Skip to content
Green
Carbon Benchmarks

The Hidden Gauge of U.K.’s Zero-Carbon Drive Is Sitting in Your Cellar

Boris Johnson will have to convince millions of people to switch to heat pumps—a technology most people haven’t heard of and many can’t afford.

Instead of burning oil or gas, heat pumps use electricity to absorb heat from the air and transfer it into radiators and underfloor heating.

Instead of burning oil or gas, heat pumps use electricity to absorb heat from the air and transfer it into radiators and underfloor heating.

Photographer: Keith Morris/Alamy

Tired of the crowds and air pollution in London, Amy Willis bought an 18th century house in a Suffolk village two and a half hours away from the city and immediately started renovations. Two years later, she's stuck on modernizing the heating system—and so is, in some sense, climate progress for the entire U.K.

Her home isn’t connected to the gas grid, so Willis relies on trucks to deliver gallons of oil that fill a boiler. The process is expensive, and Willis doesn’t like that she’s among the millions of British households contributing to global warming by burning fossil fuels to keep warm. She was looking to upgrade without a gas line. “I liked the idea of being off the grid for cost and environmental reasons,” she said.