Special Report

More UK homeowners invest in low carbon heating than ever before

The latest figures from MCS, the UK’s standards body for low carbon heating and energy, show that the UK is turning to renewable heating to warm their homes.

More UK homeowners invest in low carbon heating than ever before

The number of MCS-registered ASHP installations grew to a record 36,799 in 2023, exceeding the number for 2022, which was previously the highest year-end figure. This makes 2023 the most successful year ever for heat pump installations and means that more than 200,000 have been installed since MCS records began in 2008.

On 23 October, the grant level for air source and ground source heat pumps increased from £5,000 to £7,500, with an additional £1.5 billion funding announced on the 18 December. This government support marked a big step forward for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) reflecting how government policy drives the nation’s ability to reach the UK’s net zero targets.

The latest increase in the BUS brings the grant amount for England and Wales in line with Scotland, which has consistently led the four nations in terms of heat pump uptake in the UK.

This is a major government signal, marking a commitment to low carbon heating and doubling down on its investment in heat pumps. The change reflects the policy changes needed to reach the UK’s net zero targets.

Recent statistics on the uptake of BUS vouchers, published by the Department of Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) show that a record number of people have applied for the grant to install heat pumps. Since the BUS opened for applications in May 2022 until the end of October, the scheme averaged 331 voucher applications a week.

In the weeks following the uplift in grant value, applications increased to 1,172 applications per week. The additional allocated funding of £1.5 billion means that more homeowners across England and Wales can install low carbon heating with help from the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

Consumer confidence

Following the grant uplift, government statistics were released, along with newly published independent research, dispelling myths around heat pump noise. The research concluded that only a small number of survey participants even notice the sound from a nearby heat pump. This same review also found that complaints about heat pump noise are extremely rare.

According to the figures from the MCS Helpdesk, there were fewer than 10 complaints relating to heat pump noise received in 2023. This is despite MCS recording almost 37,000 certified heat pump installations for the year.

MCS is supporting Ofgem with the administration of the Boiler Upgrade Scheme by operating a customer contact programme, under which, every consumer installing a heat pump with a BUS grant is contacted directly.

Consumers are asked a series of questions to confirm where and when their heat pump was installed, and by which certified contractor. They are also asked whether they are satisfied with the installation, whether they received a handover pack, and how the process of receiving the grant amount worked.

Findings are shared with Ofgem to support their fraud and compliance regimes around the scheme. Ofgem and MCS compliance investigations are operated to manage any issues with installations. The scheme is strictly managed to ensure not only that grant values are only distributed appropriately, but also that consumers are happy with their heat pump systems.

David Banner, Helpdesk Team Lead at MCS, said: “The BUS grant increase and additional funding will make it easier and more affordable for the average UK consumer to transition to low carbon heating, which is vital if we are to reach our national decarbonisation goals.”

“The research DESNZ has published aligns with our own findings that more people now have the confidence and ability to invest in low carbon heating and this is an important step forward towards net zero. The number of heat pumps going into buildings in the UK continues to increase year on year with no sign of slowing.”

Following the publication of DESNZ findings, MCS published a consultation on MCS 020, the Planning Standard for Permitted Development Installations of Air Source Heat Pumps. The proposed changes to the standard include altering the sound assessment methodology to make it easier to install heat pumps without planning permission. The consultation closed at the end of January.