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Low carbon heating and older adults: comfort,cosiness and glow

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • P. Devine-Wright
  • W. Wrapson
  • V. Henshaw
  • S. Guy
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/05/2014
<mark>Journal</mark>Building Research and Information
Issue number3
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)288-299
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Policies to decarbonize heat provision involve the diffusion of low carbon thermal technologies (e.g. ground-source heat pumps and wood pellet boilers). In domestic buildings, such efforts presume the compatibility of novel technologies with practices of home-making, in terms of comfort, cosiness and sociability. However, research on engagement with low carbon technologies post-installation is limited, particularly with older adults, a growing social group in an ageing society. This study explores how older adults living with low carbon thermal technologies represent thermal comfort, drawing on in-depth interviews in diverse UK home environments (owner-occupied and rented; extra-care, sheltered and care homes; urban and rural). Findings indicate that cosiness and glow are highly valued by and for older adults, and achieved in diverse ways that may run counter to policy goals. In owner-occupied, rural homes, wood-burning stoves were retained after installation of under-floor heating/heat pumps to provide a visible glow and hospitality to guests. In care homes, fake fireplaces provide cosiness and glow without compromising concerns about risk. The research suggests that presumed emissions savings from the deployment of low carbon heating technologies may be overestimated, as home-making practices lead to the supplementing of these devices to provide comfort, cosiness and sociability.