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Homeowners do not understand low energy technologies

Homeowners are unable to take advantage of the benefits of low and zero carbon technologies because they do not understand how they work, new research by the NHBC Foundation has revealed.

A new in-depth study discovered that despite problems in understanding the technology and articulating its benefits, most homeowners still said they were comfortable using it and would recommend the technology to a friend. But unfortunately, not one homeowner interviewed was able to demonstrate an understanding of how, in principle, the technologies incorporated in their own homes, such as solar panels or energy saving heat pumps operated.

All the households monitored during the study stated that the LZC technologies had not been a factor in deciding to purchase the property, and significantly, all were unimpressed with the written guidance provided for using the technologies, with all six households rating it as ‘unsuitable’.

Research recommendations for house builders

The research was carried out by Reading University in six homes across four separate developments and looked at how homeowners lived with the technologies day-by-day. It contains a number of recommendations for house builders to help understanding of low energy and zero carbon technologies.

These new findings are consistent with earlier research published by the NHBC Foundation in 2012, NF40 Today’s attitudes to low and zero carbon homes, which identified that action was needed to help consumer understanding of use and maintenance of renewable technologies.

The key findings include:

  • Homeowners
    • Occupiers did not understand the underlying principles of the low and zero carbon technologies but were mostly comfortable operating them.
    • Despite being largely unable to articulate the benefits of LZC technologies clearly, four of the six households in the study would recommend them to friends.
    • All of the households expressed that the technologies had not been a factor in purchasing the house, and that the written guidance provided on the use of the technologies was unsuitable.
  • Sales teams
    • The sales staff had a very limited ability or willingness to communicate the benefits and opportunities of the LZC technologies in a way that the prospective purchaser could understand or be inspired by.
    • There was a varied level of understanding among sales staff of the specific LZC technologies being fitted to the homes.
    • Homeowners are not routinely invited to provide feedback to the sales teams post-occupancy on their experience in the use of LZC technologies.

Neil Smith, Head of Research & Innovation, NHBC said: “With more and more homes being fitted with LZC technologies in the run up to the Government’s 2016 Zero Carbon homes target, it is a concern that both homeowners and sales staff alike don’t fully understand the basic principles of how they work, or the full benefits that they can bring.

“As we move towards the zero carbon future, it is important that the house-building industry and its supply chain recognise the benefits of consumer engagement in the sustainable features of new homes. Helping customers to recognise and take advantage of the benefits that LZC technologies can ensure that the features deliver their potential in reality.”

A copy of the primary research is available to view and download at www.nhbcfoundation.org/LZCtechnologiesinnewhomes