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Track heat loss in your home

MA 2022
climate change, heating technology, residential homes

Bulb asked us to prepare and create a template for massive change of how we heat our homes to embrace heat pump technology and achieve a truly zero-carbon objective.

Why is this so important?

This project aims to improve consumer engagement and tackle low public awareness of heat as a priority area for climate action and of alternative low-carbon heating technologies.

Decarbonising heat is recognised as perhaps the greatest challenge to achieving the UK net-zero target. Heating in residential, commercial and industrial settings makes up almost half of final energy consumption in the UK, more than the energy consumed for electricity and transport. Much of this energy is lost through poorly insulated buildings.



Air Source Heat Pumps

If you have turned on the radio recently or glanced at the Sunday Times, you would have seen the UK’s proposed solution to our home heating problem. The Heat Pump works along the same lines as a refrigerator or air conditioner. It is basically an air con running backwards. Air-Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) utilise the outside air as a heat source, and, as such, are easier and much less expensive to install than a ground-source model. An air-source heat pump consists of two units, one inside and one outside. Heat pumps are known for being more than 100% efficient – that is, they move more heat energy, often by a factor of several times, than they use electrical energy.

Heat pumps are a completely new way to heat our homes. This requires changes to behaviour and time spent learning to understand this new technology. They are also considerably more expensive than a traditional boiler. Whilst the government has and will offer incentives to replace old boilers, the schemes are complex to apply for and only scratch the surface in terms of actual funds available to UK households.

“For the customer, it is important to understand that a whole house system affects the performance of a heat pump. Heat pumps might form the basis of a great solution for your home, but you are not simply buying a machine. The solution will likely involve improvements to insulation standards.”

Source: Green Business Watch


A Success Story

Looking at a success story gives a good idea as to the steps required to fit this new system. This individual is very happy with his new system but did have to endure 4 months of winter without heating after his boiler broke down. Pre-planning is going to be key, since many of us only think about changing when something breaks down. For many, this is not even a consideration now with rising cost of living and economic uncertainty. Is there a way we could help people begin to take the first steps toward this future?

How might we improve consumer engagement and tackle low public awareness of heat as a priority area for climate action and of alternative low-carbon heating technologies?


Are You Sitting Comfortably?

British homes lose energy 3x faster than the German or Swedish homes often used to demonstrate ASHP's success. Therefore, retrofitting the 27 million existing homes has a much greater potential than new-builds for cutting emissions, driving commercialisation of products, and improving comfort and well-being. What if you could see exactly where you were losing heat in your home without the high cost of a professional heat loss survey? You can really begin to understand the nature of the materials that make up your home and where it is costing you both money and comfort. Tie that in with relevant products from third-party stakeholders, which enables you to order low-cost solutions straight to your door. In this way, we connect with people not only in a cognitive way but also an emotive one.

How it works

Bulb’s pilot scheme will allow customers to use a thermal imaging camera they can plug into their smartphone. Bulb will add a new feature to their app that would allow customers to identify what they are looking for around their property. Customers can also explore available third-party products that would be best suited to fixing the issue. Once the customer has done an assessment of their property and ordered any upgrades to improve their homes heat retention, they can simply return the camera in the post.


Thanks to Richard Atkinson, Clive Grinyer, Russell Davies at Bulb and Chuntian Hu