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Engaging Households with Heat Pumps: Lessons from the Electrification of Heat Project

Summary

This blog explores the key lessons learned from the recruitment stage of the Electrification of Heat project, focusing on engaging households with heat pumps. It highlights the widespread interest in heat pumps but acknowledges the challenges of conversion due to installation disruption. The blog emphasises the importance of customer engagement strategies, including regular communication and tailored technical information. By sharing these insights, the blog aims to support the mass adoption of heat pumps and the transition to a sustainable future.

Over the last three and a half years, LCP Delta have been delighted to be part of the Electrification of Heat demonstration project. Funded by BEIS (now the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero), the project installed almost 750 heat pumps to better understand the technical and practical feasibility of a large-scale rollout of the technology. As part of the Management Contractor consortium, LCP Delta played a key role in distilling key learnings from the project, as well as producing householder case studies and a ‘heat pump talk’ guide for installers. In this blog, we look at key learnings from the recruitment stage of the project.  

Three Delivery Contractors (E.ON, OVO and Warmworks) were responsible for recruiting a sufficient number of households in their region to participate in the project, and for the installation and monitoring of heat pumps in these homes. So, what did the project learn around how to engage households with heat pumps?  

A wide range of people are interested in heat pumps.

The project was very successful in getting lots of interest from households, with almost 9,000 expressions of interest received. This is really encouraging considering how many people will need to be engaged to hit the Government’s target of 600,000 heat pump installations per year by 2028 – although it should be taken in the context of the project offering heat pumps for free. What’s really encouraging is that the project successfully recruited a wide range of people including different ages, household incomes and socioeconomic groups. Over a third of those who expressed interest in the project said they had no or little awareness of heat pumps before the project started. This suggests a potential for widespread interest in heat pumps. 

More customers ‘dropped out’ than expected – the biggest reason being disruption of install.

Converting interested customers to heat pump installations had its challenges and almost half of those who declined a heat pump installation stated disruption as the main reason1. Many customers were deterred, for example, by the disruption caused by replacing pipework and impacts on home décor. Issues that we thought might be a barrier – like noise and the aesthetics of the outdoor unit – turned out to be less so. This highlights the importance of addressing the disruption of heat pump installation to achieve mass adoption – one of the issues being explored further in the Heat Pump Ready programme.     

Engaging customers is time consuming.

Recruiting customers and taking them through the heat pump journey was more resource intensive than anticipated2. The process was sometimes complex and lengthy, so ensuring customers remained engaged and positive throughout was important. Successful strategies for customer engagement included:   

  • Having regular touchpoints with customers and putting in place a dedicated contact – thereby ensuring any queries or concerns were addressed. 
  • Ensuring that customers receive the right level of technical detail at the right time and that this is communicated clearly. For example, a customer service professional may be more appropriate to speak to customers at the start of their journey to explain the process in laymen’s terms, but more technical detail was useful further on at the survey stage.
  • Providing energy behaviour and tariff advice alongside the installation ensured customers had a better experience with their heat pump.  

 

You can read more about how customers were recruited to the project and lessons learnt from participant engagement in the full participant recruitment report. In my next blog, I’ll be sharing some key insights from the survey and installation stages of the project to understand what we can learn for the largescale rollout of heat pumps.


1 There were also technical barriers to the home being suitable for a heat pump in the context of the project – these will be covered in my next blog 

2 The time between initial engagement and installation ranged between under two weeks to over a year in some cases, with an average of around five months. However, the project took place during the COVID-19 pandemic which caused delays due to access to homes, etc.

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