Imperial College London

Heat pumps: How early adopters can help unlock an installation boom

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Heat pump against wall

New measures are needed to build consumer confidence in low-carbon heating, according to a new Imperial College report.

The Briefing Paper, published by Energy Futures Lab, Imperial's global energy institute, finds that giving consumers, installers and other stakeholders access to real-world heat pump performance data and customer satisfaction scores could help drive the transition to low-carbon heating in the UK.

The report investigates the potential of leveraging early adoption to drive a boom in installations and calls for new measures to give consumers confidence in low-carbon technologies - notably the creation of a publicly accessible database of heat pump case studies.

“The reality is we urgently need to move away from gas for heating but unless homeowners have the confidence to invest in alternative technologies, the transition will falter.” Dr Richard Carmichael Author, Accelerating the transition to heat pumps: measuring real world performance and enabling peer-to-peer learning

At present, householders and landlords considering installing a heat pump system are faced with complexity and uncertainty, relying on performance estimates, which do not accurately reflect real-world operation and running costs.

Accelerating the transition to heat pumps: measuring real-world performance and enabling peer-to-peer learning recommends the development and routine use of standardised procedures to measure building and heating system performance before and after the installation of a heat pump at minimal cost and inconvenience to householders and installers.

“The reality is we urgently need to move away from gas for heating but unless homeowners have the confidence to invest in alternative technologies, the transition will falter,” says Dr Richard Carmichael, a Research Associate at Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy and author of the report.

“By requiring installers to measure the performance of buildings and their heating systems, householders will feel reassured that they are getting a high-quality installation and a heat pump that operates efficiently.”

Combining these measurements with customer satisfaction ratings and running costs to create case studies, accessible through a public database, could unlock social influence effects, helping to trigger the next stage of heat pump adoption, according to Dr Carmichael.

Dr Richard Carmichael
Dr Richard Carmichael

“When it comes to making improvements to our homes, our neighbours and peers could become effective ‘trusted messengers’ if we enable peer-to-peer learning. Letting householders see for themselves how heat pumps actually perform in properties similar to theirs would give them the confidence to make the change. These case studies would also provide the heating industry with a rich resource for upskilling and training plus valuable transparency.”

The report also highlights serious concerns over the reliability and suitability of widely used building energy performance certificates (EPCs), which are based on out-dated assumptions and estimated performance and consistently deter households from adopting heat pumps.

Reporter

Conor McNally

Conor McNally
Faculty of Engineering

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Contact details

Email: c.mcnally@imperial.ac.uk

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Energy, Climate-change, Research, Sustainability, Comms-strategy-Real-world-benefits
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