Nesta, the innovation charity, commissioned Eunomia to conduct a large-scale survey of over 2,500 domestic heat pump owners and over 1,000 domestic gas boiler owners in England, Scotland and Wales, in December 2022.

Nesta’s analysis of the survey finds that among people who have had a heat pump installed while living in their current home, 81% are as satisfied or more satisfied with heat pumps compared to their previous heating system. The figure is similar - 83% - when looking at heat pump owners in Victorian or older properties. The similarity across property type and age suggests that heat pumps are likely to be effective across the range of residential property types in Britain.

The survey reveals that while some people take the opportunity to insulate their homes at the same time they get a heat pump installed, this is not universal. Just over half (55%) of users who had a heat pump installed also undertook building fabric upgrades, such as loft insulation, wall insulation and double or triple glazing.

Nesta’s analysis of the survey, published today, also finds:

  • Satisfaction with heat pumps is high and, overall, satisfaction levels between heat pump and gas boiler users are very similar;
  • Heat pump owners are particularly likely to prefer their heat pump if they previously used electric heating, oil or LPG boilers - with over 80% as or more satisfied with their heat pumps - but even among those moving from gas boilers, 75% are as or more satisfied with their heat pump;
  • Heat pump users are more likely to be satisfied with running costs than those using gas boilers, with two thirds (67%) of heat pump owners and 59% of gas boiler owners saying they were satisfied;
  • While heat pump users reported high satisfaction levels overall, they reported lower satisfaction with ease of use and control compared to gas boiler users, with 74% ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ satisfied, compared to 88% of gas boiler users.

Satisfaction is highest among people who chose to install a heat pump in their own homes, although the majority of those moving into a new build or existing property with a heat pump also say they are as or more satisfied with their heat pump. The survey suggests that heat pump ‘inheritors’ - who move into homes with heat pumps already installed - would benefit from more information on how to use their systems, as many had very little awareness of heat pumps before moving into their properties.

Madeleine Gabriel, director of sustainable future at Nesta, said: “It’s time to put to rest outdated ideas that older homes don’t support heat pumps. The rollout of heat pumps across all property types in Britain is proving that the age of your house doesn’t have to be a big factor when deciding whether to get a greener heating system.

“Heating homes with fossil fuels like gas contribute as much as 15% of the UK's carbon emissions and so the switch to heat pumps is crucial for getting to net zero. This is the first time we’ve been able to get a fuller picture of the experiences of people keeping their homes warm with heat pumps, and the high levels of satisfaction are encouraging.

“With heat pumps getting the thumbs up from those that use them, the Government should redouble its efforts to meet the timetable it has set out for phasing out fossil fuel heating. It should be easier and cheaper for people to opt to replace gas boilers with renewable heating when a boiler reaches the end of its life.”

Clem Cowton, director of external affairs at Octopus Energy, said: “Nesta’s finding of high satisfaction levels of people with heat pumps in all kinds of homes is reflected in the astronomical demand Octopus is seeing for our heat pumps, with tens of thousands clamouring to get their hands on one. The government should now have the confidence to move forward quickly with its proposal to remove punitive levies from household electricity bills, and streamline out of date planning rules to make it easier and cheaper for everyone to make the switch to cleaner, safer and more efficient heating with a heat pump."

Nesta is calling for the UK Government to:

  • Reduce heat pumps costs by committing additional funding for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to support its extension to 2028, exploring options for low-cost government-backed finance, and reducing the price of electricity relative to gas;
  • Work with industry to come up with ways to reduce the time and disruption associated with installation and make clear, impartial information about heat pumps more easily accessible, so it is easier for people to use their heat pump once they have one;
  • Ensure the UK meets its stated timetable for phasing out fossil fuel heating: ending gas grid connections for new build homes in 2025, ending new installations of oil and LPG boilers from 2026, and ending new gas boiler installations by 2035 at the latest.

Case studies

Kirk lives in a 1890s three-bedroom end terrace in Scotland and has had a heat pump for around five years. It replaced his storage heaters and he used funding available from the Scottish Government to fund the heat pump. He says: “It is a really pleasant, warm house to be in... It’s a lot, a lot better than it was before and a lot cheaper - even with electricity bills as they are now. It’s been -18 degrees outside and the heat pump still keeps the house warm.”

Helen had a heat pump installed in her 100-year-old stone detached house in the West Midlands, to replace her coal-fired boiler. She went to see a heat pump in another property before she had hers installed. She had her radiators replaced during the installation but she had to rush to get the heat pump put in under the Green Homes Grant, as that scheme was due to end. She says: “It’s the first time in its entire life that the house has been warm and dry, and the water is always warm.”

Ends

Notes to editors

  1. Nesta commissioned Eunomia to conduct a survey of 2,549 domestic heat pump owners and 1,025 domestic gas boiler owners in England, Scotland and Wales, between 13 and 31 December 2022. To our knowledge, this is the largest survey of domestic heat pump owners conducted in Great Britain.
  2. For more information on the analysis or to speak to one of the case studies or experts involved, please contact Kieran Lowe, Media Manager, on 020 7438 2576 or [email protected]. Spokespeople are available for broadcast interviews.

About Nesta

We are Nesta, the UK's innovation agency for social good. We design, test and scale solutions to society's biggest problems. Our three missions are to give every child a fair start, help people live healthy lives, and create a sustainable future where the economy works for both people and the planet.

For over 20 years, we have worked to support, encourage and inspire innovation. We work in three roles: as an innovation partner working with frontline organisations to design and test new solutions, as a venture builder supporting new and early stage businesses, and as a system shaper creating the conditions for innovation.

Harnessing the rigour of science and the creativity of design, we work relentlessly to change millions of lives for the better. Find out more at nesta.org.uk

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