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Renewable tech yields specialist opportunities

There will be major business opportunities for heating specialist firms to diversify into the areas highlighted by new regulations and position themselves as expert providers of renewable technologies.

The heating team must be familiar with the principles of the ‘energy hierarchy’ to consider how energy demand can be minimised, then satisfied in the most efficient way.

This requires a highly strategic approach, a holistic way of thinking and a good understanding of system design.

This is exemplified by demand for mechanical ventilation, with heat recovery (MVHR) in homes made more airtight to reduce heat loss, but still deliver good air quality.

Heating firms will be expected to understand and work with this technology. They cannot work in isolation and will need new skills, so education and training are ­crucial.

Qualifications required

Installers must be qualified to join the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) for customers to be able to access the new financial incentives.

Training is also required to help installers integrate renewables into new Part L-compliant homes and advise homeowners on the upgrades.

They may find it easier to work in loose alliances with other trades to deliver a complete service. Training is also crucial to help assist competent knowledge exchange between the installer and end-user. Multiple product manufacturers are well positioned to support the industry in this way.

Just as developers will be looking for expert ‘teams’ able to handle all aspects of the services, so those teams will benefit from working closely with suppliers able to provide solutions designed to work together. These will include heat pumps, boilers, solar thermal, system controls and radiators.

There is a risk that the use of multiple technologies to meet emissions targets could make buildings too complex and hard to control.

This is why it is crucial to involve technology experts from an early stage and work on an integration strategy.

User education

Commissioning has also been placed at the heart of the new regulatory regime and commissioning plans, as well as low-carbon designs, must be provided to the local authority control bodies in advance.

Once the project is handed over, there will be an opportunity for installers to offer operational support and education to the end-user as part of planned maintenance strategies.

These should also include plans for staged recommissioning to ensure longevity and optimised performance throughout the entire lifecycle. The ‘new’ heating industry that will emerge after the new regulations are in place will require a step change in knowledge and expertise for many installers.

Fortunately, manufacturers are already developing products and systems that can ease the compliance process by offering integration ‘out of the box’.

Jim Moore is regional director at Vaillant Group UK