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Consumers need more support in order to embrace sustainable heating systems, Which? warns

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Concerns over cost and a desire to keep the status quo suggest the government will need to do more to support consumers switching to more sustainable home heating systems, according to new Which? research.

UK homes produce around 20 per cent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from natural gas used for heating and hot water.

The government has set out plans to decarbonise homes, including a ban on gas and oil boilers in new build homes from 2025, and also intends to phase out the installation of new gas boilers. This could require around 85 per cent of UK homes – 23 million customers – to transition to low-carbon heating systems such as heat pumps and hydrogen boilers.

Which? supports this much-needed direction of travel, however a new survey of more than 3,000 people suggests that while consumers are eager to tackle climate change, more needs to be done to raise awareness of government plans and prepare UK households for the major changes they will need to make to their homes in the future.

Two-fifths of consumers (43%) said they were unaware of the need to move to low-carbon heating and plans to ban new gas boilers by the mid-2030s (40%).

The consumer champion also found two-fifths (39%) are currently not comfortable transitioning to low-carbon heating systems.

While the majority (94%) of consumers are regularly taking steps to reduce their home heating consumption, fewer than one in 10 (6%) have installed low-carbon heating systems so far.

Consumers are not expected to ditch functioning boilers anytime soon, however those with older boilers should be considering zero-carbon alternatives.

More than eight in 10 people (86%) identified at least one reason that is putting them off installing a low-carbon heating system in their homes, with cost being the most prevalent. More than half (56%) said they were put off changing their home heating system due to costs involved, while a third (32%) cited concerns it could lead to increased running costs.

Consumers aged 55 and above were most concerned about cost, with around seven in 10 aged between 55 and 64 (67%) and 65 and above (70%) citing it as a reason they are put off changing their home heating system.

Around three in 10 (31%) told Which? they were reluctant to change their heating system as their current one works well enough.

The heating market is also extraordinarily confusing and difficult to navigate, a possible reason for a quarter saying they were put off changing their heating system as they would not know where to begin (28%) or did not know what options were available to them (25%).

Decarbonising millions of homes is one of the most complex aspects of the government’s strategy to achieve net-zero by 2050, and it is clear there are a number of significant barriers preventing consumers from embracing these changes.

To help consumers make their homes more energy-efficient and reduce carbon emissions, more than eight in 10 (84%) told Which? that financial support in the form of grants and subsidies would be helpful.

A similar proportion of consumers also said they would support lower or zero tax on energy-efficient appliances (79%) and refurbishment/renovations (76%).

Sue Davies, Which? Head of Consumer Rights and Food Policy, said:

“Decarbonising millions of homes within the next few decades is a mammoth task, and while the government has outlined ambitious plans to achieve this, many consumers are still in the dark about the potential cost of this transition and lack the right information to make decisions.

“Consumers will need a significant amount of support to transition to sustainable heating systems, and it is vital that the government’s net-zero policy includes provisions to help people navigate the complex and confusing heating market, through access to the right information, robust consumer protections and if needed, appropriate financial support.”

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