In recent years we’ve seen the construction industry begin to make the highly-necessary switches towards becoming more sustainable across the board.
Whether it's making use of environmentally-friendly building materials, incorporating solar panels into designs or opting for low-energy bulbs—the industry is in the midst of some of its biggest changes to date.
That same trend also applies to gas. Recent analysis found that gas boilers in UK homes produce twice as much climate-heating carbon as all of the nation’s gas-fired power stations, and research by NHF found that 25 million homes produce 58.5 million tonnes of CO2 every year.
As a result, we’ve seen the emergence of new alternatives to traditional gas boilers, most notably heat pumps and hydrogen boilers. This has led to some question marks over the longevity of a career in gas, and whether it’s still worth training in the field.
Below we’ll take a look at these new, cleaner technologies, as well as exploring why as opposed to gas engineers becoming obsolete, now could be the most exciting and lucrative time to enter the industry.
What is a heat pump?
Heat pumps look to be next in line to immediately replace gas boilers. Electrically powered, these pumps can transfer heat from a cool space, to inside a home.
There are three main types of heat pump that are becoming more frequently used in modern construction.
The most common is the air-source heat pump. Air is extracted from outside the home and transferred to a refrigeration coolant. This coolant is then compressed which increases the temperature, before being transferred to the indoor unit of the pump and ultimately heating the home.
Water-source and geothermal heat pumps work in a similar way, only they use energy stored in the ground, or a body of water to extract heat from rather than the air.
What is a hydrogen boiler?
Operationally, hydrogen boilers are nearly identical to traditional boilers, leading experts to believe that these are the most logical long-term solution.
However, rather than burning harmful natural gas that emits carbon in the heating process—they rely solely on hydrogen, which produces only water when burned.
Most new boilers will be built to a ‘hydrogen ready’ standard and should become commonly available between 2023-25—this should make the switch to hydrogen supplies far more seamless when it does eventually happen.
Prior to that, a 20% hydrogen blend will be introduced into the gas supply, again, something most modern boilers will be able to handle already—though this change isn’t expected to be rolled out until 2028 at the earliest.
When will gas be replaced completely?
To put it simply, not for a very, very long time. 86% of UK homes still use gas as the fuel for their central heating systems, and the cost of changing this means any shift is going to be extremely slow and steady rather than happening any time soon.
The government has confirmed plans to stop gas boilers from being installed in new-build homes from 2025, but that won’t impact the huge number of existing homes that already have them.
No concrete date has been set to ban the sale of gas boilers completely as of yet. An estimated date of 2035 has reportedly been discussed, though due to the costs involved, this could already be pushed back until 2040.
Once legislation has been introduced to ban existing gas boilers, it’s likely we’ll see the government ramp up incentives and grants to help with the cost of switching.
It’s also worth noting British Gas predicts a full switch to hydrogen gas supplies won’t happen until the mid 2040s—again, giving some indication that it’ll most likely be decades before current gas supplies and appliances become entirely obsolete.
Interested in a career in gas engineering?
While the headlines can be a little daunting for anyone thinking about a career in the gas industry, the reality is that it’ll be tens of years rather than a couple before we see real significant change.
And what about when those changes do finally come into effect? It’ll be those who possess an in-depth understanding of the industry pioneering its future and who will be called upon to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Interested in a career in gas engineering? 2022 could be the perfect time to begin your journey and enter the industry at one of its most exciting points. Our New Entrant Gas Training Package 3 is the most comprehensive gas course we offer, and is ideal for anyone taking their first steps in the sector.
Need a little more information? We’d love to chat. Give us a call on 01322 280 202, request a brochure or visit our training centre for a chat.