The EQUINOX heat pump trial: your questions answered

We’re running the EQUINOX heat pump trial in partnership with National Grid ED to reward customers for helping us find out how to make low carbon heating cheaper and greener. Here, we’ve put together a selection of answers to the most commonly asked questions about EQUINOX, in case you wanted to know more.

What is the EQUINOX trial and how does it work?

What is the EQUINOX trial?


The EQUINOX trial, run in partnership with National Grid ED is designed to help us research cheaper, greener heating for all, and help you earn £100 in the process.

It’s aimed at people with heat pumps. These low carbon heating technologies are getting more affordable, accessible and convenient. This is fantastic news for the UK (and the planet) – but it’ll also increase the UK’s electricity demand.

To that, we say: challenge accepted.

The EQUINOX project is designed to investigate how people can become part of the solution by heating their homes in a greener, more flexible way, shifting their usage outside of troublesome ‘peaks’ in energy demand. (This way, the electrical grid won’t need to burn as much dirty, expensive gas to meet that demand at those times, and you’ll have made electricity cheaper and greener for everybody.)

Seen another way, EQUINOX is a tool for future communities and neighbourhoods. The trial will simulate a green heating future, working out how we might manage if the grid comes under stress and strain, so we can find the best way to build a service to roll out heat pumps on a massive scale.

All you have to do is turn off your heat pump for a few hours from time to time - when the grid is under a lot of stress and strain and the UK's energy mix is generally dirtier. No one has measured this at scale in the UK before: EQUINOX participants will be on the very forefront of the green heating revolution.

What would I be asked to do if I participate?


Over the winter, we’ll get in touch with you - at least a day ahead - and tell you to turn your heat pump off for a few hours from time to time. These windows will generally line up with times when the grid is under a lot of stress and strain.

What are the rewards for participating in the EQUINOX trial?


First of all, those who take part in the EQUINOX trial will be able to earn £100 for helping us to research green heating.

But that’s not all. By taking part, you aren’t just making heating greener and cheaper for yourself, you’re making it cheaper and greener for everybody. The EQUINOX project will pave the way towards a more flexible way of heating our homes, shifting our usage outside of troublesome ‘peaks’ in energy demand. This means the electrical grid won’t need to burn as much expensive gas to meet that demand at those times. No one has measured this at scale in the UK before: EQUINOX participants will be on the very forefront of the green revolution.

How many 'EQUINOX events' will there be?


It’s hard to say for sure - the total number depends, in part, on the weather and on how well we are able to measure changes. There will be a minimum of 20 events.

When will the EQUINOX events be?


The specific windows will be based on when the grid needs help, so we can't say exactly when they’ll be yet. We can say that the events will usually take place at times when the grid is under more pressure than usual and needs more help balancing - this will usually be between 4-7pm.

How long is each EQUINOX event?


Each EQUINOX event will be two hours long. We’ll be in touch via email the day before to tell you exactly when to turn off your heat pump.

How long will the EQUINOX Trial run for?


This year, the EQUINOX trial will run from December to the end of April. It will run again in winter 2023/24.

How would I be notified about upcoming EQUINOX events?


A day before an EQUINOX event, we’ll send you an email with details about the two-hour event period in which you should aim to reduce your heat pump usage.

How do I turn my heat pump off manually?


It depends a little! Each set up is different, so you'll need to find the method that work for you.

Most people will be able to turn off your heat pump at your heat pump controller, maybe on your app if you're using remote controls. If you have a smart thermostat or other scheduling system, you may find it easier to set your target heating temperature low enough that your heat pump doesn't come on (e.g. 12C). So long as your thermostat is set lower than your heat pump’s ‘flow temperature’ (the temperature of the water as it leaves your heat pump to warm your pipes and radiators) your heat pump should stay off.

Don't forget to turn off your hot water heating too! If you run into any snags with this, please email and we'll help figure it out!

Who is eligible to take part in Equinox?

Who can participate in the EQUINOX trial?


To join the EQUINOX trial with Octopus Energy you must:

1) Have a heat pump

2) Be an Octopus Customer
3) Live in the area served by the distribution network operator National Grid Electricity Distribution (find out who your DNO is here).

Please note that there are also a limited number of places for EQUINOX this Winter!

I have other Low Carbon Tech, can I still participate in EQUINOX?


Yes! We’re keen to find out how heat pump flexibility can be unlocked in real homes, including those with other low carbon technologies, like solar panels, batteries, and EVs. EQUINOX is looking at heat pumps in isolation though, so we’ll need you to make sure you’re not changing your charging or solar behaviour during the event windows - just carry on as if nothing were going on.

Why am I not eligible for the EQUINOX trial?


There are a number of reasons you might not have been able to sign up for EQUINOX: 

  • This year the number of places for this trial is limited (but the trial will return next winter, with more space).
  • We’re working with National Grid (ED) on this project. They distribute electricity in the South West, South Wales and parts of the Midlands (you can check out their supply area here). If National Grid (ED) is not currently your electricity distributor, you won’t be eligible for EQUINOX this year.
  • We also require customers to have an operational heat pump installed and operational by November 1st 2022. (If you haven’t quite got your heat pump up and running by that time, we’ll be in touch next year!)
  • Because we need to collect fine grained consumption data during each EQUINOX ‘event’, you’ll need to have had a functioning smart meter installed by 1st November, that we can connect to in order to take part. (If you do not currently have a smart metre and would like one, click here to put your name down)

All other Questions

What if I move house or change energy supplier during the trial?


We need a full set of data for winter so that we can be confident in our results. This year, you'll have to exit the trial if you move home or change suppliers.

Can I be a part of both Saving Sessions, and EQUINOX?


Unfortunately, each of these National Grid run balancing projects have clashing behind-the-scenes requirements that mean that we can’t have customers that participate in both. 

You’re welcome to sign up to either and the choice is completely up to you! If it helps you make your decision - EQUINOX involves less work on your part (all you need to do is switch your heat pump on and off at certain times, rather than shifting all usage out of peak times) and has a guaranteed payment of £100, whereas in Saving Sessions, the reward you earn depends on how many Sessions you join and how much you reduce (so it could be less than £100).

Who is involved in the project?


We’re working with National Grid (Electricity Distribution) - formerly known as Western Power Distribution (WPD). As one of the UK's distribution network operators (DNO), they own and operate the cables and wires that deliver electricity from pylons to homes and buildings across the Midlands, South West and South Wales. Other partners involved in the EQUINOX project include: Octopus Energy, Passiv UK, Sero, SP Energy Networks, the Welsh Government, West Midlands Combined Authority, National Energy Action (NEA), Scottish Power Energy Retail, and Guidehouse.

Published on 17th November 2022 by:

image of Jackson Howarth

Jackson Howarth

In-house Writer

Hey I'm Constantine, welcome to Octopus Energy!