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Home Tradesman Insights Level up with this guide to heat pump qualifications

Level up with this guide to heat pump qualifications

Looking to take your career in a new direction? Here’s your guide to qualify as a domestic heat pump installer.

Lack of talent 

A recent report has concluded that there are not enough qualified tradespeople to meet heat pump targets. The government’s plan is to replace 25 million oil and gas boilers over the next thirty years. However, there are only 3000 heat pump engineers trained in the UK.

To meet proposals, 4,000-6,000 professionals will need to be trained each year, with a projected 600,000 heat pump installations required, per year, by 2028.

With the construction industry already suffering labour shortages, these figures seem ambitious to say the least.

A major hurdle tradespeople are facing when training to install heat pumps is costs. Fees for heat pump installation qualifications are high, and MCS certification must be repeated every five years, which can run into thousands of pounds. Taking time off work to train is not an option most tradespeople have in the current climate.

Without cash incentives and support to encourage engineers to take on extra training, government targets will continue to be out of reach.

Cost to homeowners is also a huge barrier, with installation currently floating around £10,000. This is simply unaffordable for most households, and with living costs skyrocketing; heat pumps are low on the list of priorities.

Having said that, there is a number of grants available for homeowners wanting to upgrade. And with demand for engineers so high, it might be the ideal time to level up your skills.

Route to entry

A gap in the market means more opportunity. Those willing to invest in additional training will go onto gain more experience and more credibility in the future.

If you’re a engineer, you maybe closer than you think to becoming qualified to install heat pumps.

If you’re a school leaver, or looking to change careers, then you will need to invest more time in training. Before you can train to be a heat pump installer, you will need to qualify to become a gas or oil heating engineer.

This means finding a training provider and completing a ACS gas assessment, which includes installing 5 boilers under supervision. If successful, the trainee will be awarded a CCN1 qualification and can be listed with the Gas Safe Register. Once registered, you’ll be qualified to install domestic gas and oil heating systems.

There are several options to complete this certification, including fast-track routes, (6-25 weeks) apprenticeships, (3-4 years) and college courses (3-4 years).

The route you take will determine the qualification you’re awarded, and may include a level 2 or 3 NVQ or SVQ in plumbing and heating installation.

From here, there are options to complete additional training to install heat pumps.

Heat pump skills

Before we cover the steps required to qualify as a heat pump installer, it’s worth mentioning the difference between air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps, as this is where training costs start to add up.

Essentially, an air source heat pump works like an air conditioner in reverse. It sucks in air from outside the property and either heats or cools the inside of the property. A ground source heat pump draws heat up from the ground to warm the inside of the building.

Before you can train to install ground source heat pumps, you must be qualified to install air source heat pumps.

And in order to enrol on an air source heat pump course, you must meet the following entry requirements:

  • A Level 2 or Level 3 NVQ or SVQ in plumbing / heating & ventilation / gas / oil – Installation and Maintenance qualification
  • A valid Core Gas Safety (CCN1) certificate with CENWAT – must be involved in the installation of heating systems
  • An OFTEC Oil certificate
  • A valid HETAS certificate (must be for wet systems)
  • MCS Registration for Solar Thermal or Heat Pumps
  • CPS registration for plumbing systems

An air source heart pump course typically runs for three days and includes a blend of classroom and practical based learning.

Once passed, you can train to install ground source heat pumps. Training takes two days, and at the end of the course you will be awarded a RQF Level 3 qualification.

At this stage you’ll be fully qualified to install both types of heat pump. However, a qualified electrician maybe needed on site to carry out additional electrical work.

Training costs

As mentioned, you must complete several stages to become qualified to install heat pumps. The first stage is to train as a gas-heating engineer, and options to do this are based on your experience and background.

As soon as you become a qualified heating engineer, you can train to install heat pumps.

There is nothing stopping you from only completing stage 1 of the training, as this will qualify you to install air source heat pumps. However, domestic properties have different requirements. You could limit the number of contracts you accept, if you’re not qualified to install ground source heat pumps, too.

Potential Earnings and Opportunities

Earnings for domestic gas engineers range from £31,500 to £43,993 a year, with the average salary at £35,000 a year (August 2022).

If you’re trained to install heat pumps, then the average salary increases to £37,800. This means initial training costs can be gained back in 2-6 years, depending on the route to train you have decided to take. This does not factor in living and travel costs, and if you take a 4-year training route you will need to calculate this into your budget.

It’s possible average earnings will increase further in this sector, as demand continues to grow.

If you’re a qualified gas engineer then it may be worth investing in additional skills to install heat pumps. And if you’re a recent school leaver or are considering a career in the industry, now is an excellent time to train. Either way, opportunities in the renewable sector are excellent.

Tradesman Talk

Are you, or do you know anyone, who is trained to install heat pumps? Do you think this additional training is worth the investment?

And, how realistic are the government targets to install 600,000 heat pumps a year?

Leave your comments below, and click the social buttons to share this content.

Until next time, make sure it’s Tradesman Saver.

Mark McPherson

Mark McPherson has an MA in Creative Writing and has been crafting content for over a decade. He writes for a range of niches, including the construction industry and insurance sector. Mark has worked internationally as a content writer and teacher.

All articles by Mark McPherson

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