Green Shoots: Boroughbridge heat pump engineer on his environmental ‘obsession’
Last updated Feb 19, 2022
Mark Houldsworth

If the UK is going to seriously have a go at meeting its net-zero emissions target by 2050, the government says air source heat pumps in our homes will need to become a necessity.

SolarPlus Yorkshire is a Boroughbridge-based business owned by Mark Houldsworth, a renewable energy engineer who has been installing solar panels and air source heat pumps since 2010.

Mr Houldsworth said since the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, he has seen a sharp increase in calls from customers in the Harrogate district looking to replace their gas boilers with heat pumps.

According to innovation charity, Nesta, greenhouse gases emitted by a typical gas boiler in the UK are equivalent to 2.2 tonnes of CO2 per year, roughly the same as taking seven flights between London and New York.

Everyone is talking about rising energy prices too, which is not helped by the UK’s reliance on imported gas from Europe.

Heat pumps are still powered by electricity but are seen as a way for homeowners to reduce their exposure to price fluctuations seen with gas.

Mr Houldsworth said:

“Lots of people are calling about wanting to reduce their bills but since COP26 more people are ringing about the environment, they want do their bit. That’s really positive.”

How do heat pumps work?

A heat pump is a machine that is fitted to your home and absorbs heat from the air, ground or water around a building.

They suck in air from outdoors and pass it over tubes containing refrigerant fluids that produce heat.

They are not cheap to install and can cost up to £18,000.

In November, the government announced a new £5,000 grant to help pay for one.

The government has announced it will ban new homes from being fitted with gas boilers from 2025.

But green campaigners in the district have regularly voiced their dismay at Harrogate Borough Council who are still waving through planning applications with homes that are reliant on gas.

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Maintaining heat

Mr Houldsworth says air source heat pumps are particularly useful for people who work from home as they are good at maintaining the same temperature throughout the day.

But critics say they are not suitable for drafty, older homes.

Mr Houldsworth said there are other factors to take into account when getting one installed, such as your radiators that may need to be replaced.

He said it’s a misconception that heat pumps don’t work well in the winter.

“Tell that to people in Sweden and Germany where heat pumps are popular and the temperature goes to -20.”

An environmental obsession

Mr Holdsworth said he launched his business after becoming interested in the technology of solar panels, rather for than for environmental reasons.

But he says the cultural shift in recent years towards the environment has inspired him.

The grandad said doing his bit for the environment is now “an obsession”.

“The gamechanger for me was that BBC David Attenborough documentary. I was shellshocked.

“Greta Thunberg, too, who’d have thought she’d be seen all over the world on her school’s steps”

“I also saw the images of the Koala bear going into the flames in Australia. The fires killed billions of animals. How can that be possible?

“I live eat and breathe this now, I’ve become obsessed with it. Installing solar panels and heat pumps, it does feel like you’re doing your bit.”