9 September 2021

Public will only replace gas boilers if government provides financial support, survey finds

The majority of people are willing to replace their gas boiler with a low carbon heat pump system to reduce the impact on the environment – but only if they received substantial grant support from government, according to a new survey published today.

© Julian Hochgesang/Unsplash

The survey of more than 2,000 homeowners across the UK – believed to be the first major in-depth public survey on this issue – was carried out by Census-wide for the environmental, engineering and technical services provider, RSK Group, UK.

This survey shows that homeowners are willing, in principle, to change from gas boilers to low carbon alternatives such as heat pumps,’ says Darren Snaith, Director specialising in renewable heat at the RSK Group.

‘But it shows the importance of sufficient government incentives to encourage the uptake of heat pumps as a viable alternative to gas boilers with just under 80% of respondents saying they would only install a heat pump system if they received adequate financial support from government.’

It’s estimated that around 25 million homes in the UK are heated by gas, but the government wants to encourage people to replace their gas boilers with heat pump systems or other low carbon alternatives as part of its net zero target. The government has signalled that it may seek to ban gas-fired boilers in new homes from 2025 and in existing houses by the mid-2030s.

According to the survey, eight in 10 people are willing, in principle, to change the way their home is heated to reduce the impact on the environment and 77% of people said that, in principle, they would consider buying one of the alternatives, such as a heat pump.

However, while a replacement gas boiler can cost around £1,000, an air source heat pump full system installation can cost between £7,000 and £14,000 (depending on aspects such as the size of the home and the complexity of the installation) with ground source heat pumps costing between £15,000 and £35,000.

More than half of respondents (53%) said the high upfront cost was the most likely reason to persuade them not to install a heat pump.

Almost half (47%) of respondents have also replaced their gas boiler with another new gas boiler in the last five years, suggesting they would be reluctant to replace it with an alternative so soon. 

As a result, eight in 10 respondents (79%) said they would only install a heat pump system if they received adequate financial support from government. 

Those who said they would need a government grant to persuade them to install a heat pump would, on average, want a grant for 46% of the cost – while more than one in three of those say they would need a grant of more than 50% of the cost.

Furthermore, 17% of respondents also said no amount of grant would persuade them to install a heat pump.

 that while people are willing, in principle, to switch to a heat pump system, once they are made more aware of the high cost there would, in practice, be a reluctance to replace their gas boilers.

‘The government needs to seriously consider increasing the grant available, and extending its duration beyond two years, if we’re really going to make inroads in reaching net zero,’ Snaith adds.

‘It also has a communication job to do, given that only around half of people know of the intention to scrap gas boilers.’