Disruption during heat pump installation is main barrier to uptake, says report

Air to air heat pump for cooling or heating the home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Disruption during installation and upfront costs remain major barriers to the uptake of heat pumps in the UK, according to a new report.

Heating accounts for 47% of all energy consumption in the UK, 55% of which is used by domestic homes, and currently over 80% of domestic heating is provided by natural gas boilers, according to the National Grid. 

Air source heat pumps and ground source heat pumps are low-carbon heating systems, and the government has a target to install 600,000 in UK homes per year by 2028 to help lower carbon emissions in homes.

To drive this uptake, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is funding the Electrification of Heat Demonstration Project, which is examining the challenges facing the mass rollout of heat pumps into UK homes. 

The project has attracted interest from over 8,800 homeowners in three regions in the UK, and a total of 742 heat pumps have been installed by E.ON in Newcastle, OVO Energy in the south east of England and Warmworks in the south east of Scotland.

In the project’s new Home Surveys and Installation report, the main barrier reported by 47% of participants who decided not to have a heat pump installed was the disruption it would cause. This included replacement of pipework and fabric improvements that would impact on décor.

Guy Newey, Chief Executive Officer at Energy Systems Catapult, commented on the report: “To reach the [600,000 installations per year by 2028] we will need to innovate to make switching to a heat pump as smooth a journey as possible for consumers; to drive down the costs of installation; and to provide a much better consumer heating experience.”

What else did the report identify?

Another key finding from the report was that heat pumps were found to be suitable for most UK property types, but innovation will be required for some homes where installation proves challenging.

Notably, energy efficiency upgrades - such as new underfloor heating or new radiators - were not always necessary before a heat pump was installed. These upgrades were only made for 15% of properties. 

In homes where heat pumps were not recommended this was due to a lack of external space for an outdoor unit in 8% of cases, a lack of internal space for a thermal store (2% of cases) and disproportionate costs due to ineffective insulation (4%). 

Michael Lewis, E.ON UK Chief Executive, said: “We’ve been installing heat pumps in homes across the UK for many years and we’re convinced they’re critical to making homes more comfortable, more efficient and cheaper to heat. 

“While we realise there are still barriers to people considering installing heat pumps in their homes, the project’s results have shown that it can be done – and, most importantly, that people feel the benefit – and that ever-improving technology means all types of homes can now be fitted with one.”

Jack Woodfield
News Editor

Jack has worked in journalism for 11 years and is the News Editor for Homebuilding & Renovating, a role he has had since 2019. He strives to break the most relevant and beneficial stories for self builders, extenders and renovators, including the latest news on the construction materials shortage and hydrogen heating. In 2021 he appeared on BBC's The World at One to discuss the government's planning reforms. 

He enjoys testing new tools and gadgets, and having bought his first home in 2013, he has renovated every room and recently finished a garden renovation.