This year has been one of flux for the heating industry and its installers. With the introduction of the much anticipated Renewable Heating Incentive (RHI) at the start of the year, being green seemed to be a hot topic for 2014.
It was also a year of two halves. The first part, particularly the first quarter, was incredibly strong. The positive market conditions meant that the first three months saw an increase of 18% in the gas-fired market compared with the same period in 2013.
The second quarter saw the formal launch of the RHI. This highly anticipated scheme was regarded by many as a potential turning point for the industry and a clear indication that the market would embrace renewable technology once and for all.
However, despite the initial hype, the take-up appears to be much lower than anticipated. In fact, there have been fewer than 4,000 applications and, for 90% of these, it involves legacy jobs whereby the product had been fitted long before the RHI was open for applications.
While we never expected huge levels of take-up, the process seems to be slower than even the most pessimistic of industry commentators could have predicted. Additionally, dwindling installer MCS registrations seem to suggest that the renewables market is not something the average heating installer is interested to be part of.
While this is not what we expected, we are optimistic that this will change in 2015. I anticipate that being green will become more important to homeowners and, as such, renewable technology will see a rise. However, this will have to be prompted by organic growth rather than government-funded schemes, along with a reduction in the burden of paperwork, processes and costs that are presently restricting the take-up of installers wishing to register with the MCS.
Away from the boiler market, the demand for heating accessories has seen an unprecedented increase. High levels of innovation from manufacturers have meant they have been able to identify gaps in the market for offerings that improve products for both installers and end users.
Perhaps the best example of a new market that has been created as a result of the surge in demand for additional accessories is the system filter.
The market for this product now stands at some 600,000 units and is growing every day, but if we cast our minds back to only a few years ago the market didn’t even exist. It is only from conversations with installers that a gap was found, and the concept of the product was developed.
This year has also seen a rise in intelligent room thermostats. With devices on the market that allow room temperature to be controlled from a phone, the old-fashioned view of controls as a dial on the wall is becoming a thing of the past and they are now a must-have gadget.
As our thoughts turn towards the year ahead, we anticipate the trends of 2014 will continue and the heating sector will continue to flourish. With the housing sector reporting a return to normal and an increase in the number of people investing in home improvements and renovations, the signs are strong that the heating sector will again see a positive increase.
We will continue to engage in a proactive dialogue with installers to ensure we continue to create products they are receptive to and that will enhance their day-to-day business activities.
Martyn Bridges is director of marketing and technical support at Worcester, Bosch Group