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Ecology of heat pump performance: A socio-technical analysis

12 January, 2020

Ecology of heat pump performance: A socio-technical analysis

Lai Fong Chiu

Robert Lowe

Research paper   Decarbonisation of heat

Lai Fong Chiu and Robert Lowe


The UK government’s heat strategy is to reduce emissions from buildings “to virtually zero by 2050” through a combination of technologies such as heat pumps (HPs). As part of this strategy, it introduced the Renewable Heat Premium Payment (RHPP) Scheme to incentivise the installation of HPs in the residential sector. Using a socio-technical approach and case study method developed by the authors in the field of energy research and building, this paper explores the reasons for variation in performance of HPs supported by this scheme. Twenty-one sites/households were selected for investigation. Due to limited space, this paper does not seek to present all cases, but instead focuses on key insights from five cases that were originally thought to be poorly performing. The findings highlight the complex ecology of a socio-technical system in determining performance. We will show that system performance emerges from the dynamic interaction of monitoring system, heat pump system configuration and occupants’ heating practices and heating load factor. Limitations, practical implications and scope for future research are briefly discussed.

Publication details

Chiu, L.F. and Lowe, R. 2020. Ecology of heat pump performance: A socio-technical analysis. In: Sustainability in Energy and Buildings (pp.711-721). doi: Opens in a new tab10.1007/978-981-32-9868-2_60

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