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Blog Post 5 January 2022 Updated 23 November 2022

Breaking down the barriers to installing heat pumps

By Mike Thornton, CEO, Energy Saving Trust

In the UK, we face a unique challenge in decarbonising our household heating. While many countries have been installing heat pumps for decades, here in the UK we seem to love our gas boilers. They have long been the default option for most homes – 85% of UK households are gas-heated – and people are understandably reluctant to move away from what they know.

Heat pumps are a proven technology for heating homes with incredible efficiency. Unfortunately, consumers and installers are currently caught in a catch-22 situation; interested homeowners struggle to find trained heat pump installers, while installers struggle to find enough customers. Installers can’t scale up without a strong customer base, but the demand won’t be there if there aren’t readily available installers to turn to.

Matching supply with demand

To address the challenge of sustainably scaling up both supply and demand for heat pumps, something needs to change. Helping people to lower their household emissions is one of our key goals at Energy Saving Trust, so we were keen to tackle this issue head-on. That’s why we are delighted to be working with innovation charity Nesta to help understand and break down the barriers that are currently preventing people from installing heat pumps.

We are collaborating to map out the user journey for customers, from when they start considering a heat pump right up until installation. We want to understand where the pain points are, where people drop out and where there is room for improvement. We are also trying to define what makes someone likely to be an early heat pump adopter, to help installers to identify and engage with the right customer base. Together, we hope that these projects will help to improve both supply and demand to help get the UK heat pump market off the starting blocks.

There are enormous benefits to working in partnership and both organisations bring a lot to the table. Energy Saving Trust has decades of experience working with householders, suppliers, and large data sets on UK energy use. Nesta brings experience in taking innovations from idea to impact, mixed methods to solve difficult problems and fresh ideas as a recent entrant into the decarbonisation sector. 

From competition to collaboration

Energy Saving Trust has been grappling with the problem of decarbonising homes for 30 years, and we are delighted that Nesta is now working alongside us. It’s an incredibly difficult challenge and the more hands on deck the better. Nesta is an innovative, disruptive new entrant to the sector, and we hope to achieve great things together. Ultimately, the changes we need will require societal change and that is something neither organisation can do alone. Nesta brings valuable expertise in social innovation and driving behaviour change, while we have a deep understanding of how the sector operates and what works.

By working together on this project, we ultimately hope to build tools that other organisations and individuals will find valuable. We want everyone to benefit from the fruits of our collective expertise, so that people across the sector can work together towards net zero. We recognise that neither Nesta nor Energy Saving Trust will themselves be installing millions of heat pumps across the country, but we want to empower and engage those who can. 

Last updated: 23 November 2022