The EQUINOX heat pump trial 2023/24

EQUINOX is a trial exploring ways we can make green heating cheaper and greener. In this blog, we’re going to look at how EQUINOX works, what we learnt from the last trial, what's happening with EQUINOX this winter (2023-24) – and crucially, how to get involved!

We're no longer accepting participants for the EQUINOX trial this winter, but if you provide your details below, we'll contact you when we set up our 2024/25 EQUINOX trial

What is the EQUINOX green heating trial?

The EQUINOX trial is for customers with heat pumps - designed to help you earn money for working with us and National Grid Electricity Distribution to research cheaper, greener heating for all.

an image of a heat pump

Heat pumps are the future of green heating, they’re incredibly efficient, reliable, and only getting cheaper. Still, we can make them even easier on the climate (and on people’s wallets). We can do this by encouraging people to use them in ways that reduce the electrical load they add to the grid at ‘peak’ times - and therefore circumvent expensive infrastructure upgrades that are needed accommodate that (reducing bills for everyone).

To work out how best to do this, the crack-squad of ‘flexperts’ from Octopus’ Flexibility Team have joined forces with National Grid Electricity Distribution (a distribution network operator, responsible for pumping electricity down the wires to your homes), and a range of other specialist organisations. Together, we’re investigating customers' potential to unlock the ‘flexibility’ we need to streamline the electrification of heat. This will help bring the benefits - lower energy bills and a greener grid - to everybody.

At a glance, shifting your heating might seem inconvenient, but because of the way heat pumps work it couldn’t be easier. Where combi boilers are designed to be reactive (you say ‘heating on’ and the boiler will burn loads of dirty fossil fuels at several hundred degrees to heat your water up right then and there), heat pumps warm your water - and so your home - gently, for longer, and much, much more efficiently.

an image of a heat pump on a house

In fact, the longer and more gently your heat pump warms your house, the more efficient (and cheap) it is to do so. This means that in winter, you can start heating your home several hours before you arrive home, take a break during any 'peaks' in demand, and then continue heating your home afterwards. This is exactly what EQUINOX will encourage people to do, rewarding them for shifting electric heating to times when energy demand is lower (again, usually outside the daily 4-7pm ‘peak’).

What did we learn from Winter 2022-23? … It really works!

The first EQUINOX trial ran from December 2022 to April 2023 and explored our customers’ ability to respond to ‘signals’ to turn down their green heating in exchange for cash rewards. The trial was a great success. EQUINOX suggests, once again, that paying people to shift their energy usage in ways that makes the grid cheaper to maintain really works when it comes to green heating.

Hundreds of customers were able to reliably shift their energy usage to greener, cheaper times over the course of the trial, blowing our expectations out of the water. Check out the dip in electricity usage on this graph that shows data from a session in January, for example:

An image of a graph showing turndown during an equinox event

On top of that, feedback from those who took part blew us away. People were unbelievably engaged. There was an average of 82% participation across all EQUINOX events, with roughly 60% vulnerable and non-vulnerable customers taking part in every single event. What’s more, people reported that flexible heating had very little impact on their comfort. Ultimately, over 90% of customers were ‘Extremely satisfied’ to ‘moderately satisfied’ with EQUINOX, with less than 2% reporting that they were ‘dissatisfied’.

What’s happening with EQUINOX over Winter 2023-24?

This winter, we’re running the EQUINOX trial once again, with some important changes.

First, there are going to be more people taking part, we’re more than doubling the number of participants!

Second, this winters’ trial is going to begin a little earlier than last year. Events will start in the week commencing on Monday 30th October, with a break over the holiday season before resuming, with sessions running from mid-January to mid-March.

There’s also going to be a new approach to the timing of the sessions, which will be less regular - there may well be a week or two between them. The times themselves will also be a little more varied, but all events will take place between 4-8pm. We'll make the exact period clear in every invite, but we’ll also be changing up the notice mechanism in order to learn how people respond to different kinds of ‘signals.’ Just like last time, pre-heating your home by an extra degree or two will make a big difference. There will be day ahead notices, sent by email, to keep you one step ahead, but there will also be ‘morning of’ notices and ‘2-hour before’ notices too.

an image of an Octopus with a heat pump

If last year, EQUINOX was more of a ‘proof of concept’, this year, we’re making the scheme more ‘market-realistic’. This means we’re changing the way we reward people. You’ll get paid more for turning down at shorter notice (as short-notice flexibility tends to be more valuable). This helps us work out if we need to change the way we approach flexible heating to fit the market (or whether we need to change the market itself!)

We'll also be paying based on KWh of turndown (rather than paying by session, for example). This will be measured against historical consumption (there won’t be an ‘in-day adjustment’, but we are amending the baseline so participants aren’t punished for pre-heating their homes). This means customers who already shift their usage - facilitated by time of use tariffs, or tailored green-heating tariffs like Cosy Octopus - or who have batteries may earn less under this model. Still, if this is you, it’s still super useful for us and the network to see how you behaved during the trial, and you’ll still get access to rewards for completing surveys too.

Finally, all customers who are able to connect to our cutting edge Octopus Home Minis will be eligible to receive one - in order to help people better monitor their energy usage in real-time!

Register your interest in this years' EQUINOX trial

We suggest putting your name down quick! Following the success of last winters’ EQUINOX trial, current interest levels suggest this years’ trial is likely to be oversubscribed.

Still got questions about EQUINOX?

Head on over to our dedicated EQUINOX FAQ page!

Published on 21st September 2023 by:

image of Jackson Howarth

Jackson Howarth

Senior Writer

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!