The proposed ban on oil and gas heating worries homeowners who fear the cost of expensive remodeling. The result is a boom in fossil heating.
The ban on oil and gas heating planned by the federal government initially has the opposite effect this spring: heating contractors and associations in several federal states are reporting record-breaking orders for fossil-fuel heating systems, including months of delivery times. Some craft businesses are already advising their customers against a new oil heating system because there is no guarantee that it can be delivered before the end of the year.
This Friday, the Federal Council will deal with the new building energy law from the department of Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens), which is to come into force on January 1st. “We have a run on oil and gas heating systems,” says Jürgen Engelhardt, Managing Director of the Lower Saxony Sanitation, Heating, Air Conditioning and Plumbing Technology Association. “Mr. Habeck achieved exactly the opposite of what he wanted.”
In the very south of Germany, master craftsman Gerhard Hardrath draws a very similar picture: “Now we are overrunning the industry with the demand for oil boilers,” says the head of the guild for heating and sanitary companies in the Upper Bavarian district of Rosenheim. The master craftsman puts the current delivery times for a new oil heating system at around six months, depending on the manufacturer and type.
Heat pumps have been scarce for a long time and are even harder to get: “The delivery times are sometimes between nine and twelve months,” says a spokesman for the Central Association for Sanitary, Heating and Air Conditioning (SHK) in Sankt Augustin. “And even when heat pumps are delivered, there are often still missing components to install them properly.”
The Central Association confirms that the heating engineers currently often do not know what to advise their customers: “Our companies currently lack legal certainty in planning, advice and construction.”
Customers are worried
The Federal Association of the Heating Industry reported on Tuesday record sales of 306,500 systems in the first quarter. Sales of climate-friendly heat pumps soared to 96,500 units, more than doubling year-on-year up 111 percent.
However, gas and oil heating systems were still sold much more frequently with a total of 188,500 systems, of which 168,000 were gas-fired and 20,500 oil-fired. Oil heaters have not been in demand in recent years, and now the sales figures have also doubled.
Heating engineers are now “also psychologists and pastors,” says Engelhardt. Customers are unsure, which is mainly due to the costs. According to a rough rule of thumb, heat pumps are about three times as expensive as fossil-based heating.
This is by no means just a matter for private homeowners, but also for housing associations. Hans Maier, the director of the Association of Bavarian Housing Companies, puts the cost of a heat pump for a ten-family house at around 100,000 euros, compared with 30,000 for gas heating.
And apart from that, according to Maier’s estimate, half of all apartment buildings are unsuitable for the installation of heat pumps in their current condition. A heat pump can also be installed in an unrenovated house: “But then the power consumption goes through the roof,” says Lower Saxony SHK boss Engelhardt.
There is no general formula for which houses have to be modernized for the installation of heat pumps. “Each building is individual,” says Engelhardt. But he also estimates that around half of the residential buildings would have to be retrofitted for the installation of a heat pump, for example with better insulation or underfloor or wall heating.
“Measures not affordable”
This can drive up costs that many homeowners find difficult or impossible to afford. “Such measures are just not affordable for the majority of people in Germany,” criticized Hans-Peter Sproten, general manager of the SHK trade association in North Rhine-Westphalia.
In rural areas, many people live in their own homes, but are otherwise by no means wealthy. Anyone who has a new oil or gas heating system installed usually pays less than 20,000 euros. If the house has to be retrofitted for the installation of a heat pump, the costs quickly reach a high five-digit or even six-digit sum – the main explanation for the current fossil heating boom.
Housing corporations, particularly cooperatives committed to the common good and municipal corporations, face the same challenge on a larger financial scale. Ultimately, the tenants have to pay for climate protection in the form of rent increases, whether new heating or the climate neutrality required by 2045.
“Elderly people, net income earners of 800, 1,000, 1,200 euros live with us,” says VdW director Maier, who, with his association, represents a good 500 mostly socially oriented housing companies throughout Bavaria. “There are people who just can’t make it.”
Heat pumps are subsidized by the state. But first, homeowners have to pre-finance the costs themselves before the hoped-for subsidy subsequently arrives in the account. As far as homeowners are concerned, they probably only have the least 50,000 or 100,000 euros freely available in the bank.
“People are running out of breath,” says Rosenheim chief of the guild, Hardrath. “If you read through the Building Energy Act, it’s full of bans and not incentives,” says the craftsman. “We take a very critical view of all of this.”