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Is a Gas Engineer Still a Good Trade?
Posted by: Richard Firth on: 11 January 2022
Gas engineers install, maintain, and fix domestic and commercial gas systems. They are a part of a respected trade that requires extensive technical training that takes place in the classroom and on the job. However, some aspiring engineers are hesitant to pursue a career in gas engineering because of the government’s renewable energy goals. The UK leads the way in its push to make solar, biogas, heat pump, and hydrogen systems the standard. It leads potential gas engineers to ask, “Is pursuing a gas engineering career still a viable path today? And is it worth enrolling in a gas course?”
Here are some reasons why industry insiders believe that it is still a good trade and why the UK will need gas engineers far into the future.
The spring of 2019 brought big news to the UK’s construction industry. The government announced a ban on gas boilers for homes that will be built after 2025. The ban supports climate goals that call for an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050.
The push for cleaner energy systems isn’t new. Gas systems are considered one of the cleanest fossil fuel systems on the market, and that’s one reason that nearly 95% of UK households have gas boilers. This radical step to eliminate these systems from the gas power grid will take time to achieve.
It turns out that the country faces a more pressing issue than how to reduce the number of gas boilers on the power grid. The industry was already facing shortages in the number of gas engineers who were entering the profession. The global pandemic only made things worse as career seekers halted plans to take training and enter the job market.
Many gas engineers are retiring or are choosing to leave gas engineering jobs due to vaccine mandates. These trained professionals were expected to service and repair gas boilers for 95% of UK households, and many of them were qualified to install, service, and repair commercial gas boilers.
Converting a gas boiler to a renewable energy system is time consuming and costly. Many people and businesses will decide to keep their gas boilers going until a replacement system is needed. In these instances, the UK will need to replace retiring gas engineers quickly to maintain its standard of living.
High workforce attrition combined with the government’s announcement has opened up an enormous opportunity for ambitious career seekers who take action while others wait on the sidelines.
Gas boilers have been the gold standard for UK heating for decades now. While the country’s leadership and citizenry aren’t opposed to progressive initiatives that make good sense, the industry hasn’t yet picked a leader in the renewable energy space to replace gas boilers.
There are systems that use solar-powered electric boilers as well as those that use hydrogen. They all have distinctive benefits and challenges of use. Until the industry identifies a new frontrunner to replace domestic gas boilers, most people will simply keep using their gas boilers until the appliances reach their end of useful life.
The government announced that the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy is conducting a project that shows the benefits of converting gas boilers to all-electric heating units on a large scale. During the project, the department will install heat pumps in a large sample size of UK homes and evaluate the hurdles that must be overcome to accomplish the installation. The project doesn’t end until March 2022. It will take some time for policymakers to assess the findings and update their guidance for the public. Until the government concludes testing out options for the best gas boiler replacements, gas boilers will likely remain relevant to UK domestic heating.
In its 2018 Boiler Plus standards, the government reinforced the role of gas boilers within the domestic UK furnace market. These updated standards were published to make sure that homeowners receive gas boilers that are as energy efficient as possible. The standards cover the type of products to be installed, acceptable control features, and installation instructions.
New gas boilers that were installed after April 2018 must meet a minimum efficiency rating of 92% ErP. According to the published standards, one-third of all currently installed gas boilers don’t meet this standard. When they fail, homeowners must look for more energy-efficient replacement options. The standards go on to say that most of the newly manufactured gas boilers are designed to meet the minimum energy-efficiency standard right off of the shelf. With the new mandate in place against domestic gas boiler installations after 2025, it’s likely that gas boiler prices suffered a great deal. The key phrase is “a great deal.” As gas boiler prices lower and quality rises, many people will opt to install a gas boiler system before the ban on new installations begins in 2025. They’ll need the help of gas engineers to make sure that they comply with other Boiler Plus standards.
Jobs in the energy sector are filled based on candidates’ technical skills. The training and experience that gas engineers bring to the table can take them from traditional gas engineering jobs to positions that support different types of energy systems.
Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) have been a cost-effective and energy-efficient source of heat throughout Europe for the last decade. While it will take some time to roll out large quantities of ASHPs in the UK at once, a phased approach seems viable. Energy companies were counting on gas engineers to cross train into heat pump installation. Gas engineers already have the technical background to understand heat pump systems. According to industry insiders, gas engineers could easily get qualified to install heat pumps with a few training classes.
Electric boilers are another popular option when it comes to replacing gas boilers with renewable energy alternatives. Electric boilers have a similar design and function as gas boilers. An experienced gas engineer will know how to install, maintain, and repair an electric boiler even though working on electric boilers isn’t his or her specialty.
Hydrogen heating systems have captured the attention of the country’s leading renewable energy advocates. According to them, energy companies can use existing distribution channels to transport hydrogen to domestic customers. After a gas engineer does a minor retrofit, a homeowner can use her existing gas boiler for hydrogen-powered heating.
While insider training sounds a little sinful, it’s actually a very common and beneficial practice within the energy sector. The private and public sectors will need to come together to overcome the challenges that are associated with switching from gas boilers to renewable energy heating units. This means allocating funds to train gas engineers to retrofit existing boilers and install heat pump systems. Energy companies are more likely to invest in your professional development if you’re already an insider.
There’s no better time than right now to become a gas engineer. To get your new career off to a great start, you’ll need to enroll in a industry-rated training programme. Yorkshire’s VIVA Training Academy offers gas engineering training that leads to sought-after industry certifications. Its comprehensive classroom programmes are further enhanced by work placements that allow you to refine newly-acquired skills while earning income with local companies.