Public perceptions and acceptance of low-carbon heating systems are crucial for reaching international climate change targets and are influenced by factors such as cost, comfort, disruption, environmental benefits, and level of control.


Heating contributes significant carbon emissions, especially in countries that rely heavily on natural gas as in the UK. Switching to low-carbon heating is imperative for reaching international climate change targets. Understanding public perceptions and acceptance of low-carbon heating systems is a crucial part of the successful rollout of alternatives. This review examines public perceptions of different low-carbon heating technologies, namely heat pumps, hydrogen boilers, hybrid heating systems, and district heating, as well as social factors such as heat experiences. The review focuses on the UK as a case study, which is characterized by high reliance on natural gas for heating with little progress to decarbonize this sector to date. The next years will be critical regarding decision-making on what low-carbon heating technologies to pursue. The review shows there is generally low awareness amongst the general public of the need to decarbonize heating and of the low-carbon heating alternatives. A number of factors have been identified as playing a crucial role in influencing public perceptions of all low-carbon heating systems, such as installation and running cost, thermal comfort, disruption, level of control, and environmental benefits. However, the acceptance of a new heating system is not simply the sum of several factors, as people’s priorities vary across different contexts and technologies. Further public engagement on low-carbon heating and support (e.g., financial) is necessary for increasing uptake. Future research could explore comparisons between the different low-carbon heating technologies, key enabling factors, trade-offs, and concrete policy support.


Sarah Becker, Christina Demski, William Smith and Nick Pidgeon

Publication details

S Becker, C Demski, W Smith, N Pidgeon. Public perceptions of heat decarbonization in Great Britain. WIRES Online.