Things are looking up. In the same week we learned that UK boiler sales are on the rise, with an increase of just over 18% in the first quarter of 2014 compared with the same period in 2013 – according to figures from the Heating & Hotwater Council – we were also greeted with the new Green Deal Home Improvement Fund (GDHIF).
Designed to revamp the controversial Green Deal scheme, GDHIF promises a simplified scheme offering a variety of incentives with £1,000 for installing two or more energy-saving measures, one of these being a gas boiler. There is a total of £360m available over three years to cover this.
At last, the government is finally waking up and taking action. It was apparent for far too long that the Green Deal was not working and that for a variety of reasons, homeowners were never going to embrace it.
Let's hope that GDHIF offers a new lifeline to improving energy efficiency in homes not covered by the ECO scheme. It should help boost business for installers in particular, who are weary and wary of yet another incentive scheme that involves registration and accreditation.
As far as the boiler industry is concerned, it's reassuring to see that boilers are included in the list of energy improvement measures that homeowners can choose from – and not just any boiler, but specifically condensing mains gas boilers. Given the long list of renewable options available to homeowners, it's heartening to know that the government recognises that every home still needs a gas boiler.
It is also good to know that Passive Flue Heat Recovery Devices are included. When coupled with a boiler, these devices can help make significant and meaningful savings on energy consumption, contributing to both carbon emission savings and cold water wastage. This energy-saving option, in our opinion, ranks very high in the 12 eligible measures listed.
It's good to see that GDHIF also offers a simplified application process for customers and has opened up access to approved green deal installers as well as providers. For those installers who are already Green Deal authorised, it's only a matter of registration in order to be eligible to offer the scheme to customers.
But will this latest incentive be enough to encourage non-Green Deal registered installers to become authorised? With scepticism running rife, particularly amongst the smaller installers, only time will tell. Many would welcome deregulation of the mechanics of registering for the scheme, but it does no good pouring cold water on a scheme that hasn't had a chance to ignite.
With consumer confidence returning to its pre-recession levels, and boiler sales on the up, we should all embrace GDHIF and get behind the scheme to try to ensure that history doesn't repeat itself.
No one doubts that we all need to take sustainability seriously in the future and on paper, and there is a great opportunity for installers in the industry – but for it to really take off with the householder, the government has to provide clear and effective communication to the public in order to raise awareness and confidence in this latest scheme.
Louis Pickersgill is managing director of Ravenheat.