Why it’s time for the UK to have a heat pump court

Photo: www.weisspaarz.com via creative commons

Graham Hendra wants to see a bit of Swedish-style justice handed out on these shores.

Anyone reading this is already aware that we in the UK are pretty rubbish at heat pumps. We are laggards at taking up the technology and currently languishing at 16th in the league table of European countries at doing this. There are many reasons for it, but I would argue that a very aggressive policy of rubbishing the technology hasn’t helped.

Of course, in civilised nations, heat pump adoption is well underway but it was hard in the beginning for them too.

Take Sweden for example, when heat pumps started to get installed in the 1980s, (yes you read that right, it was 40 years ago, and even now we still call it a new technology): The government realised that if this technology was introduced and implemented badly, it would damage the uptake of the technology and kill it at birth.

I can hear you murmuring that this is exactly what we have allowed to happen here in the UK.

But in Sweden they did something that makes a lot of sense: in 1989, they set up an arbitration court. The VPN, nicknamed the heat pump court, is an independent complaints board that homeowners can go to if they feel they had been mis-sold their heat pump; they had been told lies about performance; they are cold; or they have been ripped off.

Customers bring a claim to the VPN court directly, with their complaint against installation companies if their heat pumps were under-performing, not meeting performance estimates or don’t meet the expectations of the customer – i.e. they were cold or their bills were too high.

The VPN uses people who know what they are doing to investigate the complaint and If they find that the Installers are ‘guilty’ they are required to resolve the problem at their cost..

But does it work, I hear you ask.

The results are interesting: In 60% of cases, the installers were found to be at fault and so had to sort out the problem. But the other, 40%, I assume were found to be just the consumer needing reassuring that the unit was operating perfectly.

Of those claims which were found to be valid, 90% were found to be the result of problems with installations rather than the products themselves. Who knew? The heat pump is fine, it’s just been ruined by a bad installation, or it’s been badly applied.

But my favourite bit is that the Heat Pump Court decisions are made public, so that any company linked to substandard installations will be named and shamed. Think of it as the reverse of Checkatrade, effectively a list of installers to treat warily. Untrusted Trader perhaps. It seems an elegant way to sort the problem of bad practice in the field.

The court also encourages heat pump manufacturers to monitor the performance of the kit they sell and the installers who fit their kit and publish the data to help raise consumer confidence.

Why don’t we do something like that in the UK, you cry. Would you be surprised to hear the government was told about the scheme by the Climate Change Committee eight years ago? Thought not. Here’s the report:

I assume it was completely ignored.

But all is not lost, I note that the court was set up by the Swedish Heat Pump Association. So, is there any reason why our own UK HPA can’t set this up here?

That I would like to see. I will volunteer my time free of charge to assist in any way I can to get this done. How about you?

Graham Hendra will be live and unleashed at InstallerSHOW on Tuesday 25th June. Register for FREE tickets to the show here: installer-2024-splash.reg.buzz