Americans aren’t making the right number of improvements to make their homes energy efficient, despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent by utilities and government programs, according to an annual energy-efficiency survey.
The seventh annual Energy Pulse survey, conducted by energy consulting firm 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% 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 only 42% of Americans have installed high-efficiency windows; 39% have installed extra insulation; 37% have installed a higher-efficiency heating or cooling system; and 24% have installed a higher-efficiency water heater.
Meanwhile, only 15% of respondents said they had gotten a home energy audit.
“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.”
The primary motivation for making energy-efficient home improvements continues to be “to reduce my utility bill” (28%). 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% to 9% 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 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% 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.
Source: Shelton Group