Domestic heat pumps in the UK: user behaviour, satisfaction and performance


Consumer adoption of microgeneration technologies is part of the UK strategy to reduce carbon emissions from buildings. Domestic heat pumps are viewed as a potentially important carbon saving technology, given the ongoing decarbonisation of the electricity supply system. To address the lack of independent evaluation of heat pump performance, the Energy Saving Trust undertook the UK’s first large-scale heat pump field trial, which monitored 83 systems in real installations. As part of the trial, the Open University studied the consumers’ experience of using a domestic heat pump. An in-depth user survey investigated the characteristics, behaviour, and satisfactions of private householders and social housing residents using ground source and air source heat pumps for space and/or water heating, and examined the influence of user-related factors on measured heat pump system efficiency. The surveys found that most users were satisfied with the reliability, heating, hot water, warmth and comfort provided by their system. Analysis of user characteristics showed that higher system efficiencies were associated with greater user understanding of their heat pump system, and more continuous heat pump operation, although larger samples are needed for robust statistical confirmation. The analysis also found that the more efficient systems in the sample were more frequently located in the private dwellings than at the social housing sites and this difference was significant. This is explained by the interaction between differences in the systems, dwellings and users at the private and social housing sites. The implications for heat pump research, practice and policy are discussed.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    Reduced Data Standard Assessment Procedure 2005 (RdSAP) provides a rating of the energy efficiency of a dwelling calculated using site survey data.

  2. 2.

    Pump COP measures the pump efficiency calculated from amount of heat produced by the heat pump divided by the amount of electricity needed to run the heat pump alone (EST 2010).

  3. 3.

    System COP is the pump efficiency taking into account heat losses from heat pump system tanks (buffer and/or domestic hot water; EST 2010).

  4. 4.

    SEFF is the whole system efficiency calculated from total heat output of the heat pump and any associated auxiliary (boost and/or domestic hot water) heaters divided by the total electricity requirement to run the entire system (including any electric domestic hot water and/or auxiliary heaters, pumps, fans, controls, etc.) (EST 2010).

  5. 5.

    The user evaluation study was conducted during the first year of the field trial and the analysis refers to technical data gathered and processed during this period, initially received in April 2010 and subsequently updated in April 2011.

  6. 6.

    This corresponded with a monitored living room temperature mean of 19–20°C, and a range from 16°C to 23°C.


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The Energy Saving Trust (EST) in partnership with the Open University (OU) and a consortium of industry and government stakeholders, carried out the UK’s largest independent field trial to evaluate the technical performance, user experience and carbon emissions of domestic heat pumps in private and social housing, with a public report on the results released in September 2010 (EST 2010). The OU team contributed to the trial by conducting a study with users of heat pumps in real UK domestic installations with funding from the Higher Education Innovation Fund’s ‘Carbon Connections’ programme and the EST.

The authors wish to thank all those who contributed to the Open University work on the project, especially: Jaryn Bradford and Simon Green of the EST; Chris Martin of the Energy Monitoring Company and Iain Summerfield of Gastec at CRE Ltd. We appreciate the valuable feedback from members of the Project Advisory Group and the willing cooperation and assistance from the social housing managers and manufacturers involved in the Field Trial.

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Correspondence to Sally Caird.



Table 10 presents details of the private and social housing sample including their property and household characteristics. Table 11 presents the results of chi-squared tests used to assess the significance of relationships between system efficiency and user-related and other factors.

Table 10 Private and social housing: property and household characteristics
Table 11 Results of statistical tests of differences between low, medium and high efficiency heat pump systems

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Caird, S., Roy, R. & Potter, S. Domestic heat pumps in the UK: user behaviour, satisfaction and performance. Energy Efficiency 5, 283–301 (2012).

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  • Microgeneration heating and hot water systems
  • Domestic heat pumps
  • Consumer surveys
  • User behaviour
  • Field trial
  • Technical performance