New research commissioned by Daikin UK gives a valuable insight into UK homeowners’ awareness and experience of renewable technologies and the domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.
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The survey of 1,000 homeowners indicates that general awareness of renewable technologies is reasonably high, with 61% saying that they have heard of at least one of these types of system: air-to-water heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, solar thermal, solar PV or hybrid heating. Only a third (36%) of the sample claim they have no knowledge whatsoever of any of the technologies named.
More people say they are aware of heat pumps (53%) than any other renewable technology, followed by solar thermal (42%), and solar PV (31%). A quarter (25%) of those questioned are also familiar with hybrid systems, combining a renewable energy with a boiler.
However, the number of those with direct experience is considerably lower. Just 17% of homeowners have had any sort of interaction with a renewable technology, while only 4% have had one the technologies mentioned installed in their own home.
Encouragingly, a further 5% - which equates to 900,000 households when applied nationally - say they are planning to have a renewable technology installed within the next 12 months, and an equivalent of an additional 1.3m households (or 8%) say they plan to take the plunge at some point in the future.
The research identifies a strong relationship between direct experience and an intention to purchase: 70% of those planning an install within the next 12 months have had direct experience of at least one of the technologies, but conversely, of those who’ve considered but rejected the idea, only 2% have had the same direct experience.
Unsurprisingly, solar PV has the most exposure, with 7% having direct experience, followed by solar thermal (5%), and ground source, air-to-water and hybrid each having been experienced by 3% of homeowners.
Awareness of the domestic RHI however is modest, with just over a third (35%) acknowledging any form of awareness. Of these, 14% say they’re aware of the term but don’t know anything about it; one in ten say they’re familiar but don’t fully understand; 8% are fully aware but haven’t taken advantage of it; and 4% have already applied.
Unsurprisingly, awareness of domestic RHI is higher amongst those living in off-gas properties (which typically have highest fuel bills), than their on-gas neighbours (44% vs 32%).
Encouragingly, of those surveyed who have already installed a renewable technology, over half (54%) have taken advantage of, or applied for, the domestic RHI. The research also indicates a correlation between those who are familiar with domestic RHI and who have had some interaction with a renewable product, suggesting those in the know are engaging with the funding options available to them.
The reaction to domestic RHI once the scheme was explained to surveyed homeowners is positive. Two in every five (42%) homeowners think it’s a good idea, a quarter (24%) think it will encourage the adoption of renewable technologies, and almost one in five (17%) go as far as saying they think it will fundamentally change the way British homes are heated in the future.
The research also examined the reasons those who have considered but ultimately not installed a renewable system made their decision. The top three reasons cited are being unable to afford the initial financial outlay (46%), not knowing enough about it (46%), and the return on investment not being sufficient (21%). Of those saying the capital cost is too high, 45% are unaware of the domestic RHI, while one in five (18%) of those dismissing the return on investment have no knowledge of the scheme, suggesting a lack of awareness of the funding options available.
Of those who’ve not considered installing, half (51%) simply say they don’t know enough about the subject.
Nancy Jonsson, Daikin’s heating and renewables product manager, said: “This research paints a very interesting picture of current attitudes towards renewable technologies amongst UK homeowners. Some of the findings are extremely encouraging, demonstrating a healthy level of awareness of the technologies, and a strong interest among householders who are planning installations. It's also encouraging to see that of the small number amongst this sample who have installed a renewable technology, over half have taken advantage of the domestic RHI, suggesting that when awareness of the scheme has a direct influence on take-up.
“However, with capital cost cited as the most common barrier to adoption, it is very concerning to see a general lack of awareness of domestic RHI. For domestic RHI to deliver all it promised to be, it is essential that the Department of Energy and Climate Change, manufacturers and installers work together to address this the gap in awareness. Likewise, the link between those who have had direct experience of renewables and those who have installed, or are planning to install, the technology in their own homes is clear, stressing the need for testimonials, case studies, demonstration equipment, and site visits.”