Make heat pumps legal - respond to the MCS consultation

This might be a little off topic but I think it is relevant.

As it stands in the UK today it is illegal for you to install a heat pump under permitted development.

This is because MCS020 (the standard used to decide if heat pumps are quiet enough) doesn’t just demand that the heat pump is tested (MCS007) and you do the desktop calculation to see if it will be quiet enough.

MCS020 also demands that you pay an MCS union contractor to physically install the heat pump (MCS3005) otherwise the desktop calculation for noise is invalid

This is absolutely outrageous.

You don’t need to pay a Brick Union contractor to physically install the bricks for the desktop calculation for colour to be valid. If the brick looks right that’s all that is matters under Planning Permission.

You don’t need to pay a Structural Engineer to physically install the steels for the desktop calculation for strength to be valid. If the steels are the right spec and installed to the drawing that is all that matters for Building Control.

MCS are currently running a sham consultation on MCS020 that asks if it can be made simpler and more streamlined:

Please do respond to let them know your thoughts.

The consultation is sham - they don’t provide a box on the official form for you to answer the question on how it can be made simpler and more streamlined because they don’t want the answers.

If you email them then we can show they have received your response and we can then raise it with government why MCS are being allowed to block the rollout of heat pumps unless the physical installation is completed by their union members.

My response is as follows:


I would like to submit a response to Question 1.5 of your consultation on MCS020.

Unfortunately the form provided for responses does not provide a space to answer this question. I am therefore responding via email as an individual, name Marko Cosic, date 12/01/2024.

As it stands in the UK today it is illegal for you to install a heat pump under permitted development.

This is because MCS020 (the standard used to decide if heat pumps are quiet enough) doesn’t just demand that the heat pump is tested (MCS007) and you do the desktop calculation to see if it will be quiet enough.

MCS020 also demands that you pay an MCS contractor to physically install the heat pump (MCS3005) otherwise the desktop calculation for noise is not considered valid.

This is an outrageous barrier to the deployment of heat pumps in the UK.

This is a planning matter. Planning is concerned about public amenity. The heat pump should not be too noisy or visually obtrusive.

MCS020 and MCS007 provide a formula to decide if a heat pump installation will be quiet enough to be acceptable. If one follows the formula the heat pump installation is deemed quiet enough to proceed under permitted development.

That ought to be the end of the matter. Unfortunately MCS has decided to overstep their remit by demanding that the heat pump is also physically installed by an MCS member in order to be quiet enough to proceed under permitted development.

This is a commercial matter not a planning matter. If MCS wish to exercise “collective bargaining” by erecting artificial barriers to heat pump rollout; that is within MCS rights. It is NOT however appropriate to abuse the Planning and Permitted Development process in order to restrict the physical installation of the heat pump to MCS members only.

As such my first suggestion, or indeed my request, is for MCS to separate planning matters from commercial matters; desktop calculations from physical installations; by removing any requirement in MCS020 that the heat pump is installed by MCS contractors in order for the MCS020 noise calculation to be valid and the unit to be installed under permitted development rules.

This will have the effect of allowing anybody to install heat pumps that comply with the noise requirements under permitted development; even if they are not - at present - able to access government funding unless they also use an MCS contractor.

My second suggestion is on visual amenity. An energy supplier recently announced a heat pump with all the visual amenity of the child of a grit bin and a sex toy. Historically common sense has been sufficient to ensure that products are not too ostentatious from a visual perspective. Perhaps an additional requirement could be considered to avoid heat pumps being visually too loud - or otherwise “in keeping” with their surroundings.

This is less pressing than removing the barrier to deploying heat pumps in the UK that MCS currently represents by demanding that MCS members are used to physically install the heat pump in order for it to be legal under permitted development.

Please acknowledge receipt of this consultation response.




marko I totally agree and this is definitely on-topic and coming up on other UK forums as well as I’m sure you know. I shall be responding also .
for simplicity of my response (I haven’t read all the standards to the same depth as you have), am I correct in my understanding that the key is to object to the existence of clause 3.1(b) in MCS020? that being the one that ties “legal under permitted development” to “being installed by an MCS member”?


Make a noise standard by all means.

But don’t make it a double standard.

Anybody siting a heat pump in accordance with the noise requirements gets permitted development - not just those paying membership fees to the trade union.

The commercial arrangements for who joins the pipes have nothing whatsoever to do with noise levels or planning consent.

That is a purely technical and objective matter.

I thought the govt had already announced a change to the planning requirements in the Autum Statement. - Changes to heat pump permitted development rights announced | Homebuilding

I also do not think your assertion is correct in all circumstances from a quick Google on the subject.

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from what I understood, that autumn statement proposed change is to change the “must be 1m from boundary” (in England) rule. Also, I gather its 3m in wales which is worse. This causes a lot of install locations to be invalid. The intent being you’d be able to install at any distance to boundary, providing complies with the noise rules and tech specs for for clearances etc. I actually agree with this as an idea. In the MCS020 consultation intro para’s 6 and 8, the implication seems to be it’ll be govt consultation that perhaps hasn’t happened yet.

the issue is that the MCS020 as it stands says that your ASHP can’t be permitted development compliant UNLESS the installer is an MCS member. even if your install meets every single technical criteria. that has the effect of creating a closed shop. which were legislated out once and for all in the late 80’s / early 90’s.

It is black an white correct:

If you want permitted development; you need MCS020

MCS020 requires you to use an MCS contractor and for the heat pump to be installed according to MIS3005

There is no way to install a heat pump under permitted development unless you are paying an MCS contractor to install it. End of.

As I said, statement 1 is incorrect as you say it is illegal. It isn’t, you just need to use an approved installer, which I agree is not a good thing.

So your title is also incorrect.


I have always said these types of organisations are a money making scheme for mates

My friend had a heat pump amd solar fitted by a so called MCS installer and it was shocking on both solar and the heat pump

The solar had the wrong mcb and the heat pump pipe work was up and down and plastic then copper then plastic as if it was just what they had laying about and the external pipe work was left partially insulated and not even outdoor insulation.

I think as it was for an elderly couple and the heat pump was on the garage roof they thought there was no way thwy were going up to see it.

I was called by the couples daughter to have a look as it had packed up after 1 month and her dad had just come out of hospital after nearly dying and they could get any heat to run.

After sometime trying to find what was wrong i went on the roof and finally found the strainer which was blocked solid so no powerflush had been done

Absolutely outrageous!

There was a good BetaTeach podcast episode with Paul Spence who runs the UK Heatpumps facebook group discuss the recent MCS changes here Is MCS Fit For Purpose? thought it had some interesting/useful perspectives.

This MCS020 requirement certainly seems like another frustrating issue!

Hi Borpin,

I wrote this in the literal sense:

It is illegal for YOU to install a heat pump under permitted development.

YOU cannot install one; legally; under permitted development.

An MCS registered instlaler can install one; legally; under permitted development.

But YOU or I; or a non MCS plumber contracted under YOU or I; cannot.

This is correct.

The thread title on the other hand is unashamed clickbait. :wink:

Useful comments to include in any public response as below. (they’re intended as a keyword bingo of red flags for government)

  • MCS020 mandates the use of a single service provider (MCS) and adds irrelevant requirements to follow other MCS rules thereby eliminating the potential for normal market activity and competition

  • The lack of any denial by MCS that MCS020 didn’t intentionally impose non noise-related requirements and/or mandate the use of MCS members for installation creates a distinct appearance of impropriety

  • Comments by Ian Rippin on the public record to the effect that his intention is there is one standard for heat pump installation and that MCS is that standard; combined with the very carefully limited scope of the “public consultation” on MCS020 further adds to a public perception of unseemly behaviour on the part of MCS

In translation -

“eliminating the potential for normal market activity and competition”

this prevents a functioning market

“lack of any denial by MCS that MCS020 didn’t intentionally impose”

refusal to confirm this wasn’t a deliberate act all but confirms it

“distinct appearance of impropriety”

the people running this are self serving and make you look corrupt too

“Comments by Ian Rippin on the public record…further adds to a public perception of unseemly behaviour”

the bloke running this is on record as a power hungry self serving piece of work

I think we could get around it by publishing a competing standard that says:

“This Open020 standard says you must follow MCS020 EXCEPT for the requirements where MCS020 requires you to comply with requirements wholly unrelated to noise; specifically MIS3005 and the requirement to use an MCS registerd contractor for installation of the heat pump”

Then ask the planners to cite the Open020 standard alongisde MCS020 as permitted development.

DESNZ have publicly promised to raise the issue with MCS next week. They actually said they will raise it with MCS again next week. Which might be civil service speak for them expressing a loss of patience. We shall see.

What of the DIY, self-install systems that I’ve seen? Are they simply “illegal”? Who will care about it?

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Perhaps they all got planning permission? That is a method that avoids the MCS nonsense.

In principle they will have had to apply for and pay for planning permission.

I would wager that many have been installed without planning permission.

It’s unlikley that planners will care.

It’s possible that lenders will care. There are already lenders “demanding to see the MCS documentation” for heat pumps becuase they have been persuaded by MCS enthusiasts that this ensures there are no hidden risks / liabilities for the lender to consider when evaluating the property risk profile.

The greater harm comes from it being impossible to build a scalable business that installs heat pumps without planning consent; and requesting planniing consent representing an unacceptable money/time/risk premium for non-MCS members to have to pay if trying to build a scalable business that installs heat pumps legally. This eliminates potential market entrants and harms the rollout of heat pumps.


Have you posted this over at the UK heat pumps facebook group @marko is it something that Paul Spence might be interesting in taking up?

I left it to Paul to riase it there. Not all the installers are keen but the justifications given are illuminating! (broadly: many MCS installers are already rubbish we need fewer of these idfiots not more of them) Bit short sighted but understandable if they’re having to fix the mess left by others.

First off, let me declare an interest. I was a registered installer for PV, ST and Heat Pumps. Unless you are not in your right mind, not using a registered installer is not a good idea. You can use an alternative scheme e.g.Flexiorb if you do not wish to use MCS. Whatever you may think of the scheme or its short comings it is a darn sight better than anything else out there. When we were in the EU, consideration was being made to use as a unified standard. It is all about consumer protection. Would anyone be making the same winges about GasSafe? Do you think you should be able to do a DIY gas boiler install?

Even the people running Heat Geek recognise the benefits of MCS, despite its short comings. In all fields there are minimum standards, one of which is MCS. The good guys operate at a level above the minimum.

There have to be professional standards. Would you be getting involved with an unqualified doctor? I doubt it. Would you look for a specialist who has enhanced their skills who can deal with your diagnosis? Maybe you may prefer a shamen, but not me.

Quite honestly, my best advice is park it, leave it to professionals, go off and make more money doing what you do best, and hire the best you can afford.

Life is too short.

Thanks Peter, there does seem to be quite a lot of frustration with the way MCS does things amongst heating engineers. What did you think of Paul Spence’s recent BetaTeach episode? I felt it gave an interesting perspective from those who have been in the industry for a long time?

Playing devil’s advocate…

  1. If there were any justification for making MCS mandatory; then PLANNING is completely the wrong place for this; it should be in BUILDING CONTROL which is where Gas Safe / G3 / Part P etc live; becaues PLANNING doesn’t have the neccessary regulatory enforcement powers and never will.

(I don’t think this is a controversial point of view)

  1. You are assuming that ALL good installers are currently registered for MCS / it makes sense for them to jump through those hoops.

That isn’t the case. There are a great many good installers that are currently unable to install heat pumps because the economics of MCS simply don’t work unless you do ONLY heat pumps. The instlaler that does mostly gas boilers but wants to transition to heat pumps voer time is locked out. Only those jumping in with both feet can make the numbers stack up and this represents an unneccessary artifical limitation on competition.

I’m with you on using a pro. If nothing else they’re simply FASTER at this stuff than a DIY would ever be and if you can afford a heat pump you’re probably paid enough that the time saved is worth it.

Formally they only need G3 for the cylinder and part P for the electricals though. Not this “MCS” nonsense that has quite literally nothing in it about knowing how to design heating systems to work with heat pumps but lots in it about what your relationship with the consumer ought to look like.

Better examples might be:

  • Would you like me to forcibly take your money and force you to use the only the local NHS GP; or would you prefer the option to pay our own money and choose your own doctor?

  • Do you want to be taxed and then forced to send your child to the nearest school; or would you prefer to take your money and send your child to a public school?

The professionalism of those working under MCS is not a given. The only thing that MCS proves is that the company jumped through paperwork hoops. It hasn’t been shown to result in better outcomes than nothing at all. (they’ve never permitted this experiment) It has been show to result in outcomes far short of what they ought to be. (if the installer had a competence level the slighest bit equal to or above above an enthusiastic DIYer) This isn’t sufficient justification for making it mandatory.

I disagree that the people running Heat Geek recognise the benefits of MCS. The only commentary they have on this in public is the driest “here’s what you need to do to comply” training video known to man. When asked “So where was the bit in this video where you explained what MCS does for consumers?” a response was conspicuous by it’s absence.

Heat Geek might be assurance that you’re getting a decent result/considered neccessary. The MCS is not.

A Heat Geek style qualification (pass an exam before designing heating system; rather than the company that you work for filling out some forms) would be a neat adjunct to G3 (pass an exam before installing pressure vessels) though.

Really? Someone who runs a few pipes has the same level of knowledge as a medical professional?