The role of practical knowledge in keeping existing systems: a qualitative study of Finnish homeowners with oil heating

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Tuija Kajoskoski University of Helsinki, Finland

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The uptake of homeowner energy retrofits and related policy instruments are lagging behind targets. The Finnish government has decided on the phasing out of oil heating by 2035, but despite financial and other support for homeowners, only 14 per cent of homeowners with oil heating reported planning to switch their heating systems. Homeowner decision-making on energy investments is typically seen as an outcome of rational evaluation based on calculations about costs, payback times, and savings in energy and money. However, informal, experience-based knowledge contributes centrally to situations where people end up keeping their current heating system, yet there is little research on practical knowledge when households consider energy investments. This article presents findings from interviews with Finnish homeowners (N=29) living in detached houses with oil heating systems and argues that homeowners’ embodied heating habits and practical knowledge are important in understanding homeowner willingness to keep existing heating systems. In the in-depth interviews conducted in spring 2022, homeowners discussed their energy use practices, past renovations and future renovation needs, as well as concerns related to switching oil heating to a low carbon heating system. The findings suggest that homeowners’ practical knowledge on heating with their existing system and the lack of such knowledge in relation to alternative heating systems may be one reason why homeowners are reluctant to switch their heating systems. The study contributes to a growing body of research which highlights the relevance of everyday practices in homeowner energy renovations.

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Tuija Kajoskoski University of Helsinki, Finland

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