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A stated choice experiment regarding the perception of hassle factors on the decision-making of heat pump adoption by homeowners in the Netherlands

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Abstract

European and Dutch environmental goals prescribe that national emitted CO2 levels need to be reduced. Therefore, the Dutch government chose to transition the whole Dutch residential sector to gas-free living by 2050, to decrease CO2 levels. Homeowners are responsible themselves for adopting a sustainable heating system, where specifically heat pumps are one of the main proposed solutions. However, renovation rates are not expected to meet their determined goals. Hassle factors are a psychological barrier in homeowners' decision-making process, leading to inaction and delays. Therefore, it is determined what is perceived as a hassle and to what extent it is a barrier in homeowners' decision-making process.

Five main hassles were determined which impact the decision-making: ‘length of disruption’, ‘information gathering’, ‘subsidy and loan applications’, ‘finding a contractor’ and ‘neighbour consultation’. Next, their influence as a barrier has been examined through discrete choice modelling with the help of a stated-preference choice experiment containing in total 155 complete responses. The results of this study, for the first time, empirically validated that all five mentioned hassles negatively influence homeowners' decision-making. However, these five individual influences are best modelled as one combined hassle factor, which is perceived as more important than the financial profit a homeowner receives over the lifetime of a heat pump. Additionally, a latent class analysis was performed, finding significantly different preferences between two homeowners groups within the sample. Looking more closely at what a homeowner perceives as a hassle, the additional factor of ‘profit’ is found to have a de-hassling effect on the overall amount of hassle, indicating that context is important for homeowners. Looking more closely at the perceptions of hassle, differences between conscious and unconscious perceptions can be found.

The findings of this research show that reducing the five main hassles can be used to speed up the adoption process of heat pumps and contribute to reducing the adversities of climate change. Policymakers and businesses can perform interventions to decrease hassle or provide even ‘hassle-free’ alternatives by taking over tasks. The appropriateness of these interventions can be based on the derived value of time indicators created for each individual hassle factor. The use of context differentiations can be used as an additional tool via nudging and sludging to decrease or increase the perceived amount of hassle of choices. This research's overall value provides a better understanding of the psychological barrier hassle, which is rarely considered in homeowners' decision-making.