The demand for oil and gas heating systems has skyrocketed in Germany since it became known that Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck wants to ban the installation of such devices powered solely by fossil fuels from the beginning of 2024. Now the heating engineers are increasingly getting into delivery problems because of the sales.

Marcus Theurer

Editor in the economy of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

  • Follow I follow

The Stuttgart-based manufacturer Bosch, one of the market leaders in Germany, admits that customers who order an oil heating system today can often no longer be supplied in time before the previously planned deadline at the end of the year. "We are currently talking about a delivery time of around eight months," Bosch told the F.A.S. on request. "With most requests, it will actually no longer be possible to supply oil boilers this year," a company spokeswoman continued.

Exceptions would only be made for accidents. Such emergencies would be brought forward so that customers with defective heaters would not be left out in the cold. Competitor Viessmann, also a major supplier, currently cites delivery times of four to five months for oil heating systems. In the case of gas heaters, waiting times are shorter.

Increasingly difficult to convince customers to buy

In the first quarter, sales of oil heating systems in Germany doubled year-on-year. The devices are actually only a niche product, they account for only 7 percent of total sales. But many homeowners with an older oil heater in the basement apparently want to quickly replace it with a new one. They fear that from next year they will only be allowed to buy a climate-friendly but much more expensive electric heat pump. "If you want to ban something from the Germans, then they buy it all the more," says one manufacturer laconically.

Meanwhile, in the current boom market for heat pumps, customers are surprisingly reluctant to buy. It is true that the Association of Heating Engineers BDH reported this week that sales figures for the first three months of the year were still rising sharply. However, industry representatives are concerned about a significant drop in the number of applications for government heat pump purchase subsidies. So far, the state has subsidized the purchase of heat pumps with up to 35 percent.

The subsidy applications submitted by those interested in heat pumps to the Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (Bafa) are regarded in industry as an early indicator of demand on the heating market. "The decline in Bafa numbers is a clear warning signal," according to manufacturer circles. Customers are unsettled by the fierce political dispute over Habeck's heating law. "This slows down climate protection in the building sector."

Since the beginning of the year, the number of Bafa subsidy applications for the purchase of heat pumps has consistently been below 10,000 units per month. From March to December of last year, on the other hand, the number of applications was always in the five-digit range and in the summer temporarily even in the six-digit range. Actually, the federal government and industry have set the goal that half a million heat pumps will be installed annually in Germany from 2024.

"We are finding it increasingly difficult to convince customers to buy a heat pump," says a leading German heating installer. The share of heat pumps in the business has fallen sharply since the beginning of the year.

The Federal Ministry of Economics, on the other hand, says on request that the decline in Bafa funding applications is likely to be only a temporary phenomenon. Many waited for the current reform of the subsidy policy and hoped that the prices for heat pumps would fall in the future.

Meanwhile, in the struggle over the controversial heating law, a shift is emerging. Economics Minister Habeck has signaled that a later entry into force than January 1, 2024 would be acceptable to him. Industry, several federal states and municipal utilities, among others, are committed to this. On Friday, the Federal Council will deal with the planned amendment to the Building Energy Act.