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.

How sector innovators can speed up heat pump adoption

To accelerate householder adoption of heat pumps, we need to make improvements to the current user journey which is frequently complex and arduous. In the coming years, the heat pump market must move on from serving only die-hard consumers and innovator households that will go to great lengths to get one, to making a convincing offer to committed but less passionate groups.

At Nesta, we have been researching the experiences of consumers who are able to pay for heat pumps. We’ve done interviews with householders who’ve recently had heat pumps installed to understand their experience. We’ve also investigated the challenges that householders face with people from a demographic that are interested in and likely to install heat pumps in the next few years. We used a service safari approach to gain an understanding of how the information householders gather, and the way they gather it, affects their confidence in heat pump adoption. We think the findings of this research will be useful to innovators in the field (including start-ups, energy firms creating or expanding their consumer heat pump offer and others working on innovation in the NGO and government sector).

Areas of opportunity

From the work above we’ve identified four opportunity areas that we think are fruitful for innovation. The titles of the opportunity areas are derived from the sentiment that needs to be generated in consumers. In each one, we set out the underpinnings of the opportunity area, including illustrative quotes adapted from our interviews and service safari work. We also suggest questions that could help direct innovation in the sector.

We think that working in these areas will accelerate the take-up of heat pumps by making them more accessible to a broader cohort of consumers. Our next phase of work in the sustainable future team will include developing and testing solutions to some of these opportunity areas. Our aim in sharing these four opportunity areas is to encourage other innovators to work in that space too, creating more novel solutions and speeding up installation still further.

“I understand the environmental arguments and I’m sure I will get one at some point. But what I don’t see is why I should get a heat pump now?”

Right now, getting a heat pump is ‘worthy work’. Householders must go through a process perceived as arduous, disruptive or technically complicated to get what feels to many to be low value, at best a good enough replacement for their existing heating system.

There is an opportunity to shift the framing of this value proposition and provide products and services that make heat pump installation a desirable home improvement for the long term.

To do this, how might we:

  • make heat pump installation a more desirable home upgrade?
  • make heat pump installation add value to a house?
  • make use of other green technology to prompt heat pump installation?

“What would be most useful would be for all the misinformation online to not be there.”

“I instinctively trust the information from [an environmental charity] because they have a good reputation for working on green issues.”

Right now, gas heating is known for being reliable and controllable. By contrast, rumours circulate that suggest that heat pump units are noisy and that homes with heat pumps never get warm on the coldest of days. Similarly, there is a lack of knowledge about the benefits of semi-continuous, low-temperature heating. Getting a heat pump feels risky as householders don’t know what they’re switching to and what it will look and feel like to have a heat pump. It is hard to find real-world examples or case studies of successful installations in homes like theirs.

There is an opportunity in demonstrating the benefits and reducing the uncertainties in low carbon heating installations.

To do this, how might we:

  • allow people to step into the heat pump experience right now?
  • build trust amongst consumers that they are making the right choice?

“The information available online isn’t in plain English. I had to skip around loads of sites to get the info I wanted.”

“The social media posts are so helpful and most people are positive about their heat pump. But some people wouldn't touch one because of the horror stories about bad installations.”

Right now, information on heat pumps is fragmented and contradictory. It is presented by a range of different bodies in whom consumers have varying levels of trust. There is little personalisation, and a need to amplify success stories. The landscape includes official information from government bodies, energy advice services and installers, alongside peer to peer resources such as blogs, videos or Twitter threads.

There is an opportunity to build people’s knowledge about heat pumps in a way that strengthens trust and promotes installation.

To do this, how might we:

  • make information more personal?
  • increase the usefulness of heat pump info wherever it's found?
  • turn information into decisions?

“Companies are wanting your business so they are potentially twisting the truth and not telling you everything.”

“I’d avoid those companies that advertise on Google, the ones that come up first on online searches.”

Right now, finding a heat pump installer is complicated and can feel uncertain. There is a general lack of trust in tradespeople, and householders prefer personal recommendations or longstanding brand names. Householders are not keen to spend large sums of money with suppliers who don’t have a track record, for instance new entrants to the market. They are scarred by previous schemes, for instance solar PV installations, where householders have been ripped off. They are baffled by decision making and motivated by warranties that de-risk installations.

There is an opportunity to develop schemes or approaches that build confidence in the installation process.

To do this, how might we:

  • help suppliers build trust with customers?
  • simplify the breadth of choices a customer is required to make?

Innovating to reduce drop-out

Our research found that householders interested in getting a heat pump were most likely to drop out because of challenges right at the start of the user journey. Those who got through those difficult first steps and had made contact with an installer were much more likely to go through with a heat pump purchase. These four opportunity areas above are centred on getting householders over those first big pain points, and in so doing will play a key role in increasing uptake.


Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Oliver Zanetti

Senior Mission Manager, sustainable future mission

Oliver Zanetti is mission manager for Nesta’s sustainable future mission, which focuses on home decarbonisation and economic recovery.

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