Tuesday, November 14, 2023
1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Would You Swap Your Gas Boiler for a Neighbourhood Heat Pump?
Session ID
A5 - Lightning: Residential Programs
Behavior - based Programs
Kate Morland

To tackle climate change, the UK government has committed to achieving net zero by 2050. To drive this transformation, over 75% of UK homes need to switch from gas heating and hot water systems to electric ones. A further UK government policy is to move 600,000 homes from gas boilers to heat pumps by 2028. To support this change, the UK government launched the Heat Pump Ready (HPR) programme. The Leeds Renewable Heat Infrastructure Network Operating System or RHINOS project was a feasibility study that explored how a UK council could make heat pumps more appealing. In particular, to private homeowners living in higher density urban areas.

Led by Leeds City Council, the RHINOS project team comprised a consortium of organisations to establish where in Leeds would be suitable for “shared ground borehole array” heat pumps. This kind of heat pump serves a neighbourhood and uses a network of underground pipes. A crucial part of the research, and the focus of the paper, was talking to Leeds residents about what would make them change their behaviour and swap their gas boiler for this kind of neighbourhood heat pump. The research involved three elements:

  • Firstly, interviews with 15 Leeds residents to understand consumer heating behaviours, attitudes towards control, perceptions of affordability and thoughts about heat pumps.
  • Secondly, four focus groups with Leeds residents introduced the technology and set out three packages of financial options as an initial offer - pay upfront using your own money, pay monthly through a loan, or a combination of the two. The pros and cons of potentially switching to a neighbourhood heat pump and why were explored in detail.
  • Lastly, 1,000 UK residents took part in an online survey to test the three financial options to ascertain which was perceived as most appealing. Participants were randomly assigned one of three offers outlined in the focus group.

The findings from the interviews and focus groups suggested participants were looking for a good deal and wouldn’t switch unless their expectations were met. People felt that the disruption caused by switching to a heat pump could potentially outweigh the benefits. House suitability was raised, and people weren’t sure whom to trust when looking for information. Plus, people were only looking to change when their existing boiler broke, suggesting installation timing was an issue. Around half of the survey respondents were open to the idea of getting a heat pump, and most were prepared to pay for it upfront. Of those who would use a loan to pay either partly or in full, the average amount they were prepared to pay monthly was £100.

In summary, for private homeowners in Leeds to swap from a gas boiler to a neighbourhood heat pump, the latter has to show good value for money. In addition to this, a set of golden rules was developed that may assist heat pump suppliers as they shape future offers for UK customers.

Supporting Document 1