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From tower blocks to boats, and now the history books – trailblazing Kensa Shoebox takes root at the Science Museum

  • Kensa Shoebox heat pump recognised as a green heating pioneer after being added to the Science Museum Group collection – the first and only Ground Source Heat Pump to be included
  • The British-made heat pump joins over seven million historic and significant items collected and documented by the Science Museum Group since 1851
  • Also features as the only Ground Source Heat Pump in the Science Museum’s new energy transition gallery
  • First launched in 2012, Kensa’s ‘little white box’ has helped reduce energy bills by over 50% for social housing residents
  • With over 7,500 manufactured, the Shoebox accounts for around one-third of all UK ground source heat pump installations
  • Recognition shortly follows the launch of the ‘game-changing’ Shoebox NX

Kensa’s Shoebox Heat Pump, which made affordable renewable heating in high-rise flats a reality and changed the way people see Ground Source Heat Pumps, has been recognised as a UK green heating pioneer after being added to the Science Museum Group collection.

The ‘little white box’, responsible for around a third of all UK ground source heat pump installations, is the first and only ground source heat pump to be included in the collection, where it will join over seven million historic and significant items collected and documented by the Science Museum Group since 1851.

In addition to being immortalised in their collection, the compact heat pump will be on display to the public as part of the Science Museum’s new Adani Green Energy Gallery, where it will rub shoulders with other trailblazing energy transition products, such as the historic Bersey electric taxi cab and one of the world’s first rechargeable batteries.

First launched in 2012, Shoebox heat pumps currently deliver green heat to thousands of homes and have helped lift numerous people out of fuel poverty. They were also a driving force in the development of Kensa’s Networked Ground Source Heat Pump model, a sustainable heating solution set to play a crucial role in the mass decarbonisation of UK homes and businesses.

As the Shoebox secured its place in history, the British manufacturer launched its successor, the Shoebox NX. In the NX, Kensa has combined over 10 years of Shoebox successes and development with 25 years of ground source heat pump expertise, creating a highly efficient, compact heat pump that’s set to be a game-changer for the UK heat market.

Tamsin Lishman, Kensa Heat Pumps CEO, said:

“Street by street, Kensa is cleaning up heating across the UK, bringing Ground Source Heat Pumps to flats, terraced streets, tower blocks, period properties and other supposedly hard-to-decarbonise homes and buildings, taking people out of fuel poverty, and making homes warm and comfortable through renewable technology.

“From heating tower blocks to terraces and new builds, the Shoebox is responsible for so much. Seeing our ‘little white box’ featured in this exhibition and immortalised in the Science Museum collection as a green heating pioneer is a remarkable achievement, but one this incredible product fully deserves. 

“The Shoebox set the course for Networked Ground Source Heat Pumps, and through the game-changing Shoebox NX we will build on this legacy and supercharge the switch to ground source heat pumps, delivering highly efficient, affordable green heating and cooling right across the UK.” 

Speaking about the Science Museum’s Adani Green Energy Gallery, its Lead Curator, Oliver Carpenter, said:

“This gallery shares contemporary stories of individuals, organisations and communities all imagining the future of low carbon energy, but it also spotlights some of the earliest ideas and technologies created by the imaginations of previous generations. By taking a long view of the energy revolution and showcasing impressive technologies of the past, alongside today’s low carbon options, we hope to inspire visitors to imagine a low carbon energy future.”

Following the Science Museum’s recognition and the arrival of the NX, Kensa is looking back on what made the Shoebox its best-selling heat pump, how it changed people’s lives and how it's stamping out fossil fuel heating, one installation at a time.  

Small beginnings, big future

  • The first Kensa shoebox connected to a Shared Ground Loop was installed in Croft House, Holsworthy, in 2014 for Westward Housing, and it has seen a meteoric rise since.
  • With over 7,500 manufactured, it’s Kensa’s best-selling heat pump, has enabled a pathway for delivering heat pumps for the masses and is responsible for around one-third of UK ground source heat pump installations.

Leading the Networked Ground Source Heat Pumps charge

  • In developing the Shoebox, Kensa opened up the possibility of rolling out Networked Ground Source Heat Pumps across the UK – a green heating solution, which mimics the gas grid – that’s suitable for all new builds and over 60% of current UK homes.  
  • Networked Ground Source Heat Pumps provide energy to the home via a shared underground network of pipes, which is converted into heating and hot water through a white box in the home without burning fossil fuels.
  • A landmark Element Energy study, published in 2023, showed that Networked Ground Source Heat Pumps are up to 20% cheaper to run than air-source heat pumps, while upfront costs are 8% less when installed at scale as part of a funded heat network.

A lasting impact on social housing

  • Kensa’s Shoebox gave Social Housing providers a realistic option to decarbonise and futureproof heating across their housing stock, while also lifting residents out of fuel poverty by cutting heating bills by more than 50%.
  • The Shoebox has been installed into many social housing retrofit projects, including 273 high-rise flats in Thurrock, over 400 flats in Enfield and over 1,000 properties across the North of England.  
  • Diane Barr, a Thurrock resident, said this after having a Shoebox heat pump installed: “After 16 years of living here with an outdated Economy 7 heating system, I am so happy to have a low-cost, energy-efficient heat pump; it has made a big difference. The heating before was a big expense, and we all dreaded the winter months. The heat pump is much warmer, and the hot water is so fast compared to the old system.”

Delivering a world-first development

  • Heat the Streets, a world-first scheme which delivered Kensa’s roadmap to decarbonise more than 60% of current UK housing stock, saw 98 Shoebox heat pumps connected to Networked Ground Source Heat pumps across Cornwall.
  • Heat the Streets saw the deployment of the world’s first under-the-road shared ground loop array, connecting a mix of private and social retrofit properties to Networked Ground Source Heat Pumps.
  • Installing the heat pumps has given each home greater energy security, put them in control over how and when they use heating, and demonstrated how Kensa’s street-by-street approach to networked heat pump rollout can be delivered.

New build? No problem!

  • While the compact heat pump suited high-rise flats and other retrofit properties, thanks to it being small enough to fit inside a kitchen cupboard, it also became desirable for new-build developments.
  • The long heat pump lifespan and hidden underground infrastructure all combined to make it suitable for new properties, allowing homes to retain the outdoor space needed for an air source unit.
  • Newbuild projects where the Shoebox has landed include a 133-home development in Bristol, a 56-home site in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire and 140 new properties near Newquay, Cornwall.

On the world stage

  • In 2021, at COP 26 in Glasgow, the eyes of the world were on the Shoebox as it appeared front and centre at the entrance to the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Over land and sea

In numbers

  • 10 years on from its launch, in 2022, Kensa had manufactured over 7,500 Shoebox ground source heat pumps.
  • Around 4,000 Shoebox heat pumps have been installed in social housing and public sector buildings, helping put some of those on the lowest incomes back in control over when they use their heating and protecting them from volatile energy price rises.