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We will not get to net zero unless we tackle home heating

As climate change takes centre stage as a global concern, individuals across the United Kingdom are awakening to their role in reducing carbon emissions.

Recent research conducted by Mitsubishi Electric and Ipsos has revealed a growing awareness among Britons of their duty to curtail carbon impact and aid the nation in reaching its Net Zero carbon emissions target by 2050. Housing Association Magazine Editor Joe Bradbury discusses:

It is heartening to see that a significant 76% of respondents in the study feel personally responsible for reducing their carbon footprint. This reflects a significant shift in the mind-set of Britons, who are increasingly embracing sustainable practices in their daily lives.

However, within this commendable acknowledgement of personal responsibility, there exists a notable gap in awareness regarding one of the most impactful areas of carbon reduction: home heating.

Government must take a more active role in guiding us to a sustainable, climate-conscious future.

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of Housing Association magazine

Home heating and carbon emissions

It's common knowledge that home heating is a major contributor to carbon emissions in the United Kingdom.

Approximately 17% of the country's carbon emissions can be attributed to heating, with around 80% of households relying on gas for this purpose.

Recognising the need for carbon reduction, the UK government has introduced initiatives such as the Boiler Upgrade Scheme to encourage the adoption of lower carbon alternatives, including heat pumps.

The promise of heat pump technology

Heat pumps, being significantly more energy-efficient than traditional boilers, are gaining traction among environmentally conscious Britons.

The research indicates that 42% of respondents express some level of interest in adopting this innovative technology, which is known to be three times more efficient than boilers in generating the same amount of heat.

However, while interest in heat pumps is growing, the study also reveals a concerning gap in understanding.

A mere 13% of respondents are currently aware of the considerable environmental benefits offered by heat pumps, and a significant 71% admit to knowing little or nothing about how this transformative technology operates.

Addressing the knowledge gap

This knowledge gap is not confined solely to heat pumps; it extends to broader energy-efficient practices that can enhance the sustainability of homes.

Remarkably, 34% of participants remain uncertain about the most environmentally friendly ways to improve the energy efficiency of their residences.

This revelation underscores the critical need for comprehensive education on sustainable home heating and energy practices.

Cost of living: a compelling motivator

While climate consciousness is a potent motivator for adopting heat pump technology, the study reveals that the cost of living plays an equally compelling role.

A significant 64% of respondents expressed that their primary reason for considering or already installing a heat pump was the potential for long-term savings on energy bills.

However, it is noteworthy that perceived high initial costs for purchasing and installing heat pump systems deter nearly half (49%) of those surveyed.

Additionally, concerns about high running costs dissuade 29% of respondents from embracing this technology.

The role of government

Respondents overwhelmingly believe that the government must play a pivotal role in the journey to Net Zero.

A resounding 80% of those surveyed agree that the government holds a responsibility to act decisively in reducing carbon emissions.

Furthermore, 41% of respondents assert that the government should establish a clear deadline for decarbonizing the economy.

Yet, existing government support schemes, like the Boiler Upgrade Scheme, have faced challenges in their first year, primarily due to ineffective communication with consumers.

These findings underscore the need for more comprehensive and accessible information and support for the public.

A call for governmental action

To fulfil its commitment to Net Zero and meet the government's ambitious heat pump installation targets, increased public awareness and understanding are essential. A crucial step involves dispelling the myths surrounding high costs and inefficiency associated with heat pumps.

In conclusion, as British citizens become increasingly aware of their responsibility to combat climate change, it is evident that more extensive education and support from the government are needed to encourage the adoption of heat pump technology and other sustainable practices in homes.

2026 looms as a critical year in the journey toward Net Zero, and heat pumps stand as crucial assets in achieving this milestone.

However, their adoption is reliant on government intervention, both in terms of educating the public about the benefits of heat pumps and offering cost-effective installation opportunities. In an era where environmental choices are influenced by cost efficiencies, it is imperative that the government takes a more active role in guiding the nation towards a sustainable, climate-conscious future.

As Britons increasingly view the government as a trusted source of information on heat pumps, there is an opportunity for effective communication and action.

With proper support and education, individuals can make informed choices that contribute not only to personal savings but also to the broader fight against climate change.

Joe Bradbury is the digital editor of Housing Association magazine