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Cost and disruption are key barriers to heat pump rollout

UK: There is no UK property type that is unsuitable for a heat pump, but innovation will be required to overcome the challenges to adoption, a new report states.

This is the main finding from a new demonstration project funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to understand the technical and practical feasibility, and constraints of a mass roll out of heat pumps into British homes.

The project found that scaling the rollout of heat pumps across Great Britain would require cross-sector innovation, to overcome upfront costs and disruption during installation.

The Electrification of Heat Demonstration Project attracted interest from over 8,800 households in three regions of the UK, resulting in a total of 742 heat pumps being installed.

The trial installations were conducted by E.ON in Newcastle, OVO Energy in the south east of England and Warmworks in the south east of Scotland.

Barriers

The main barrier reported by participants to progressing to a heat installation was disruption, with 47% of participants citing this as their main concern.

Innovation will be key to reduce the upfront costs of a heat pump installation to minimise disruption to households and establish mass consumer buy-in, the report claims.

Heat pumps were found to be widely suitable across a broad spectrum of housing types and energy efficiency upgrades were made for only 15% of properties, mostly the addition of loft insulation. The majority of homes where a heat pump was installed had an EPC rating of C or D.

A lack of external space for an outdoor unit was cited in 8% of cases where a heat pump was not recommended, with 2% lacking the internal space for a thermal store such as a hot water tank or larger radiators. For 4% of properties assessed the cost of installation and/or additional measures such as insulation, meant that effective installation of a heat pump was deemed too expensive to proceed with.  

The main barrier reported by participants to progressing to a heat pump installation was the disruption of having the heat pump installed. This was reported by 47% of participants who decided not to proceed with a heat pump installation.

Commenting on the government’s aim for 600,000 heat pump installations by 2028, Guy Newey, CEO at Energy Systems Catapult, which jointly managed the project, said: “To reach the target, we will need to innovate to make switching to a heat pump as smooth a journey as possible for consumers; to drive down the costs of installation; and to provide a much better consumer-heating experience.

“From our own work, we feel this will require the sector to translate complexity into digestible, consumer-friendly offers – such as bundling net zero products like heat pumps into energy tariffs – to help customers to retrofit their homes. Any low carbon heating solution needs to be as good, or better than, the alternatives if we are to go at the scale and pace we need for our net zero targets.”

The report can be viewed and downloaded here.

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