The Government’s action plan on climate will affect all sectors, including home heating. It is a significant contributor to carbon emissions, about 10% of the overall total. Currently, 80% of Irish homes use oil or gas for their heating, however, this is expected to be moved over to electric heat pumps.
To do so, the process will begin with phasing out the installation of oil and gas boilers in newly built homes. The reason for this is that heat pumps work better in well-insulated buildings. Older homes will first need to upgrade their installation before they’re suitable for a heat pump.
The ultimate aim of this changeover is to hopefully end the use of fossil fuels for home heating, which will put a stop to using oil and gas boilers in Irish homes. This change, however, will not take place overnight. Regardless, in time it will completely transform the industry.
Because of this, it poses a great concern to the thousands of people who make their living installing, maintaining or making oil or gas boilers.
At present, to carry out work on any gas appliance you must be a Registered Gas Installer. There are almost 3,000 RGI qualified installers in Ireland, most of whom are sole traders. These people have invested a lot of time and money gaining their RGI qualifications.
Ken Lawrence, a gas installer and plumber who is also a member of the Association of Plumbers and Heating Contractors of Ireland said the training, refresher courses, insurance and equipment required for his RGI status cost him around €20,000 over the last ten years.
In Ireland, there are also hundreds of people making oil-fired boilers. Grant Engineering’s factory operates 24-hours a day, six days a week, in Birr, Co Offaly with over 350 people working there, with most of them making oil-fired boilers. Firebird in west Cork also makes oil boilers and employs around 300 people. Due to these newly purposed changes, both companies will have to radically change their business model.
In the coming years, there will be a big transition from fossil fuels to electric heat pumps in the home heating sector. This transition will require retraining and other supports for the thousands of people who depend on it for their livelihood.