Consumers’ ability to operate heat pumps and their controls: Insights from a survey and online experiment

Behavioural Insights for Policy series: Primary research 

Year: 2022 

Topic: Heat pump adoption 

Methodology: Survey | Online experiment 

Author: SEAI Behavioural Economics Unit, Indecon Economic Consultants 


Realising the full potential of heat pumps in reducing carbon emissions relies not only on their adoption but also on correct operation once installed. SEAI’s Behavioural Economics Unit commissioned Indecon Economic Consultants to conduct primary research to investigate consumers’ ability to operate heat pumps and their controls, and the potential for an intervention to improve this. This was addressed through surveys of heat pump owners, installers and manufacturers, and an online experiment in which participants had to complete tasks on interactive replicas of heat pump control panels and respond to questions about efficient heat pump operation. 

The study found that consumers do indeed encounter difficulties operating heat pumps, but that this can be partially remedied through a simple intervention – providing simplified instructions in the form of a ‘quick start guide’ improved performance on heat pump controls tasks by 11% on average, compared with providing them with the standard manual only. A number of recommendations based on the findings are made for heat pump manufacturers, installers and policymakers.