Last edited 27 Oct 2020

Residential heat pump installations: the role of vocational education and training

This article presents a short summary of: 'Residential heat pump installations: the role of vocational education and training', by Colin Patrick Gleeson. It originally appeared in Building Research & Information, in September 2015 and is available online at: DOI:10.1080/09613218.2015.1082701.

Meeting European emissions targets is reliant on innovative renewable technologies, particularly ‘renewable heat’ from heat pumps.

Heat pumps transfer heat from a lower-temperature source to one of a higher temperature. This is the opposite of the natural flow of heat. Heat pumps can be used to extract heat from sources such as the ground, air or water which can be used to provide hot water, space heating or used for other applications such as heating swimming pools.

Heat pump performance is driven by Carnot efficiency (the differential between input and output temperatures), and optimum performance requires the lowest possible space heating flow temperatures. This means that heat pump performance is highly sensitivity to poor design and installation. The correct operation of heating system controls is also critical to performance and this places additional demands on installers in terms of commissioning and handover instructions.

Gleeson’s paper raises concerns about the adequacy of vocational training and skills for installing residential air heat pumps. It suggests that few UK installers have formal heat pump qualifications at National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 3 and that heat pump vocational education and training is generally delivered through short-course provision where the structure of training is largely unregulated with no strict adherence to a common syllabus or a detailed training centre specification. Prerequisites for short-course trainees is limited and proof of ‘experience’ is an accepted alternative to formal educational qualifications.

The paper suggests that the lack of broader educational content and deficiencies in engineering knowledge will have profound negative impacts on the performance and market acceptance of heat pumps.

A range of possible futures are identified to address these problems.

Click here to read the full paper.


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