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Seven top tips for selling renewable heat technologies in the domestic market

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 December 2012 at 12:23 pm

A lot of work is needed to raise awareness among the British public of renewable heat technologies such as solar thermal, heat pumps and biomass boilers according to research by Delta Energy and Environment.

Speaking at Renewable Energy Installer's business strategy conference in November, analyst Jennifer Arran reported that awareness of solar technologies is highest, with 70% aware of solar PV, and 50% of solar thermal - although people struggle to distinguish between the two. Ground source heat pumps have higher awareness than air source (41% compared to 21%) which Arran thinks is due to the "Grand Design effect". She says there is a lot of work needed to raise awareness.

There is also considerable variation in the appeal of the different technologies. Almost 60% of owner occupiers find solar PV and thermal appealing, but most are turned off by biomass, with only 21% finding it appealing.

Reasons people invest

Participants said that they might invest in renewable heat for the following reasons:
Lower energy bills 93%
Environmental concerns 46%
Good investment 44%
Independent from the grid 36%
To show off 2%

They also said that the two key changes needed to encourage investment are lower upfront costs and greater bill saving. It was clear from the research that carbon savings are not a key factor in decision making for most consumers today.

However, what people say and what they do are notoriously different, and when researchers tested people's willingness to pay the fuel bill savings and the length of warranty proved most important. Payback was much less important.

Based on the research results, Arran advises that installers ensure the deliver high quality installations, target off-gas customers and offer extra length warranties. This latter has more effect than bigger bill savings.

The research found that the domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI) would have a very minimal impact on uptake. "If we had lower RHI and higher fuel savings we would have greater uptake," said Arran. "There won't be a single [tecnology] winner. There are clear opportunities across all technologies. Customers will play off the upfront cost against the fuel savings."

What installers can do to help customers:

  1. Provide information on actual fuel bill savings
  2. Tailor marketing materials to the type of property you are targeting rather than giving generic examples

  3. Include warranties in the proposition - people want reassurance with new technologies

  4. Deliver high quality installations

  5. Target off-gas customers

  6. Offer extra length warranties

  7. Provide an instruction booklet, making sure you keep it simple and easy to digest.

Delta-ee is looking for an installer panel for research in 2013. If you would like to find out more or get involved, contact Jennifer Arran.

Photo by betelgeux

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