Multiple UK heat pump laws recommended for revision

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The UK government’s Department for Energy Security and Net Zero commissioned Montreal-based environmental consultancy firm WSP to assess whether heat pump guidance and planning rules are “fit-for-purpose” for the technology’s large-scale deployment.

In November 2020 Downing Street announced it would deploy 600,000 heat pumps by 2028 and gradually phase out fossil fuel-powered boilers by 2038 as part of its “10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” – an initiative to achieve net zero emissions while creating jobs and fostering the local industry.

Current UK legislation and design features “enable and constrain” England's en-masse heat pump roll-out, WSP found in the report it handed down last month.

Removing size limits for an outdoor compressor unit and ditching the requirement that heat pumps must be at least one meter from the property boundary are two of the eight changes WSP recommended as part of the report's “development guidance and regulatory framework.”

Defining what a “solid barrier” is in the context of a heat pump installation location as well as considering the cumulative impact of air-powered heat pumps in a locality should also be considered, according to the report.

WSP reviewed literature related to planning standards, guidance and consumer perceptions; and conducted a small survey with 139 residents living near a heat pump for the review, titled “Review of Air Source Heat Pump Noise Emissions, Permitted Development Guidance and Regulations.”

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According to the responses, heat pump noise complaints were “infrequent” but their impact ranged from being “noticeable” to “affecting sleep patterns” and were described as being a “low hum” to a “rumbling.”

The researchers highlighted the importance of developing better sound quality control if the UK Government wants to install more heat pumps en masse, which could lead to more sound issues. Recommendations for addressing sound issues include considering the “tonality correction” in heat pump noise impact assessments – which would require manufacturers to supply frequency tonality data – and providing guidance around sound power level test operational loads.

The report found noise emissions were a concern for a minority of studied customers, most likely caused by poorly installed heat pumps, with rubber matting or acoustic enclosures a possible fix.

The document will “help inform” future government policy on heat pump planning guidance and standards, the government said online.

UK heat pump group, the Heat Pump Association, states the UK currently has 412 heat pumps per 100,000 people, but the UK market – which sold 55,000 heat pumps in 2022 – is lagging compared to the European Union, with 620,000 heat pumps sold in France over the same period.

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