Pump industry leaders are calling on the government to clamp down on the ‘swarm’ of non-compliant central heating pumps being imported into the UK potentially costing consumers hundreds of pounds every year.
The appeal is being driven by increasing concerns that Far Eastern exporters have penetrated the traditional merchant distribution channels to target the UK, with more than 100,000 non-compliant pumps being sold in the UK every year.
Steve Schofield, Chief Executive of the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA) says the UK is being swarmed by non-compliant pumps. “We estimate that circa 10% of the one million central heating pumps, technically known as circulators, being brought into the UK are non-compliant. It is a swarm; it is blatant and it is now over-the-counter. Once fitted, they are costing consumers hundreds of pounds every year on their heating bills, and it is seriously impacting the UK’s ability to meet its net zero obligations.”
The situation has deteriorated since April 2022 when the global microchip supply crisis was at its height, according to Mr Schofield. “The imported pumps use old-style AC motors that are less than half the price of permanent magnet motors equipped with microchips to vary the speed of the pump to reduce energy consumption. The non-compliant 3-speed pumps use circa 100 watts of energy compared to 30 watts for the permanent magnet design.”
Mr Schofield says supply restrictions encouraged wholesalers to source non-compliant products. “Supply chain issues, specifically problems with microchips, has brought the problem into the mainstream heating product distribution channels, with Far Eastern exporters taking advantage of high levels of demand and insufficient supply.”
Lee Tebbatt, Managing Director at Wilo UK and incoming Vice President of the BPMA, says that the key problem is in the stand-alone pump replacement market. “The stand-alone market, where a non-condensing boiler is being used with a hot water cylinder and header tank, is the target for non-compliant pumps. Typically, this market is circa one million units per year.”
Non-compliant pumps that Wilo experts have seen are being manufactured to look like genuine OEM pumps, even sometimes equipped with fake CE markings that stand for China Export. “We’re seeing pumps that are illegal in terms of their energy efficiency being disguised with fake CE markings. The installer won’t know that they are buying a fake pump over the counter and the consumer won’t know that it’s being fitted,” says Mr Tebbatt.
The UK government estimates that, based on 2021 energy prices, minimum energy performance standards from compliant pumps provide annual savings of £75 and greenhouse gas emissions savings of 8 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e). This saving is now likely to be much higher due to recent increases in energy prices.
A clampdown from government is needed says Mr Schofield. “We have been very lax in the UK in terms of policing the market and eradicating non-compliant pumps. Continental European countries have much stricter regulatory policing regimes and are not being targeted in the same way.”
He continued: “It is the legal responsibility of the importer to ensure that only compliant pumps are brought into the UK. However, legal responsibility does not stop there. It is the distributor’s responsibility to only sell CE marked pumps and it is the installer’s responsibility to ensure that what they are fitting is compliant. We need the government to step in, empower the market surveillance authorities and clampdown to protect consumers and its own climate change targets.”
For more information about the British Pump Manufacturers Association (BPMA), please visit: www.bpma.org.uk