Can one company boost the UK's interest in heat pumps? E.ON’s The Big Dip campaign is making a splash.

How do you get more heat pumps into homes if the occupants don’t know what they are?
Published: Wed 02 May 2018
A blog entry by Felicity Tolley

Contributed by:

Felicity Tolley
Product Manager - Electrification of Heat
Delta Energy & Environment

Felicity Tolley's Blog

Heat pumps currently face a number of challenges in the UK, from funding to the availability of qualified installers, but public awareness has always an issue.

How do you get more heat pumps into homes if the occupants don’t know what they are? Our industry contacts often tell us that they want to increase awareness of heat pumps, but don’t know where to start, don’t have the budget or don’t want to do the legwork for competitors.

E.ON’s recently released “The Big Dip” campaign is a relative anomaly; a UK-wide television ad campaign that aims to showcase the capability of air-source heat pumps to provide heat. Yes, E.ON branding is visible throughout these videos and on these billboards, but the campaign’s focus on the results – the “heat from thin air” and resulting comfort – rather than the ins and outs of their particular offer, is likely to build awareness for heat pumps as a whole.

When you dive (pun intended) into E.ON’s offer, following the links provided, you find a wealth of information about heat pumps in general, as well as the public funding options available.

E.ON offers air-source heat pumps as “a cleaner alternative to oil and LPG”, phrasing possibly chosen to remove competition from their own gas condensing boiler offers, advertised at the bottom of the heat pump pages. Customers have to phone up and provide some details, then wait for a call back from the Air Source Heat Pump team. A no-obligation survey is then scheduled, free of charge.

Correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but when we look at the Google Trends for the UK from December 2017, there was a marked increase in the level of interest in the search term “heat pump” from early March 2018, when this advertisement launched. This suggests that E.ON’s stylish, if cryptic, video of a street full of steam and quaintly dressed swimmers is in this topic, and that those who click through to E.ON’s webpages are also doing their own research outside of the information provided.

This aligns with the findings of our recent Customer Focus Groups from our Heat Insight Service – customers will increasingly do their own research, looking at a number of providers and review sites before coming to a decision. It is as yet unclear how impactful this campaign is likely to be in terms of sales of air source heat pumps in the UK. E.ON is a big name, but gas boilers still dominate the heating market in the UK and awareness is not the only challenge the industry faces.

Campaigns like this showcase two emerging trends in heat pumps, in the UK and across Europe: the growing number of energy providers getting involved in heating retail, and the increasing importance of customer engagement in technology choice. Advertising is a powerful tool to build public perception, whether you appeal to their aesthetic sensibilities with “the Big Dip” or their humour with, for example, OVO Energy’s “Renewable is Unstoppable” campaign. It all contributes to an increasingly informed and engaged public