A national survey conducted in November 2011 finds Americans aren’t making the right number of improvements to make their homes energy efficient and to notice the difference on their utility bills.
The survey, the seventh annual Energy Pulse™ survey conducted by Shelton Group, found those who said their utility bills had dropped had completed an average of four home improvements, such as adding insulation or installing a high efficiency water heater. Those who said their bills had increased by 10 to 30 percent reported an average of only 2.3 improvements.
“People have to do more – at least four energy efficiency improvements – to make a real impact on their utility bills,” said Suzanne Shelton, president of Shelton Group. “Unfortunately, Americans aren’t reaching that magic number, even though the government and utilities have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to get them to act.”
The survey, which polled 1,502 Americans, found:
- 42 percent of Americans have installed high-efficiency windows
- 39 percent have installed extra insulation
- 37 percent have installed a higher-efficiency heating or cooling system
- 24 percent have installed a higher efficiency water heater
- 15 percent said they had gotten a home energy audit.
More about energy audits
Only 33 percent of the study’s respondents think they need an energy audit, and within that group, only 45 percent say are likely to get one.
“Home energy audits continue to be the colonoscopy of energy efficiency,” Shelton said. “Everyone should get one, but too few actually go through with it.”
Why consumers make improvements (and don’t make them)
The primary motivation for making energy efficient home improvements continues to be “to reduce my utility bill” (28 percent). There was a decline in the number of people who offered last year’s second most popular answer “because I was updating or renovating anyway” (down from 21 percent to 9 percent this year).
“The top energy-saving driver for the vast majority of Americans continues to be about dollars and cents,” Shelton said. “It’s a green decision to save energy – but for consumers, it’s the green in their wallets that matters most.”
But sometimes there’s not enough green in the wallet. The survey found lower-income Americans would rather bear the pain of higher utility bills than make their homes more energy efficient. Why? They simply can’t afford the improvements needed to lower their bills, Shelton said.
“It seems counter-intuitive that lower-income Americans would be willing to let their energy bills skyrocket before making energy-efficient improvements,” Shelton said. “But that is the sad reality. They can’t afford to lower their utility bills.”
The survey found those who could better afford to spend money on home improvements were more sensitive to bill increases. When asked how much their monthly bill would have to go up to push them to spend more money on energy efficient home improvements, those making higher incomes ($100,000 or more) gave an average answer of $113, compared to $120 for those earning lower incomes (less than $25,000). Those with graduate degrees had an even lower threshold – $98, compared to $122 for those with only a high school degree or less.
Making matters worse, more lower-income Americans live in homes that are already less energy efficient. Thirty-two percent of respondents with lower incomes (less than $25,000) said their homes were inefficient. That compares to 15 percent of higher-income respondents (making $100,000 or more). “The people who most need to make energy efficient improvements are the least able to make them,” Shelton said.
Your electric cooperative can help
- If you are interested in a free home energy audit through your electric cooperative, please contact us to schedule one.
- For information on rebates on energy efficient heating and cooling equipment, insulation, water heaters or lighting, contact us.
- For general information on increasing the energy efficiency of your home, search our website for informational news articles and energy calculators, and check out past issues of Smart Choices, our e-newsletter for cooperative members.
About the Shelton Group
Shelton Group is an advertising agency located in Knoxville, Tennessee, focused exclusively on bringing sustainability to the mass market. Learn more at www.sheltongrp.com.