Effective low carbon heating products, services and policies are critical if the UK is to meet its climate change commitments. However, these are normally developed for the hypothetical or ‘modelled’ household. The activities, behaviours and needs of ‘real’ households cannot be anticipated based on their income or makeup, nor do they remain static for any length of time. Drawing from a mixed methods approach, this paper discusses the range of needs which affect how households use the heating in their homes. These needs are grouped into 4 categories (wellbeing, resources, ease of use and relational dynamics), and 8 subcategories (health, comfort, cost, waste, control, convenience, harmony and hospitality). The paper discusses the individual and changing nature of these needs through a ‘continuum of priority’ and the factors affecting decision making. This categorisation aims to educate technologists and policy developers of the scale of flexibility required for impactful change. Low carbon policies, products and services will be more successful if they enable consumers to meet all of these needs. The challenge is to develop tools that enable designers and developers to recognise what needs each household has and how their needs change over time.