The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has unveiled behavioural research on heat pump uptake to coincide with the SEAI Energy Show 2024, which is taking place in Dublin.

More than three thousand people are expected to attend Ireland’s business-to-business energy event at the RDS over the next two days where they can experience the latest technologies and see best practice in action, as well as discovering new networking opportunities.

The two reports focus on encouraging heat pump adoption in oil-heated homes that are considered 'heat pump ready' in terms of their existing insulation and airtightness.

Willingness-to-pay experiment

One report consists of insights from interviews with a small number of heat pump installers, and the other of insights from a homeowner survey and willingness-to-pay experiment.

The research found that homeowners in these types of homes are willing to switch from a fossil boiler to an electric heat pump but only when their current heating system needs replacing.

Current government grants are helpful, but additional supports and promotion would further boost uptake. Many homeowners remain unaware of grants in the first place, while others are put off by complex grant paperwork and worry over possible unanticipated ancillary costs.

The research also showed that both financial and environmental motivations matter for adoption of heat pumps.

Several recommendations are made in the reports, including targeting interventions at homeowners with older boilers, introducing measures to increase the convenience of heat pumps as an option for emergency replacements, considering offering further grant support, ensuring heat pump running costs remain competitive compared with fossil fuel alternatives, creating stronger signals regarding Ireland’s future trajectory towards fossil fuel phaseout and widespread heat pump deployment, and running a widespread heat pump awareness campaign. 

Recent changes to scheme design have included simplifying the heat pump grant process and including additional supports for ancillary works that may be required when installing a heat pump. Further scheme improvements are being considered.

Report Author Dr Hannah Julienne, programme manager of behavioural economics at SEAI, said: “We estimate there are about 250,000 homes in Ireland that are already suitable for a heat pump system but are still using oil.

"This research has shown us that the homeowners in these dwellings are generally positive about heat pumps and are willing to pay for one, but only when their existing heating system has come to the end of its life.

Make the switch to a heat pump

"Given that many of these homes have older boilers that will need replacing in the next few years, it is crucial we support these homeowners and ensure that when the time for replacement comes, they make the switch to a heat pump rather than getting locked into another decade or more of fossil fuel use.”

CEO of SEAI William Walsh said: “Attendees at this year’s Energy Show 2024 will get to experience the latest in sustainable and renewable energy technologies, and with heat pumps clearly an essential technology enabling Ireland’s energy transition, this research has come at an opportune time.

"Over the next number of years, SEAI will need to support and encourage as many householders as possible to transition to a heat pump when the time comes to replace their heating system, or sooner where possible. SEAI will use the recommendations made on the back of this research to refine our grant offerings and processes going forward.”

To read the full reports, click here for Report 1 and here for Report 2, or listen to the SEAI 180 Degrees Podcast at: SEAI podcast – 180 degrees | SEAI