Transitioning from Conventional Boilers to Heat Pumps: A Comparative Exploration of the Socio-cultural Lived Experiences of Different Heating Systems

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Architecture, Building and Civil Eng


Aim: In order to promote successful heat pump uptake in the UK, the research aims to establish the socio-cultural barriers, motivations and enablers of heat pump use. The following research questions are addressed under this aim:

RQ1: What is it like to live with a heat pump according to adopters of the technology?
RQ2: Does the lived experience with a heat pump differ from life with a boiler, and if so, how?
RQ3: What insights can be drawn from analysis of the lived experience with a heat pump compared with a boiler to promote a successful transition from conventional boilers to heat pumps?

The following objectives and methodology are employed to address these questions:

Objectives and methodology:

[Phase 1]
1. A literature review will identify socio-technical factors which might influence the lived experience of the heating system, and which could act as barriers, motivators and enablers of heat pump uptake.
2. A grounded theory approach will underpin the ethnographic exploration of the lived experience of occupants with a boiler and those with a heat pump, their feelings associated with their current heating system and perceptions of the alternative, and identify those key points of difference which might help or hinder heat pump uptake.

[Phase 2]
3. Establish whether and how thermal perceptions might differ between heat pump and boiler households by mapping indoor thermal satisfaction onto heating patterns, exploring the use of the heating system and monitoring heating patterns in boiler and heat pump households. Temperature monitoring coupled with ethnographic analysis will determine how these factors relate to the lived experience.

[Phase 3]
4. A second review of data collected will identify the key points of difference between boiler and heat pump adopter perspectives to propose a set of policy and industry recommendations addressing socio-cultural barriers and motivations to heat pump uptake, to aid a successful transition from boilers to heat pumps.

By comparing the experience of gas, smart controlled gas, hybrid heat pump and standalone heat pump occupants, the research will make a novel contribution to previous work understanding how to promote heat pump uptake. It will enable the benefits of heat pumps to be communicated from the adopter perspective to current non- and pre-adopters, and the identification of factors ensuring the transition towards heat pump technology brings positive experiences to households. A possible outcome is the identification of a particular heat pump technology most capable of attracting pre-adopter conversion and securing a positive post-adoption experience.


10 25 50

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S021671/1 01/10/2019 31/03/2028
2299840 Studentship EP/S021671/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2023 Charlotte Shields