Cold Truth: Gender Dynamics in the World of Heat Pumps

Heat pump gender divide

What is the greatest hidden obstacle to the widespread adoption of heat pumps? Surprisingly, it’s a gender issue: women, influenced by the attitudes of men.

For a decade, I have been marketing heat pumps to homeowners, and a recurring pattern has emerged. Typically, the husband, enthusiastic about a new project, conducts research on heat pumps and invites us to provide a quote. His excitement is evident, but as we discuss the project with him, there seems to be a reluctance to fully commit to the installation. Often, it’s revealed that his wife is uncertain about the idea.

This isn’t always the case, of course. In many instances, the woman of the house initiates contact and manages the entire transaction, but the aforementioned scenario is more common.

In situations where I am fortunate, the wife is present, and I can address her directly. Otherwise, I am left to speculate about her concerns while conversing with her husband as an intermediary.

It’s a scientific fact that women generally feel colder than men. This leads to two main concerns: firstly, women tend to be more anxious about being cold. Our explanations of “low temperature” heating and cooler radiators can be worrying for those not deeply involved in the project. Secondly, women fear losing control by transitioning from a familiar heating system to an unfamiliar one, especially when it’s chosen by a male partner whose understanding of their need for warmth they might doubt.

Another frequent worry I hear relates to drying laundry on radiators. Sadly, even in the 21st century, women often disproportionately shoulder household responsibilities like laundry, making this a significant concern.

So, it appears that women are an unintentional barrier to the adoption of heat pumps.

But the question remains: Why? Unfortunately, men, the answer involves you.

Before any immediate reactions, let me clarify. The heating industry is predominantly male. Many men sell heat pumps, yet I’ve never heard any of them address these issues or attempt to resolve them.

In fact, there’s an industry joke about “keeping the missus warm” that tends to trivialise women’s concerns rather than addressing them thoughtfully.

To conclude this discussion, here are three actionable steps to enhance heat pump sales:

  1. Recognise that women generally feel colder than men and adapt the sales approach to meet their needs.
  2. Hire more women, as we are doing through our training programme at my company.
  3. Engage with this insightful article and advocate for further research in this area.

Written by Leah Robson: Director at Your Energy Your Way

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Mars
Admin
13765 kWhs
1 month ago

A very interesting take on ASHPs. How much of this is true in your household?

HughF
2676 kWhs
1 month ago

Pretty much all of that is true for us…. I proposed the idea, my wife wanted a Combi as her friends had them.
I stupidly designed for an indoor temp of 21…. I should have consulted her. We’ve settled on 22.5-23 and my wife is warm enough, most of the time. When she isn’t she sticks a 2kW fan heater on for 20 mins.

Morgan
3597 kWhs
1 month ago

Not at all true in this household.  When we moved here to a house in a rural location without central heating and no gas available we both discussed the alternatives together.  It was in fact my (female) wife who first broached the ASHP as an option.  We then started searching for installers to quote.  Trying to locate one of them that would actually turn up was a real issue.  I then took a recommendation from a member on this site and the rest is history.  The problem now is servicing.  The installer isn’t local and so adds on a fair wedge of mileage to the service cost.
Strangely I will often walk into the lounge to find my wife wearing a long sleeved top where I’m in a T shirt.  She will admit to feeling cold whereupon I point out that it’s a balmy 20/21c.  I thought it was just her and had no idea it was a general female thing.  Interesting article.

Mars
Admin
13765 kWhs
1 month ago

When she isn’t she sticks a 2kW fan heater on for 20 mins.

This is the compromise on cold days for us too. 

bontwoody
2245 kWhs
1 month ago

Probably true in my house with the exception that I am as heat seeking as my wife 🙂 In mitigation though I am the one with the science background, which given womens lack of representation in STEM subjects may be the norm.

Transparent
Editor
7408 kWhs
1 month ago

When she isn’t she sticks a 2kW fan heater on for 20 mins.

When I visit homes which have adequate electricity storage from their own solar/wind/hydro generation, the use of an electric fan heater is normal.

That allows the household to have a smaller, less complex heat-pump too of course.

It’s a totally different outlook on how to handle energy… brought about because it’s been derived from a capital investment in its generation, rather than being paid for per-unit.

As we progress towards Net Zero, GB will increasingly have electricity surpluses. Households with Smart Meters who have Time-of-Use tariffs will greatly benefit, and even more so once we have Nodal Pricing.

That in turn should create a more positive outlook on a proposal to have a heat-pump installed.

1: Would that concept be appreciated equally across genders?

2: How can that vision be better conveyed across the wider population?

Toodles
3836 kWhs
Reply to  Transparent
1 month ago

@transparent Us males might do well to remember that we are in the minority! ;-))) Seriously though, the projects have been suggested and researched by me and I have always consulted my wife & the Boss at all stages.There has been a certain amount of ‘whatever’ responses when I start getting too technical about one aspect or another but this has only happened because my wife has a (perhaps!) misguided faith that I know what I am talking about. 😉 We are both chilly mortals and 22.5 degrees C suits us both and is very welcome when we get indoors from a late-running bus and we are wet and cold. Our decisions are made after mutual considerations and concerns and I don’t then feel I have imposed my will on my wife’s desires. It is a sad state of affairs if such decisions aren’t based on mutual needs. We BOTH like it warm for different medical reasons and who wouldn’t want an evenly heated and constant room temperature without any draughts? 

Judith
268 kWhs
1 month ago

OK as a female who feels the cold I just had to input on this thread! I frequently wear 2 layers of fleece when hubby is in a T-shirt and the room is at 20C. So far so stereo-typical.
But less gender typical my degree is in Applied Physics and I’ve done professional design work in both fluid dynamics and control engineering and I’m the one doing the research on heat pumps, house thermal characteristics and potential capital and on-going expenditure on bills. Which has to be robust enough to convince hubby who is also a physicist.
There is another cliche at play here too. “What’s the difference between men and boys? The size of their toys!” If hubby wanted a new hobby of playing with heatpump settings but I had no confidence I would be warm enough, then yes there would be a clash 🤪So I would sympathise with any family member who was concerned that enthusiasm could influence personal comfort for years.
More seriously the gas-lobby investment in press-releases about poor performing heat pumps is a major influencer on take-up in both genders and nothing on this forum diminishes my concerns about poor installations.

Toodles
3836 kWhs
Reply to  Judith
1 month ago

@judith No degrees amongst us but I’m not afraid of researching before splurging! It is indeed a great shame that the fossil fuel providers have so much sway as I am sure they have pulled the wool over so many pairs of eyes and that influence does nobody no favours not no how, not no where and not no when! I take every opportunity (at the risk of removing hind limbs from donkeys sometimes) to evangelise renewable energy projects to anyone who will listen! Lately, I have had a number of medical appointments and have found myself explaining to any and all clinicians in ear-shot;-). Many people have shown a degree of interest and I make a point of inviting friends and neighbours to ‘come-see’ what all the fuss is about. The problem still being that the fossil fuel lobby seems to have infinitely more power and funds to exploit the fears of home owners using their ability to cast doubts and suggestions of the supposed risks of investing in heat pumps rather than buy their polluting fossil fuels.
(Did you know, I have written an article that Mars has recently published an article about our journey into renewable energy projects?) ;-)))

IanMK13
586 kWhs
1 month ago

I wonder whether the OP’s post just promotes an old stereotype.
I am presently in the boiler camp but I take a great interest in this forum. I’ve performed heat loss calculations on my home and commissioned an external one. I’ve also got a couple of years of data of half-hourly gas meter reading and 10 minute readings of outside air temperature. I’ve developed a reasonably good map of my pipe layout and I’ve recently started to measure and log boiler flow and return temperatures. My wife (also with a STEM background) knows from (painful) experience that I research my interests to the Nth degree – I often see that glazed look in her eyes when I’m trying to discuss an interesting topic. Whenever she complains of feeling cold it’s usually when she is sitting in a short-sleeved T-shirt. She is comfortable with the idea of ASHPs generally, but the problem we have is the significant disruption (and mess) that it’s installation would entail. All the ground floor rads are plumbed into the wall with microbore and most, if not all, radiators will need changing (they are mainly P1s with a few P11s). The upstairs rads are 15mm into the floor, so would be less of an issue. Unfortunately, during last years extension and refurbished kitchen/diner we had 2 tall rads fitted and it’s difficult to get those warm enough even now. I suspect we would need to find space for a 3rd matching rad or space for A-A heat pump to supplement. I would like to think that I’ve learnt enough here to avoid being mis-sold an ASHP system, but I dread having someone make a mess of patching-up last year’s redecoration.

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