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The power of up-close and personal

Low carbon heating techs are demonstrated ‘live’ to home-owners – and micro-CHP proves very popular.

As part of Delta-ee’s Microgen Insight Service, 36 intrepid UK home-owners came to the Baxi UK test lab in Warwick in July this year. They had been prepared for the evening by reading a description of five low carbon or renewable heating technologies, prepared by Delta-ee. During the evening they were shown examples of these products running in a test facility, and had the chance to ask questions.

At the start of the sessions, the participants were asked about their attitudes towards the technologies, and whether they could see themselves installing one (or any of them) in their home. At this initial stage, air source heat pumps (ASHP) were generally the preferred technology.

But following live demonstration of each of the products, during which time people also had the chance to ask questions from the expert demonstrator, this picture had changed dramatically. Micro-CHP’s popularity had soared by the end of the demos, based on the design they were shown.

So what made micro-CHP so appealing?

MCHP quotesAmong the top reasons given were:

  • It doesn’t take up much space: people could see it fitting into their homes, in the place of the current boiler.
  • It can be fitted without making significant changes to the home. Customers said they were less interested in having a heat pump (ground source or air source) once they were told there was a chance they might have to upgrade their radiators.
  • They liked the idea of being paid to generate electricity via the Feed-in Tariff. The rising popularity of solar PV over in the UK, thanks to the Feed-in Tariff, has probably helped here, in warming people up to the idea that they can be paid for generating electricity. However, since these focus groups, the Government has announced a consultation on the FiT (announced on Friday 28th August) – which might make this less of a selling point in the future.

 So what 3 things can the micro-CHP industry learn from this?

  • UK home-owners can be convinced of the benefits of micro-CHP, if they can see the product in real life, and have the pros and cons explained to them by an ‘expert’.
  • A micro-CHP’s similarity to a boiler is still one of its strongest selling points among UK householders.
  • Customers were concerned about the availability of engineers to maintain the heating system or to fix it if it breaks down, so a strong ‘peace of mind’ offering will be an important part of any customer proposition around micro-CHP. This could be through pre-emptive maintenance, remote diagnostics, or extended warranties.

Finally, even after the demos, and a chance to ask questions, householders still had lots of questions: what would happen if there was a power cut? Exactly how much electricity will it generate? How does the investment (and return) compare to solar PV? So despite the appeal, don’t under-estimate how much work is going to be required to ‘sell’ this technology to your buyers.

About the research:
Commissioned by the Delta-ee Microgen Insight Service team, the research was designed to allow us to explore how the initial appeal of low-carbon technologies is influenced by live demonstrations of the products. 36 homeowners attended on two evenings and none owned a low-carbon or renewable heating technology which provided the majority of their space heating or hot water.

For more information about the Microgen Insight Service, or the focus groups research, please contact Microgen Insight Service manager Steven Ashurst, [email protected]

For more information about the Micro-CHP Research Service, please contact Scott Dwyer, [email protected]



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