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.

Bringing the heat pump experience to life

Over the last four months, our team has designed, tested and piloted a service to enable people who are interested in getting a heat pump to see one working in real life. Working with two homeowners and two installer showrooms in London and Glasgow, we ran an end-to-end service that resulted in over 30 members of the public registering their interest, booking a visit and taking part in an event where they saw a heat pump working in real life.

We’ve been testing the usability of this service and evaluating visitors’ and hosts’ experiences to understand more about how we can improve this service and make it work at a wider scale. You can read more about the earlier stages of this work, from user research and design up to the pilot in previous updates in this project.

We’re doing this work because whilst heat pumps are becoming more popular, they are still relatively rare in residential properties in the UK. Our work on heat pump customer journeys shows that the process of possibly acquiring a heat pump is long and arduous with many potential drop-off points. We believe a service like this could help to increase uptake of heat pumps across the UK in all types of property, not just those where they are currently most common.

The pilot phase

Public visits to the heat pump showrooms and open homes took place during the last week of September 2022. This was clearly a key moment for our users, but was just one of many parts of the experience that we were testing. Our aim with this pilot was to provide a seamless service for both visitors and hosts – starting from the moment they registered their interest and continuing after the visit with further support. A website (www.visitaheatpump.com) was the public face of this service and, once visitors registered, most interaction was through email.

There were a number of key steps in the service.

  • The website www.visitaheatpump.com where people interested in the service could register and let us know their preferred location.
  • People whose location matched our pilot events (London and Glasgow for this trial) were invited via email to events and given a choice of two locations, one show home and one showroom each in London and Glasgow. Participants could then book a slot at their preferred time, day and location. We used the scheduling platform calendly.com/ to manage the bookings
  • A few days before the visit, attendees were sent a survey to be completed before their visit took place along with information, guides and FAQs to help people make the most out of their visit.
  • Visits took place in showhomes and showrooms in London and Glasgow in the last week of September.
  • Visitors were sent a follow-up survey and follow-up resources to detail the next steps.

What we've learned

We piloted this live service to help us learn in detail about all aspects of the concept. By interacting with users we were able to test for usability, to see how this service worked for them and how the service performs across all touch points. Through surveys and interviews we were able to understand more about peoples’ motivations for attending and the usefulness of the visit in their own situation. We also knew there would be numerous unexpected insights from a real-life prototype that might help us to find out what else we need to explore. We are still analysing all the feedback but can share emerging insights here.

The visitors

  • Most visitors were considering heat pumps only in the mid to long term and are probably unlikely to get one within three months. We expect that if someone has no interest in heat pumps or does not know what they are, this service is unlikely to interest them.
  • Attendees generally had some pre-existing interest in heat pumps but levels of knowledge varied. Most had some basic knowledge about heat pumps, predominantly from reading or watching online advice. Knowledge was rarely informed by real-world experiences such as visits to see one.
  • Visitors’ expectations of this service were broad and depended on individual circumstances. Some had quite specific needs such as logistical concerns about their own property, or technical questions related to how an install could work for them. It’s likely that not all of these needs can be met by these events, but a useful amount can.

Visitor experience

  • We saw high levels of satisfaction from visitors about the overall experience and the usability of the service. There was little confusion in the booking process and visitors required very little support to book or attend events.
  • Visits improved attendees’ understanding of how a heat pump works. None of the visitors selected “not well at all” when asked how well they understand how a heat pump works (in comparison to 15% who selected that before the visit).
  • Visits improved attendees’ confidence that a heat pump is the right choice for them, and moved people along the heat pump adoption journey.
  • We saw that both private homes and public showrooms are suitable for most visitors’ needs, but having a choice of which to visit could be important. Some visitors expressed that they appreciated seeing a home that is similar to their own.
  • The information during the visit can sometimes be overwhelming and it is unclear how much people were taking away from their visit. Follow-on support seems to be important.
  • Visitors need to have a clear post-visit route for the next steps and follow-up questions

Host experience

  • There was very positive feedback from hosts about the experience, the visit and the support they received from Nesta.
  • There was a view that hosts probably need to feel more in control of their events. In this pilot they had no sight of guest names and couldn’t change event details themselves.
  • We found that informal post-visit follow-ups between hosts and visitors were common, suggesting that more support might be needed after the event and that the social aspect of the service is valued by visitors.

What's happening next?

We are continuing to analyse the findings from this pilot and to develop clear priorities for a further stage in the development of this service. The next stage is likely to include further events and testing a new iteration of the service for visitors and hosts. We are also currently exploring the potential size and reach of a network of open homes and showrooms to understand what is most needed and where.

We are keen to hear from partners who are interested in taking part in future pilots. You could be a homeowner with a heat pump, an installer or manufacturer, or local authority hoping to connect your residents with renewable heating. Please get in touch with Alasdair Hiscock to learn more. ([email protected])

We will be hosting a webinar to discuss our work so far and ambitions for this work on November 23rd. You can sign up on our website.


Alasdair Hiscock

Alasdair Hiscock

Alasdair Hiscock

Design Lead, Design & Technology

Alasdair is the design lead for Nesta's sustainable future mission, which is focused on the development and testing of innovation to decarbonise homes.

View profile