New RSK survey finds most people do not realise the environmental cost of heating their homes

September 20, 2021

A new survey, commissioned by RSK Group has found that the majority of people would replace their existing gas boiler with a low-carbon heat pump, but only if they were to receive a government grant to support the change. Of the more than 2000 people who took part in the survey, 8 in 10 would only switch to a low-carbon option with financial support from the government.

In light of the government’s ban on new gas-fired boilers for residential properties by the mid-2030s, just 10 years from now, the survey aimed to better understand public perceptions of this issue. Though not dictated by government policy alone, heating our homes is currently the single largest contributor to national carbon emissions. Replacing gas boilers, estimated to heat around 25 million homes across the UK, would have a significant impact on reducing national carbon emissions and contribute to net zero targets. The survey, carried out by Censuswide on behalf of RSK, is believed to be the first major survey of public opinion on the issue of decarbonising our homes.

In addition to the 8 in 10 who would only switch to a heat-pump system if they received a government-backed grant, more than 1 in 3 say this would need to cover more than 50% of the cost for them to consider the change. The upfront cost of replacing an existing gas boiler with a heat-pump system, which could cost between £7000 and £14,000 and as much as £35,000 for a ground source heat pump, may prove to be a determinant of its uptake.

When asked more generally about the environmental footprint of their heating, only 13% of respondents were aware that heating our homes is the biggest contributor to carbon emissions in the UK. But this fact was a cause for concern for three quarters of these, who would, as a result, in principle change their heating system to reduce their carbon footprint.

Darren Snaith, Business Development Director – Renewable Heat, part of the RSK group, said,

“This survey shows that homeowners are willing to change from gas boilers to low-carbon alternatives such as heat pumps, especially once they realise the huge impact of heating their homes on the environment.

“It shows the importance of government incentives to encourage the uptake of heat pumps as a viable alternative to gas boilers, as just under 80% of respondents said they would only install a heat-pump system if they received adequate financial support from government.

“Although the proposed £4000 available from the Clean Heat Grant would go some way to encouraging people to choose heat pumps, it may not be enough to encourage the majority of people to adopt a heating technology that is here and now and ready to go in terms of being a mass-market solution.

“The government needs to seriously consider increasing the grant available, and extending its duration beyond two years, if we are really going to make inroads in reaching net zero. It also has a communication job to do, given that only around half of people know of the intention to scrap gas boilers.”

The RSK survey is believed to be the first major public survey on the subject of the upcoming ban on gas-fired boilers and switching to low carbon heat, and has received widespread coverage in national, regional and industry press, including: The Independent, The Telegraph, the Yorkshire Post, the Yorkshire Evening Post, the Morning Star, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

A full analysis of the survey’s findings is available online here.