Changing how consumers relate to energy-efficiency messages is 'crucial' to make sure the Green Deal doesn't fail, says HHIC.

Named “the biggest home improvement since the Second World War” by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), the Green Deal is set to be launched in October 2012.

But HHIC says this scheme, while both innovative and life changing, will stumble at the first hurdle if the government fails to change public behavioural patterns.

The heating industry is concerned that existing approaches to retrofitting homes focus on technical concerns and solutions, and neglect the psychological, social and cultural needs in planning these programmes. HHIC believes the Green Deal will only succeed if those who are expected to accept it can understand how their life will improve with the installation of the new technologies and how to use them effectively.

The Green Deal is important to the government’s plans to reduce the demand for energy and make the UK’s building stock more energy efficient. UK households have so far been reluctant to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Also, due to the UK having some of the least efficient building stock in Europe, reducing energy demand for heating is a difficult challenge.

Writing in the HHIC Journal, Professor Christopher Tweed, BRE Chair in Sustainable Design of the Built Environment, Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University, notes that focusing solely on the technical aspects of retrofit ignores the need for users to operate their upgraded homes effectively to achieve the intended carbon and energy savings.

He said: “Field observations suggest that if people are deprived of thermal stimulation by the design and operation of their heating systems, they are likely to devise other ways to regain the variety in thermal conditions they are used to. If their actions include buying and using an energy intensive halogen-type heater from the local DIY store, we are in trouble, since this may subvert the entire low carbon project.”

Roger Webb, HHIC director, said: “We need to stimulate demand for the scheme from consumers and if we are to achieve this, then we need to encourage the supply industry to adopt and to encourage installers of energy efficiency products to embrace Green Deal and see it as an effective way of doing business. It is important to recognise that the installer has a huge influence over the consumer’s purchasing decisions. So in the end, the installer will have a crucial role in determining the level of Green Deal uptake and hence the extent to which the efficiency of the UK’s housing stock will be improved.”