Routinised heating system installation: The immutability of home heating

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Space heating is the largest contributor to domestic energy consumption in the UK (UK). Gas central heating systems usually extend into every room of a property, but often sit in the background of the lives of those using them. Installation could offer a critical moment to optimise the operating efficiency of these systems, or consider alternative low carbon technologies. However, whether installation acts as one such moment of change is currently unknown. Using ethnographic data collection, and the concepts of translation and interessement from Actor-Network Theory, this paper explores the tensions between existing socio-technical arrangements and the new system components taking their position in the home. Installers are found to be subject to competing requirements from industry guidance and regulation, new system components and existing domestic configurations. A process of negotiation and compromise is revealed. This results in ‘like-for-like’ installations and heating system components being squeezed into spaces and hidden away. These efforts to maintain the status quo reinforce the immutability of domestic heating, restrict opportunities to fit alternative low carbon technologies and limit possibilities to reduce domestic energy consumption.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnergy Efficiency
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • domestic central heating
  • installation
  • actor-network theory
  • ethnography


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