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Are Octopuses Slowing Consumer Adoption of Heat Pumps?

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(@nathanvg)
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In the meetings and conversations I have with heat pump engineers, installation companies and others around the UK, a theme is emerging: people who are unable to get an Octopus installation drop off the journey completely and stop considering getting a heat pump altogether.

This is completely anecdotal and it would be good for the relevant entities and associations to do some research on this. If you’ve experienced what I describe below, please leave a comment.

From what I’ve been able to establish, there seems to be a few things going on that’s causing this to happen:

A Customer Gets Told Their Home Is Not Suitable

Some customers correctly view this as their home not meeting Octopus' criteria but still consider a heat pump as an option. Others wrongly think their home is now unsuitable for a heat pump altogether, causing potential customers to drop off completely. They are unaware that independent installers don't have such strict criteria and can make a heat pump work effectively in their home.

Customers Think SMEs Are Exploiting Them

Octopus' communications around cheap installs don't inform the customer why they can be cheaper than local installation companies. Octopus has various revenue streams, and sources indicate their heat pump installation business runs at a loss. Local installers don't have the option of loss leaders to attract customers. This leads to an emerging situation where customers, who initially became aware of heat pumps via Octopus's marketing but don't meet their criteria, are reluctant to consider other companies, despite now having an interest in heat pumps.

Even Worse

Some customers try an SME installer after not meeting Octopus’ criteria but view the SMEs as exploitative and charging too much once they see the quote comparing it Octopus’ pricing. This is due to the fact that the customer does not understand why Octopus can charge so little. There's a risk of installers being viewed as rogue traders, which could spiral out of control and have a massive effect on the uptake of heat pumps.

With thousands of people starting their heat pump journey at the entrance of Octopus' vast sales funnel, it's concerning that their interest in low-carbon technology may end abruptly if they encounter obstacles. Proper social science research is needed to understand these dynamics, even if they're considered big and scary topics. It's a transition, and there are bound to be significant challenges emerging that shouldn't be shied away from.

This topic was modified 2 months ago by Mars

   
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Toodles
(@toodles)
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My first contact with a company who could install a heat pump for me was with Octopus; they carried out a survey and the subsequent emails that were sent to and received from Octopus established that our situation was not one that could be catered for by Octopus at that time. I did not take this to mean ‘if they can’t then we are not a suitable case for such an installation’. They explained their abilities and the additional conditions that would need to be met and the compromises we would need to make to have such an installation.
We contacted 20 other installation companies and the work for this started straight away as we were determined we still wanted an ASHP installed. So no, we were not put off by Octopuse’s inability to comply with our requirements; they did explain the problems and difficulties involved.
I should add that by the time we contacted Octopus in the first instance, we already had 21 PV panels installed along with battery and had carried out underfloor and loft insulation improvements; the ASHP was just one element in our long term goal. Regards, Toodles.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

Toodles, 76 years young and hoping to see 100 and make some ROI on my renewable energy investment!


   
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Mars
 Mars
(@editor)
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@toodles did Octopus ever quote you, or was your property deemed not suitable before cost estimates and quotations?

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Toodles
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@editor We never received a quote; we had numerous emails back and forth discussing aspects of their access due to an acrylic sheet roofed patio that they wanted me to remove before they could commence and erect scaffolding. Lack of space for a DHW tank would have entailed fitting one in the loftspace and they were not carrying out such services at that time; they would also have required a widening of the loft access before they commenced. They required a promise that I would have this work carried out if I had done so, they could provide a quote. Whilst I was mulling over these options, I received another email in which they wished to decline the job as they foresaw too many ifs, buts and whens so to speak. Regards, Toodles.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

Toodles, 76 years young and hoping to see 100 and make some ROI on my renewable energy investment!


   
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(@Rachel Cooper)
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Octupus are wanting a £500 deposit before they can even give a date for a survey. Which i paid. Only to find out the survey could not be carried out for upto 8 weeks. Not much good to me in the middle of winter when my duel fuel burner with a wrap around boiler sprung a leak. Flooding the room and leaving us with no heating. After paying the £500 deposit I heard nothing from them for over a week then to find out they were still recruiting installers. I desperately needed heating and hot water for my disabled son.

I ended up going with a local installer who did all the home heat loss surveys and every other survey. And had my new Mitsubishi Ecodan fitted all within 2 week. I've now had it up and running for over a month and I'm really pleased with it so far. And I'm still waiting to get my £500 deposit back from octupus.

This post was modified 2 months ago 2 times by Mars

   
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Toodles
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Yours was what is known as a ‘distress purchase’ then? In our case, the gas boiler was some 14 years old and beginning to complain; we had had a new gas regulator fitted by BG under their service contract with us, you probably know the sort of thing where you agree and pay for an annual service that they may of may not get round to doing after 18 months or so, if they have the time!
Anyway, the regulator was replaced after a service that had been carried out caused other things to fail; one of them being that the regulator started to open with a loud roar for a few seconds and this was strong enough to vibrate the whole structure including the wall it was hung on. A year later (I had cancelled the evermore pricey annual service contract by then), the replacement regulator started to fail in the same way. By that time, I was waiting for Octopus to carry out the survey as we had decided to be rid of the gas boiler ASAP. Technically, it was not a ‘distress purchase’ I suppose, but we were very glad to see that boiler lifted off the wall on its’ way to boiler heaven! Regards, Toodles.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

Toodles, 76 years young and hoping to see 100 and make some ROI on my renewable energy investment!


   
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Mars
 Mars
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Thanks for sharing Rachel, and it's commendable that you saw it through and persevered making the switch to a heat pump and not taking the easy option of just slapping in another boiler – I hope that your new Ecodan is keeping you warm.

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(@Phobos)
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Its mostly Price .. If Octopus will do it for £0 to £3k + £100/year service perfect , It they say " not yet". & the next best price is £4-£8K + £250/year service, its poor value . ( always ask about servicing) . Even BG aren't cheap AND they work a " no taking the heat pump through your home" policy. Because Octopus, (did a survey) said " we can't do that yet " , I am waiting for Cosy6 heat pump.


   
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(@noburn)
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I had a similar experience.  Octopus carried out a survey but decided my installation was not going to be "Standard" and declined to quote. After a lot of research, I contacted a local company who arranged for an independent heat loss survey followed by a quote that I accepted and two months later the installation was fully operational. Although I suspect that if Octopus had quoted it would have been lower, the company I chose had experience of multiple heat pump installations and quickly responded to all the technical questions I raised giving me a "warm" feeling.
To date my ASHP is performing exactly as predicted.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

   
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(@ivanopinion)
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In my case, I would not have started considering a heat pump right now were it not for Octopus quoting a price of £500. I got sucked in by the cheap price and as I learned more I started to appreciate the benefits more. I also came to understand why it might be worth paying more for a different installer, though I have not yet decided.
In my case octopus are £6k cheaper than any other quote. I’m fortunate that I can pay the extra if I wish. Most people can’t.
Octopus seem to be the only one that are aiming at the mass market who won’t buy a heat pump if a gas boiler would be cheaper. I think this is the way to make heat pumps mainstream and make a real impact on carbon emissions.
But they probably are making life harder for other installers, who may be losing work from people who would have paid more if there wasn’t an option so much lower. 

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

   
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(@bontwoody)
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@ivanopinion Im in the same team as Ivan. I think for all their "picking the lowest hanging fruit", it is the way to get heat pump adoption mainstream.
I also cant help thinking that I installed my heatpump and cylinder for about 5K including paying for a plumber to do the pressurised cylinder install. Thats with no grant so the difference would seem to be an awful lot of labour in some of the quotes that seem common.

This post was modified 2 months ago by Mars

House-2 bed partial stone bungalow, 5kW Samsung Gen 6 ASHP (Self install)
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TechnoGeek
(@technogeek)
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Interesting article. I fear though this issue is not just an Octopus one.
I was having a chat with a friend of mine at my local pub and we happened to get onto the subject of heat pumps, which I informed him I had one fitted last year, which he was surprised about.
He informed me that he and his Wife considered getting one but the company / installer at the time told them they needed larger radiators and 22mm piping everywhere. They also where told the system would constantly run 24 / 7 so after that my friend ended his heat pump journey. I questioned the installers knowledge to come up with some of these facts.

After establishing his house was a similar spec to mine, we had the same 15mm piping and radiators together with the fact that my heat pump cycles when necessary and has a set back temp during the night (so not running 24 / 7), his view on heat pumps became a little more positive.

Think a broader social survey would be interesting to see how much the lack of installer knowledge and potential incorrect facts are possibly inhibiting heat pump uptake.


   
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