Heat pump and electric car charger size limits scrapped

An air source heat pump on the side of a home being installed in the North East of England
Proposals include allowing two air source heat pumps to be fitted at the same property - SolStock/E+
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The installation of bigger heat pumps and electric car chargers the size of phone boxes will be allowed without planning permission under government plans.

The Government is proposing to abolish a size limit on heat pumps to allow bigger units to be installed in a bid to cut down on noise pollution.

A consultation on changes to “permitted development” rules launched by Michael Gove’s Levelling Up Department said current regulations limiting the volume size of a heat pump’s outdoor compressor unit to 0.6 cubic metres were “preventing the development of quieter models”.

Scrapping the size limit would enable the pump to run at a lower speed and minimise noise levels after concerns were raised by acoustic scientists that smaller models were “too noisy” for millions of homes, the department said.

At the same time, the Government is proposing to ease the rules governing where electric car chargers can be placed within the off-street parking areas of sites such as offices, supermarkets and blocks of flats.

Restrictions preventing chargers being located within two metres of a highway, or facing on to a highway, would be scrapped under government plans, while the maximum height would be increased from 2.3 metres to 2.7 metres – about the height of one of London’s red telephone boxes.

Taller heights will help to accommodate bigger power supplies, providing for more powerful chargers, the Government said.

The announcement comes as part of a wider review into various permitted development rights, which propose allowing homeowners and businesses to more easily extend their homes, and install heat pumps and electric vehicle charge points without applying for planning permission.

Currently, a homeowner can install a heat pump without planning permission if it meets the requirements of the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), which includes a minimum level of noise disturbance to neighbours. Heat pump installations must also comply with MCS standards to qualify for a £7,500 government grant.

Other proposals outlined in the consultation include allowing two air source heat pumps to be fitted at the same property, to allow for businesses and large houses to install “cascade systems”, which rely on multiple units.

The Government is also considering allowing more than one heat pump to be installed in the ground of a block of flats, subject to local authority approval.

Last year the Telegraph revealed that heat pumps were too loud to be installed in millions of homes under current noise guidelines.

Air source heat pumps, positioned outside a home, can produce a low constant hum of between 40 and 60 decibels, similar to the level of noise made by a fridge or dishwasher. They will typically run continuously throughout winter.

Research submitted by acoustic consultancies to the Government said terraces, flats and tenement buildings would struggle to install a heat pump under current noise guidelines outlined by the MCS.

Bean Beanland, of the industry lobby group the Heat Pump Federation, said current size restrictions made it difficult for manufacturers to include more sound-proofing measures in models.

A report published by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero last year warned that local authorities would buckle under the increase in planning applications and “noise complaints that would arise under current planning requirements” as the rollout expands to built-up areas.

Last year Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced plans to scrap an “arbitrary” rule that heat pumps must be installed at least one metre away from neighbouring property.

The Government aims to install 600,000 heat pumps a year by 2028 to hit net zero targets and offers homeowners up to £7,500 towards fitting one under the boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS). The grant was increased last year from £5,000 to £7,500 after fewer than 10,000 of the available 30,000 vouchers were redeemed in the first year of the scheme.


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