About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

What we did

We prioritised three research questions to answer in the four-week time frame.

Supply of showhomes: Are homeowners with heat pumps willing to open their homes and share their experiences with strangers?

We interviewed a number of heat pump owners, including one who had already opened their home to people interested in heat pumps and energy-efficient technology. Through the interviews, we gained an understanding of the reservations that heat pump owners may have, their views on what may help to bring heat pump owners onboard and how they could envisage a heat pump show home network running.

Demand for showhomes: Do prospective heat pump owners want to see a heat pump in someone’s home before committing to one?

In order to get an understanding of consumers' views on this, we developed a mock-up web page that asked users to input details about their homes, before presenting back three possible alternative show homes.

We walked through the web page shown in the video below and asked the participants to comment on which option they would be most likely to pick.

The results surprised us. Users liked the idea of seeing a heat pump in people's homes, but maybe as part of a whole house retrofit and at different points in their preparation to buy a heat pump. Some people would have gone straight to a show home hosted by a property owner, while others preferred the anonymity of visiting a DIY store. This exercise highlighted the need to really define our target market and to consider showcasing whole house retrofits over just heat pumps.

Practicalities: To what extent could people be matched based on proximity and similarity of property?

Show homes only work if they are located within a reasonable distance, so we estimated the average driving distance to the nearest heat pump property. To do this we used data from the Energy Performance Certificate Register and enhanced this with information about MCS-certified heat pump installations.

Given 1,000 randomly sampled properties with a heat pump and 10,000 without across GB, the closest heat pump can on average be reached within a 10-minute car drive. However, when we look to identify properties of a similar type, the driving time doubles for flats and detached houses. The driving time is even greater for semi-detached and terraced houses, tripling to around 30 minutes.

The interactive map below shows driving distances for different property types, demonstrating that the numbers of heat pump properties and their distribution across GB varies for different property types.


Overall, the concept of a heat pump showroom appears to be worth pursuing. Our research showed that there is demand from potential users and that heat pump owners were interested in becoming show home hosts. It should also be technically feasible as there are enough homes with heat pumps within the UK to act as show homes.

There are, however, still a number of key questions that we need to answer in order to build confidence in the details of a solution. We highlighted the following areas to investigate further.

1 Who is the target audience?

Who would be most likely to participate? In order for this concept to have the most impact, it should be targeted to the expectations of those most receptive to the concept.

2 What do users need?

What exactly do prospective buyers expect from a show home? y understanding the target user we should be able to define what they expect to gain from visiting a show home. Should the show home be focused more on retrofit and energy-efficient technology than just heat pumps?

3 What would the show home service need to look like?

There were a number of possible versions of show homes raised. Would it be best to be a physical building, a lived-in home or an empty property? A digital experience using augmented reality or a pop-up within a hardware store? Would there also be a need for an additional service such as a web forum or community support?

4 How would it work in practice?

How can we ensure the service is sustainable in the long term and test any potential ideas quickly with real users? We could look to pilot the project on a small scale and see how homeowners and users feel about it.