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Heating Appliances Retrofit Planning

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Motivating consumers to use more efficient heating systems

While energy labels help you understand how energy-efficient a new appliance is, HARP labels help you understand how energy-inefficient your old space or water heater is.


The vast majority of Europe’s buildings and homes were built during the post-war construction boom. In fact, it is estimated that of the 250 million houses in Europe today, less than 10 % were built in the last 10 years. But these homes aren’t just old, they’re also extremely inefficient. How inefficient? According to some estimates, of the between 85 % and 90 % of buildings that are expected to still be standing in 2050, 75 % are energy-inefficient. The problem is that inefficient homes use more energy for such things as heating and cooling. Because so many homes are energy-inefficient, they are Europe’s single largest consumer of energy, responsible for 40 % of the EU’s total energy consumption! The good news is that inefficient homes can be made energy-efficient by replacing outdated heating appliances with newer, more efficient models. But this requires that homeowners be able to identify the inefficiency of their current appliance and understand the savings opportunities of replacing it with a more energy-efficient alternative. “Homeowners tend not to think about heating until their system breaks down,” says Joana Fernandes, an energy expert at ADENE (website in Portuguese). When it does break down, replacing it is often a rushed process. “This urgency hinders the chance of looking for the best solutions and making smarter choices regarding a heating system that will likely be in operation for the next 20 years,” adds Rui Fragoso, also an ADENE energy expert. According to both Fernandes and Fragoso, smarter, more efficient purchasing decisions start with having the right information, which is exactly what the EU-funded HARP project aims to provide.

An energy inefficiency label

Led by ADENE, the HARP project’s goal is to support a homeowner’s purchasing of new heating appliances. To do so, it’s leaning on a familiar tool: the energy label. “The EU’s energy label has proved to be a great resource that consumers depend on when evaluating the efficiency of a new appliance,” explains Fernandes. But these labels are only available for new appliances, not for the old, inefficient appliances currently in use. “By creating a similar energy labelling method for existing heating appliances, the HARP project ensures homeowners understand the inefficiency of their current solution,” remarks Fragoso. “Knowing this makes the information found on the new appliance’s energy label all the more powerful.” These ‘energy inefficiency labels’ are accompanied by an online application. “The HARP application supports the consumer journey from start to finish,” says Fernandes. “A homeowner can use it to discover the energy class of an existing appliance, review replacement options, and calculate the potential economic and energy savings of making the switch.”

Having a big impact

Over 35 000 HARP labels have already been issued for existing space and water heaters. During a trial in France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain, more than 18 000 consumers used both the labels and the online app to find energy-efficient replacements for their out-of-date heating systems. The project also reached more than 150 000 professionals and trained 1 000 heating professionals, supporting their adoption of the energy label for existing heating appliances in their daily work. “These tools have the potential to be widely adopted across Europe, supporting such EU policy initiatives as the energy transition and Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, decarbonising the heating sector, and reducing our dependence on energy imports,” concludes Fragoso.


HARP, homeowners, heating systems, heating appliances, energy label, energy-efficient, buildings, energy transition, Energy Performance of Buildings Directive

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