-carbon technology like heat pumps.

Any successful heat pump roll out will need quality, well-trained engineers to properly design and fit the systems, and installers are already getting prepared for this transition. Definitely, one to keep an eye on now and in the near-future.

The hydrogen kick-off

Hydrogen boilers is another route recognised by the government on the road to net zero. This year, numerous manufacturers have launched prototype boilers that can run on 100% hydrogen, and boilers capable of running on a 20% blend.

The UK’s first hydrogen homes were opened on 15 July, which showcase how houses with appliances fuelled entirely by hydrogen would work. Acting as a live citizen science project, the homes will deliver critical data and provide insight into how appliances can be used and adapted for the low carbon homes of tomorrow.

More and larger hydrogen trials are expected to be confirmed in 2022, so it’s another topic that installers will want to pay close attention to.

The return of events

We were delighted to open the doors of the InstallerSHOW in September, and finally meet our industry friends and colleagues face-to-face, in a safe environment,

The “Great Industry Get Together” was our most successful event to date, featuring 152 leading exhibitors, 50 expert speakers and 5,975 attendees, across the three days.

It was proof of how much installers value getting hands-on with products, learning about new innovations, and socialising with their peers, manufacturers, and other industry professionals.

InstallerSHOW will move to the NEC Birmingham next year, from June 21-23, with a host of enhancements and new features, and we can’t wait to see you there.

All eyes on the Government

There were lots of long-awaited reports that came out this year, that set out the government’s plans for net zero emissions.

The Hydrogen Strategy and Heat in Buildings Strategy that were published at the end of the year, are two of the most interesting.

In 2022, we will start to see these plans being put into action, but whether we are on schedule to meet ambitious carbon reduction targets, is another question altogether.

What’s certain is, it’s going to be another very interesting year for everyone working in heating, plumbing, electrical and renewables, and all eyes will be on the government to see if we can make net zero a reality.

Have a happy new year, here’s to a happy and successful 2022.


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