The more that British media attention is focused on rising energy costs, the big six United Kingdom suppliers’ substantial profits, the consequences of climate change and questions as to what the UK government is doing to deal with these issues, the more emphasis property owners and building firms put on making homes and workplaces more energy efficient.

One UK government response to concerns about energy efficiency and spiralling costs is the Green Deal scheme, launched last year in a bid to encourage more people to invest in energy-saving improvements in homes and workplaces.

There have, however, been some glitches since the program was unveiled. Recent research by Wickes (part of the Travis Perkins Group) revealed that 70 percent of tradespeople have never heard of the Green Deal, while three quarters of those who have still feel insufficiently informed. The scheme has also attracted criticism amid reports of low take-up and claims of installers going unpaid by Green Deal providers.

Even so, the scheme remains promising and, managed correctly, the Green Deal presents a solid business opportunity for those operating in the HVAC sector, as well as other tradespeople.

The Green Deal Explained

To help customers hoping to take advantage of the Green Deal, it is important first of all to understand the scheme. Essentially, it offers energy-saving improvements such as installing new more efficient boilers and insulation – and in certain specific cases solar panels and double-glazing – through a lending program. The loan can be taken out by a home or business owner to fund many of these improvements and repay it over time through their electricity bills; the debt is tied to the property (in fact the meter) and is transferable to the next titleholder when the house or business is sold.

Since the program was launched in January 2013, more than 100,000 Green Deal assessments have taken place and applications from installers wanting to become Green Deal assessors have continued to increase — a clear indication that the industry is beginning to understand the potential business opportunities the Green Deal presents. Nonetheless, with the majority of tradespeople currently unaware of the scheme, there is clearly more work to be done in terms of both trade and consumer awareness.

The Green Deal can be seen as an added value service that tradespeople should be offering homeowners as part of a package of home improvements — with the specific inducement being that it will substantially reduce energy usage. Yet, while 100,000 properties have had a Green Deal assessment, fewer than 1,000 have currently completed work through an accredited provider. This can be seen as an opportunity: some 80 percent of those who have had an assessment have either begun to undertake energy efficiency work or plan to in the near future — the real opportunity for those able to carry this work out.

To take advantage of this potential demand for the skills — and accreditation — to carry out this work, tradespeople and contractors first need to understand how the Green Deal works and what specific energy saving improvements come under the terms of the scheme.

A central aspect of Green Deal is the 'Golden Rule': the loan repayments made from the Green Deal-backed installations should not exceed the energy bill savings. In effect, this means that while the customer will initially see higher electricity bills — as the loan repayment is included — this rise will be offset by at least an equivalent drop in gas expenses, so overall expenditure remains the same. But energy efficiency is boosted for the long term.

Heating solutions are a significant component of the Green Deal with heating controls, condensing boilers, district heating, flue gas recovery devices, radiant heating, storage heaters, warm air units, and under-floor heating all included under the scheme. Ventilation and air conditioning controls are other areas that can come under the scheme.

Other areas include:

• Microgeneration, such as biomass boilers and room heaters; ground-, water-, and air-source heat pumps; micro-CHP; micro-wind; solar PV; and solar thermal.

• Insulation products, including cavity wall insulation; draft proofing; floor, roof, loft and solid wall insulation; and heating system insulation (pipes and cylinders).

• Assorted other areas to address efficiency, including chillers; energy efficient glazing and doors; solar blinds; shutters; and shading devices.

To qualifying for a Green Deal loan a household or business needs to be visited by an assessor accredited with the Green Deal Quality Mark for an assessment of the property’s energy usage. Assessments are made up of two parts: an Energy Performance Certificate and an occupancy assessment, which looks into the homeowner’s energy use and day-to-day living habits.

Using these outputs from the assessor, the Green Deal provider — which can be an energy company, such as Travis Perkins partner Toriga, or a contractor — then generates a plan, outlining the potential measures that can be installed to reduce the property’s CO2 footprint, along with repayments and timescales. The Green Deal provider finances the loan.

Approved Green Deal installers then advise on and install suitable improvements, with can sometimes be carried in conjunction with other works not covered by the scheme.

New Business Solution

The opportunities for HVAC firms lie largely in becoming a Green Deal installer or assessor. Any organization or individual can become a Green Deal assessor or installer, providing they meet the requirements.

Becoming a Green Deal installer requires registering with a Green Deal provider, and undertaking specific training to cover the company’s area of expertise, as well as courses enabling the operation of a Quality Management system in line with PAS2030. Access to these training courses is available from a number of energy companies, including Travis Perkins partner Toriga.

For assessors, accreditation requires meeting the National Occupational Standards requirements, which involves exams, registration for the Green Deal Quality Mark, and compliance with its code of practice. Existing domestic energy assessors can top up their skills through an intensive two-day training course, while those new to the energy industry with no previous experience can go through a five-day program. Alternatively, qualified tradespeople can be employed as assessors by Green Deal certified companies.

Benefits Cut Both Ways

As long as energy prices and climate change are both regularly hitting the front pages, it makes clear sense for those in the UK to be concerned about making their homes and businesses more energy efficient. And with the Green Deal scheme providing a trustworthy and affordable option for doing so, any providers in the HVAC sector need to seriously consider getting involved in some capacity.

Not only does the Green Deal scheme have the potential to make a huge difference to the UK’s housing and building stock but it can also provide a new and welcome revenue stream for the HVAC industry: a win-win situation for all.