Journal Article

Examining the risk of summertime overheating in UK social housing dwellings retrofitted with heat pumps


The UK government has announced its ten-point plan to annually install 600,000 low-carbon heat pumps by 2028. However, there is a lack of evidence showing potential overheating risk in dwellings retrofitted with heat pumps. This paper examines the prevalence and magnitude of summertime overheating across 24 naturally ventilated social housing dwellings retrofitted with ground source heat pumps (GSHPs). The dwellings are located in a socially deprived area in Oxford (UK). The empirical study included longitudinal monitoring of indoor temperatures in the living rooms and bedrooms during the non-heating seasons of 2021 and 2022 (May–September), which included a record-breaking heatwave in July 2022. Indoor temperature and CO2 levels in bedrooms were monitored across a subset of six dwellings alongside the monitoring of window opening state in three bedrooms to understand the effect of natural ventilation in removing excess heat. About 136 thermal comfort surveys were conducted to ascertain the subjective responses of residents. Overheating risk assessment was carried out using CIBSE static and adaptive methods, which revealed that summertime overheating was prevalent across half of the dwellings in the non-heating season of 2022, as compared to 17% overheated dwellings in 2021. Bungalows with upgraded cavity wall insulation and top floor flats facing south and south-west had a propensity to overheat. The variation in indoor temperature and CO2 levels across a small sample also indicated the relationship between overheating and residents’ behaviour. Given that the majority of the dwellings were occupied by retired elderly people with low incomes who are vulnerable to heat and cannot afford active forms of cooling, it is vital to deploy passive design measures, such as appropriate shading devices that are suitable for a heating-dominated climate and enhanced ventilation, as part of home energy retrofits. Implementing reversible heat pumps coupled with solar PVs can provide cooling during heatwaves while delivering low-carbon heat in the winter.

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Zahiri, Sahar
Gupta, Rajat

Oxford Brookes departments

School of Architecture


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2023-10-27

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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