Heat pumps get thumbs up from British owners in first major survey 

People who have had heat pumps installed in older houses are just as likely to be satisfied with their heating as those in newer properties, the first major survey of heat pump users has found. 

Heat pumps get thumbs up from British owners across all property types in first major survey.

Nesta’s survey analysis finds that among people who have had a heat pump installed while living in their current home, 81% are as satisfied or more satisfied with heat pumps than their previous heating system. The figure is similar – 83% – when looking at heat pump owners in Victorian or older properties. The similarity across property type and age suggests that heat pumps are likely to be effective across the range of residential property types in Britain. 

Nesta commissioned Eunomia to survey over 2,500 domestic heat pump owners and over 1,000 domestic gas boiler owners in England, Scotland and Wales in December 2022. 

Double opportunities in renewables 

The survey reveals that while some people take the opportunity to insulate their homes at the same time they get a heat pump installed, this is not universal. Over half (55%) of users with a heat pump installed also undertook building fabric upgrades, such as loft insulation, wall insulation and double or triple glazing. 

Nesta’s analysis of the survey also finds: 

  • Satisfaction with heat pumps is high, and overall, satisfaction levels between heat pump and gas boiler users are very similar; 
  • Heat pump owners are particularly likely to prefer their heat pump if they previously used electric heating, oil or LPG boilers – with over 80% as or more satisfied with their heat pumps – but even among those moving from gas boilers, 75% are as or more satisfied with their heat pump; 
  • Heat pump users are more likely to be satisfied with running costs than those using gas boilers, with two-thirds (67%) of heat pump owners and 59% of gas boiler owners saying they were satisfied; 
  • While heat pump users reported high satisfaction levels overall, they reported lower satisfaction with ease of use and control than gas boiler users, with 74% ‘fairly’ or ‘very’ satisfied, compared to 88% of gas boiler users. 

Satisfaction is highest among people who choose to install a heat pump in their homes. However, most of those moving into a new build or existing property with a heat pump also say they are as or more satisfied with their heat pump.  

Inheritors of heat pump-installed homes 

The survey suggests that heat pump ‘inheritors’ – who move into homes with installed heat pumps – would benefit from more information on how to use their systems, as many had little awareness of heat pumps before moving into their properties.  

Madeleine Gabriel, director of sustainable future at Nesta, said: “It’s time to put to rest outdated ideas that older homes don’t support heat pumps. The rollout of heat pumps across all property types in Britain proves that the age of your house doesn’t have to be a big factor when deciding whether to get a greener heating system. 

“Heating homes with fossil fuels like gas contribute as much as 15% of the UK’s carbon emissions and so the switch to heat pumps is crucial for getting to net zero. This is the first time we’ve been able to get a fuller picture of the experiences of people keeping their homes warm with heat pumps, and the high levels of satisfaction are encouraging.  

Thumbs up for heat pumps by users 

“With heat pumps getting the thumbs up from those that use them, the Government should redouble its efforts to meet the timetable it has set out for phasing out fossil fuel heating. It should be easier and cheaper for people to opt to replace gas boilers with renewable heating when a boiler reaches the end of its life.” 

Nesta is calling for the UK Government to: 

  • Reduce heat pumps costs by committing additional funding for the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to support its extension to 2028, exploring options for low-cost government-backed finance, and reducing the price of electricity relative to gas; 
  • Work with industry to come up with ways to reduce the time and disruption associated with installation and make clear, impartial information about heat pumps more easily accessible so it is easier for people to use their heat pump once they have one; 
  • Ensure the UK meets its stated timetable for phasing out fossil fuel heating: ending gas grid connections for new build homes in 2025, ending new installations of oil and LPG boilers from 2026, and ending new gas boiler installations by 2035 at the latest. 

Case studies 

Kirk lives in an 1890s three-bedroom end terrace in Scotland and has had a heat pump for around five years. It replaced his storage heaters, and he used the funding available from the Scottish Government to fund the heat pump. He says: “It is a really pleasant, warm house to be in… It’s a lot, a lot better than it was before and a lot cheaper – even with electricity bills as they are now. It’s been -18 degrees outside and the heat pump still keeps the house warm.” 

Helen had a heat pump installed in her 100-year-old stone detached house in the West Midlands to replace her coal-fired boiler. She went to see a heat pump in another property before installing hers. She had her radiators replaced during the installation, but she had to rush to put the heat pump under the Green Homes Grant, as that scheme was due to end. She says: “It’s the first time in its entire life that the house has been warm and dry, and the water is always warm.”